FOR PORTLAND EMO-CORE band Crosstide, 2000 was their "it" year. They had just released their first album, 17 Nautical Miles (Rise), were playing to sold-out venues throughout their hometown, and were creating quite a bit of record industry buzz. But fast-forward three years and the story changes dramatically. Today, emo-core is the horrifically mangled stepchild that parents hide in their basement. The music, along with the bands that claimed the title, is deadbut not Crosstide. Breaking out of the emo-core role that once made them popularand is currently holding them backthe foursome prepare a second album that hopes to redefine their dated image and, in today's terms, make them musically relevant.
The story begins in 1997 at the height of the emo-core phenomenon. The power-punk movement was dying out, and hardcore kids began listening to softer, more contemplative bands such as Texas Is the Reason and Sensefield. Enter Crosstide, started by guitarist Rian Nelson, now 21, and singer/guitarist Brett Vogel, 24, while they were in high school. The band released one EP, which was later rereleased along with a few new songs as 17 Nautical Miles, that mixed energetic guitars, aggressive drumbeats, melodic breakdowns, and emotional, heartfelt lyricsin essence, the living definition of emo-core. The band fell apart a year later as a result of general disagreements, but was re-formed by Nelson and Vogel in 2000 with the addition of bassist Nick Forde, 21, and drummer Matt Henderson, 21.
The new band decided to keep the name Crosstide, but along with it came certain expectations from the band's previous fans. "We had a difficult time recapturing the sound of the original Crosstide stuff, which was what sold a lot of people on the band, and was what got me interested in the band as well," said Henderson. "I think that we put out some material that was just us finding ourselves, and it wasn't received as well. It lacked the magic that the first release had. But at this point, we're finally feeling like it's all coming togetherwe have a very unique and particular Crosstide sound."
Up until this point, 17 NM was the only material that A&R reps could use as the basis of their opinion of the band. (The band is currently recording a new album, scheduled for a December release.) "We don't feel that we have a good representation of us out there," said Vogel. "We recorded [17 NM] almost six years ago; our sound has completely changed since then. If labels want to check us out and go and buy 17 NM, they're going to think we sound like 1998."
OR MAYBE POTENTIAL A&R folk should go to www.crosstide.net and listen to the three-song demo the band recently posted. Although drifting from the old heart-on-your-sleeve sound that once defined them, the band has maintained their expressive style, both musically and lyrically. "There's this trend in indie rock lately to do this Hot Hot Heat-[style], very frivolous, dancey, '80s sort of sound that doesn't really seem to mean all that much," said Vogel. "Other bands are banking on this trend by writing songs that are so fiercely ironic in some way, and we think that there is still a place for bands like us that prefer to write music that is authentic and emotive."
"Wasted," one of Crosstide's demo tracks, deals with the band growing up and the realization that they may have wasted an important part of their lives playing music. It opens strong, with a quick drumbeat and dueling guitars playing a sweet, bordering on twinkling, chord progression. "I've got a mind to break this silence/Behind a fear to speak the words," Vogel sings softly and matter-of-factly. "I've wasted all the days of my life on dreams/But I don't care anymore if the future burns." It's a stretch from the sappy, adolescent lyrics at the center of 17 NM, and like their other new material, it touches on emotion and heartache in a more mature fashion. The demo's third track, "To Your World," begins with a simple, haunting note from a keyboard, as Vogel whispers, "I'm turning a blind eye to your world/I'm letting the bells ring out unheard/How long will you wait in your glass heart?/Sidestepping the things you fear to start," over plaintive guitars and lulling keyboards. In fact, despite Vogel's protestations, a hint of popular '80s prefab bands such as Interpol and Longwave shows up in the new, broadening way Crosstide use keyboards and percussion. And Vogel's singing style, as well as the band's newly pronounced harmonies, help transform a formerly whiny and painfully saccharine vocal trademark into something mature, contemplative, and more versatile.
For good reason, the quartet feel more optimistic than ever about their music. They're recording their next album by themselves, paying their own way (Crosstide are currently without a record label). "We haven't put out anything new in far too long," said Henderson. "But after December, we're looking to come out strong." Vogel added, "We feel that right now is the best time for Crosstide, because we're here to fill a void that other bands can't." Someone hand him a shovel.
Crosstide play Chop Suey with the Divorce, the Lashes, and Verona at 9 p.m. Thurs., Nov. 26. $5.