In hindsight, though, maybe it happened for a reason.
"Bob and I went back and forth singing this cover of a Sparta song just to see how it would go," recalls bassist Justin Callaghan. "After we got offstage, his girlfriend at the time was like, 'Yeah, don't ever do that again.'"
For the past three years, Callaghan and guitarist Bob Bitner have teamed with drummer Robb Jarrett III to create some of the most poignant soundtracks that Kansas City has to offer. The absence of a singer has become their rallying cry, placing them squarely in the camp of like-minded wordless wonders such as Russian Circles, Pelican, Godspeed You Black Emperor and Tortoise.
"Once I started hearing these bands, it was this great thing to me," Bitner says. "I was like, Man, these are things I've been hearing in my head since I was 13 years old, and there are other people doing it — this is fucking great."
One of the genre's most appealing aspects is its undeniable synergy with film. Explosions in the Sky proved that point with its career-defining soundtrack to Friday Night Lights, and Callaghan, Bitner and Jarrett jumped at the opportunity to pull a similar coup — on a smaller scale — by scoring the short film The Grass Grows Green. The 20-minute military-recruiting drama, featuring Kansas City actor Santiago Vasquez, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January and introduced This Alibi to a wider audience. It also gave the band experience at the meticulous film-scoring process.
"Lithographers Curse - Principium" by This Alibi, from the film The Grass Grows Green:
Director Jesus Beltran flew in from Los Angeles to join the band for a recording session at Westend Studios.
"There's a running scene at the beginning where the tempo has to speed up, so Jesus was watching it and conducting me," Jarrett recalls. "They kind of built scenes around the music, whereas it's usually added later."
The film screened at more than two dozen festivals across the world, and This Alibi is already working with Vasquez on his next project. Meanwhile, the trio is recording a follow-up to its self-titled debut EP with local producer Paul Malinowski and prepping for two upcoming shows with instrumental prog band Don Caballero.
"I think it's getting more accepted that people don't necessarily need lyrics," Bitner says. "You don't have anyone in the band telling you how you're supposed to feel about a song, and I think that's the greatest thing in the world."