Every adolescent reaches a pivotal point—a happening, after which things cease to be as they once were. Perhaps it's the illuminating discovery of an older sibling's record collection. Perhaps it's the aching loss of a family pet, the stark realization that some things can't last forever. For better or worse, for Seattle rock band the Catheters, the tipping point or end of their musical adolescence came the moment that former guitarist Derek Mason decided to make his exit. "They'd been together for so many years, especially as teenagers, that Derek felt it was time to move on," says Sub Pop's A&R rep Stuart Meyer. "The whole band wanted to try something a bit different."
Tall Birds 7-inch Release Show With the Lights and Thee Emergency. Crocodile Cafe, 2200 Second Ave., 206-441-5611, www.thecrocodile.com. $8. 9 p.m. Thurs., Sept. 14.
After a five-year stint on the label, two full-length releases, even a climactic interband fistfight at their final show, that's exactly what they've done. From the smoldering cinders of the Catheters burst forth the Tall Birds, boasting three members from the band's previous thrashy, punk-rock-inclined incarnation. Newcomer drummer Jiancarlo Cateriano joins frontman Brian Standeford (guitar/vocals) and Davey Brozowski (drums), who've known each other since their days at Bellevue's Newport High School, along with former Catheters bass player Leo Gebhardt (guitar/vocals). The latter three have been collaborating since their teens.
"Over the last nine years, we've all become better musicians, and it's really opened up our possibilities in terms of the way we can execute our ideas creatively," says Standeford of their new project. "That, coupled with a higher level of confidence, has really allowed us to move past the thrashy, abrasive sound that we didn't deviate from much when we were younger."
Having walked in the insecure and, at times, awkward shoes of a teenager, most can look back at how far they've come. Tall Birds are no different. The band's uniqueness stems from the fact that, for the most part, the members came up together— negotiating the tumultuous terrain of formative years with all its peaks and valleys. Going through that time collectively, their combined experience has been instrumental to the current band's maturity and newly evolved creative confidence. Sub Pop's decision to release their forthcoming 7-inch single, "Internalize" b/w "The Sky Is Falling," is testament to the group's overall development.
"The band gave us a five-song demo that they had recorded themselves, and the A&R folks here really fell for them," says Meyer of how the label came to hear the new material. "We decided to do a 7-inch mainly because the band doesn't have enough material yet for a full-length, and are heading out on a West Coast tour, so it seemed to make sense. Plus, 7-inches are cool, yet again [laughs]."
"Internalize" is a stripped-down single that even an old-school General Electric 7-inch player would do justice to. It's the kind of song that evokes a feeling of freedom—rocking out in the morning before being locked up in school all day—with its blistering guitar riffs and loud, layered vocals fueled with a rough, energetic yet melodic rebellion. The upbeat B-side, "The Sky Is Falling," is best listened to with a cold can of beer in hand—it builds gradually from its silvery solo guitar intro to the resonant harmonies throughout. Both songs are woven with a tapestry of influences old and new, from Love to Sonic Youth, with the unique style and flavor of the band shining throughout.
"[Tall Birds] feels like an evolved continuation of sorts, and we're really excited that [Sub Pop] wanted to put it out," says Standeford.
And the label has been there as a witness as they've come of age, as musicians and as individuals.
"They really are some of the nicest guys I've had the pleasure of working with. I've watched them grow up, basically," says Meyer. Of Sub Pop's plans for the band past the single, it is still to be determined. "The Catheters were signed when they were very young and had a five-year run on the label. For now, both parties feel it's best to just let them get out there, tour, build a fan base, learn from past experiences, and, hopefully, not repeat them all."