IF YOU'RE ANYTHING like me, and I hope to hell for the sake of this argument that you are, you are frequently and utterly astounded>"/>
IF YOU'RE ANYTHING like me, and I hope to hell for the sake of this argument that you are, you are frequently and utterly astounded by the evolution of our species. That we discovered the truth of music, shaped it into rock 'n' roll, and then learned to forsake all the rules in order to physically astound the senses with guitar noise, pounding rhythms, and lines about hypocrisy, hope, and heartache is often all I need to feel good about being human. The last time I saw 764-Hero, just days after their new Weekends of Sound hit record stores, I felt that absolute power of music. The songs are immensely present, completely accessible. The sharp guitar notes and clattering high hats guide you along, and, unquestioning, you follow. And yet, 764-Hero don't fancy themselves leaders.
Sit & Spin, Saturday, August 19
Hanging out with Polly Johnson, James Bertram, and John Atkins at a Capitol Hill coffee shop, we immediately get to talking about how annoying and irrelevant rock interviews can be.
"'What's the songwriting process like?' That's a really common question," says John, songwriter and guitar man, citing one of those rock writer attempts at provoking introspection. "But it doesn't seem like something that I would think to ask or something that people would be like, 'Aha, that's how they do it.'" He mentions that he'd love to talk to Elliott Smith or the Beta Band, but he'd probably ask them something like "Where's your favorite record store?"
Polly, the chick behind the drums, adds, "I love finding out random things like, oh, they have a pug. They bought the new fancy Nikes. I like to know that stuff, but I don't really care how somebody got their song together. I don't know how to do that stuff anyway. Like, 'Oh, I do this C thing.'" Her bandmates laugh, maybe because she has this habit of underestimating her part, or maybe because these conversations are usually so dull.
See, even though it's easy to assume that those who make great rock music must have captivating things to say about it, the truth is, aside from releasing three full-lengths and a handful of other records, one of them with Modest Mouse and many of them with producer Phil Ek (Built To Spill), 764-Hero couldn't be more normal. And so it is that we start having a completely normal conversation, like strangers meeting at a party and piecing together one another's lives.
"So, what was your first concert?" I inquire.
John, quickly, as if the memory is just that fresh in his mind, answers, "Bob Dylan and Tom Petty at the Tacoma Dome, I was in sixth grade. It was like a field trip for our band. We didn't play yet, we just talked about what our album covers would look like and what we'd say in interviews."
"I was just talking about that today—Prince, Purple Rain at the Tacoma Dome," Polly recalls. "It was on Valentine's Day. This is so dorky, but for my birthday, I came home and everything was purple. Purple cake, everything. On the cake it was like, We're going to Prince!"
James, who can be found playing bass, says, "7 Seconds and the Circle Jerks at Community World Theater in Tacoma." His bandmates look surprised and impressed.
"What kind of books did you read as kids?" I pose.
"I liked Encyclopedia Brown. The little child sleuth," John answers in a slightly contemptuous tone, as if he always sorta dreamed of stealing Encyclopedia's lunch or stuffing him in a gym locker. In his best read-out-loud voice he recalls, "You couldn't possibly have done that because your left arm was broken. You reached in your left pocket while running? I think not. I rest my case."
Polly pontificates on Judy Blume, "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret. Fucking Forever . . . ? That was good slumber party crap."
"I remember How to Eat Fried Worms," James adds. "I did that, I ate fried worms."
I THINK UP a special question for each of them. Afterward, Polly, her doe eyes wide, says, "Wow, those were the perfect questions for each of us."
So pay careful attention; apparently this is 764-Hero in a nutshell.
Polly's wearing a great little mohair sweater so I ask her where she likes to shop.
"I love to go shopping. I used to spend a lot of time going around to all the thrift stores and places like Red Light, which used to be really good and now it's just shit. But I'm sorta like, 'Uh, that takes a lot of time,' so now I just go to the Gap. I love mohair sweaters. They're my favorite things."
I guess John likes to shop, too, because he adds, "I like Lipstick Traces." But that wasn't his question, so I ask him what movie he could watch over and over again.
"I like late '60s and early '70s conspiracy/espionage movies; The Anderson Tapes, The Parallax View, All the President's Men. Bugging devices and stuff like that. So one of those."
Finally, I ask James to tell me his favorite place to eat in Seattle.
"Ohhhh . . . I love to eat." Everyone cracks up as he gets this totally devilish, ravenous look in his eyes, like he's the kind of guy who can gulp gallons of milk straight outta the jug. "I really like the Noodle Ranch. There are so many good restaurants! I either go to the Noodle Ranch or Longshoreman's Daughter or Machiavelli."
And that's 764-Hero. They couldn't be more normal.