Born Anchors Drop Into the Indie-Rock Abyss

And check their egos at the door.

Jason Parker is tired of playing in bands where egos ruin the group's goals. The 33-year-old bassist says he's dealt with the issue too many times in previous bands—like his most noted, Lure of the Animal—to want to go through it again. Over beers at the Elysian Brewing Company on Capitol Hill, his two current bandmates, drummer Justin Martinez and guitarist Gregory Scott, admit to having had similar experiences (in bands like Wizards of War and Joe Don Baker for Martinez and Hollis Brown for Scott), and want no part of that again either. That's perhaps why this Seattle-based trio, which performs under the name Born Anchors, currently sounds so grounded. They're secure in their approach to making hard-driving new-wave pop—and know they need each other to pull it off. Although Parker admits this conversely means that each of them knows he's not replaceable, the trade-off is worth it."We wanted it to be a band thing, and not just a single-ego thing," Parker says during drinks on St. Patrick's Day. "One of the biggest things I've learned over the past 11 years playing in bands is that it truly has to be the sum of its parts. Everyone has to be on the same page or it'll be a constant push-and-pull on what people want to do. We've all gone through that before, so we were really adamant about putting a group together that was proud of what we did [collectively] rather than just as individuals."That type of cohesion is more easily talked about than achieved, but Born Anchors have spent nearly two years turning that ambition into a reality. The band formed in mid-2007 and released a valiant self-titled EP several months later. Though it consists of only four songs, the EP is full of tightly-wound pop-punk ballads that announced to local audiophiles that this group was ready to be taken seriously. Interestingly, the first show they played together was their own EP release party, a somewhat risky move that was intended as a grand, buzz-worthy introduction."You almost need a reason for people to come see you play now," Parker says. "There are so many local bands out right now. So we figured why not come out full-tilt and hit people with new music for them to leave the show with."Positive press ensued, as did local radio play, and as the group's notoriety increased, it seemed that 2008 was poised to be the band's year to shine. But instead of rushing into things half-cocked, the band spent the bulk of last year crafting their well-toned debut album, Sprezzatura, which was self-released and hits stores this week. It's a major step up from the EP; the band's unified sound and rhythm-heavy songs with post-hardcore sensibilities are on full display throughout the disc. Although it touches on various indie-rock subgenres, it's undeniably rough-edged pop that makes people groove."That's really the aesthetic we were going for," Martinez says. "As long as it makes people dance and not just stand around, we're cool with it.""We wanted something [that] guys can be into because of the heavy guitar, but girls are into it for the beat and the bass line," Parker adds. "We wanted that middle the old '80s new-wave punk stuff where it was really dancy."The band undoubtedly hits that mark on songs like "In Disguise," already on rotation at KEXP and as catchy as any local release this year. One thing the group stresses is the time they took to learn how to write pop songs, which they describe as a lot harder than it seems. Longtime friend Chris Common of These Arms Are Snakes produced and engineered the entire album, and the band says his help was invaluable. Although Martinez blatantly admits he wasn't a fan of Common before they went into the studio together, Common's experience as a drummer and producer helped steer the band in the right direction. "Those guys are really easy to work with," Common says via phone. "The biggest thing we worked on was vocals, but everything else was there.""At the time we went into the studio, we really were trying to figure out what we wanted to sound like," Scott says. "We had a good road map, but there was a lot more we had to learn."Certain songs on the album are intensely personal. The album's title track was written while Parker's close friend, the late Seattle musician John Spalding, was succumbing to cancer. He didn't intend to write "Sprezzatura" about losing his friend, but one day in the studio, the lyrics just came."I've learned that I shouldn't write anything I don't directly know about," Parker says, "and the only thing on my mind when we were rewriting that song was [Spalding]."Born Anchors say they've got an entire follow-up album to Sprezzatura written already, and are prepared to record if things go well. "I think we're all the happiest with this band out of any we've been in," Parker says. "Everything is really coming together."

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