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Just don’t call them late for dinner: (l-r) Carlton, Fox, Lilley and Bombard make up the Sixfifteens. Photo by John Whipple

It’s Time to Rock
After a year of change, the Sixfifteens settle into a new lineup, debuting a fresh sound and a set list full of new material
By Kirsten Ferguson

Stenciled across the door of the small basement room where the Sixfifteens practice is this charming appellation: “I Shit My Pants Studio.” The name suggests that the four members of the Saratoga Springs band—whose music contains elements of indie rock, power pop and punk—may have a cavalier attitude when it comes to rehearsing and recording. Still, the band’s practice room is surprisingly tidy and well-appointed, with bright orange walls, red velour curtains and neat wall hooks for the many coils of headphones and cords. Only a mural that hangs on the wall behind drummer Joel Lilley’s kit seems jarringly out of place. Someone short on irony has painted a large banner of smiling kittens in nearly day-glow Christmas colors. (A friend of the band discovered the masterpiece of Bad Art in an attic.)

Much like many of the most enjoyable rock bands, the Sixfifteens manage to take their music seriously without taking themselves too seriously. Take the band’s name, for instance: It was inspired by frontman-guitarist Bob Carlton’s former job at his family’s newsstand in Glens Falls. “I used to have a job where I worked until 6:15,” Carlton explains. “It sucked. I worked for my dad. One time I asked my dad, ‘Why 6:15?’ I was like, ‘Why don’t I work until 6 or 6:30?’ My dad said, ‘Because I told you so.’ That was his only answer.”

As the band members warm up for practice, guitarist Jeff Fox swigs repeatedly from a bottle of vodka (“The bottle floats in a pool,” he states, after I express surprise that some brands of vodka are packaged in plastic containers). After a few minutes, the isolated and discordant notes of band members tuning their instruments has morphed into a full-bodied song: “Dusk and Dawn,” one of a slew of sprawling new songs that they have recorded for an upcoming album on a yet-to-be-decided label. Their next song, “Auto-Stop,” is far more punk than anything they’ve written since forming in 2002, when then-bassist Gene Davenport influenced the band’s lighter power-pop sound. Davenport exited the band earlier this year after deciding to move to New York City, which left the Sixfifteens abruptly without a bass player.

The punkish affront of “Auto-Stop” seems well suited to Carlton, who first started playing in local bands in the late ’80s when his ragged, four-chord guitar style was clearly inspired by punk bands like the Ramones. “I think the loss of Gene helped us to move in another direction,” Carlton says. “When Joel and I first started the Sixfifteens, the idea was to make it a power pop sort of band. Gene is a good pop bass player. When he quit, it put us in a situation where we were able to break out of that pop shell. Now there’s a little bit of emo in our music, a little bit of indie rock.”

After playing as a three-piece for much of the past year, the Sixfifteens recruited Matt Bombard of Schodack last month through an ad on an online music site. Bombard’s previous band, Gohbi, had broken up in September. “Matt showed up to his first rehearsal knowing all of our songs. He played a show with us the next day in New York City,” Carlton relays. Although grateful to have found such a capable bass player, Carlton and Lilley both describe their time as a trio as a period of growth. “It was good to play just the three of us,” Lilley says. “We had to work a lot harder. I think we solidified the way everything fit in with us. Then when Matt came along, it made it that much easier [to incorporate a new player].”

“Matt fit in really well—he put the pieces together,” Carlton adds.

Despite all the lineup changes, the Sixfifteens have always had a solid foundation in Carlton and Lilley, who spent much of the ’90s playing together in the Saratoga Springs indie-rock group Dryer. “It’s really easy with Bob and me,” Lilley says. “It’s nice to not have to talk about things all the time, to just feel them out. I know what he’s going to play before he plays it.”

“Yeah, it’s a standard 4/4 thing,” laughs Carlton in a self-deprecating tone.

“We’ve spent a lot of time playing together, almost 10 years,” Lilley continues. “We’ve gone through all these musical phases together. I’ve seen Bob’s playing change rather dramatically.”

“I went from sucking to being OK,” Carlton jokes.

“I think Bob can do all the things I can’t do on guitar,” Fox adds in Carlton’s defense.

The band may not agree on what their overall sound is these days. Carlton calls it “noisy indie-rock,” while Bombard says “it’s a little more punk” and Fox defines it solely as “rock.” But they do concur on some of their favorite current musical acts: Wilco, Guided by Voices, Sloan and Supergrass. And they agree that by finally nailing down their lineup, the Sixfifteens are free to experiment with new sounds and new material.

“Our songwriting is getting more collaborative,” Fox says.

“As new people come in, songs start to change. You start to spread out more,” adds Carlton. “Now we’re writing better music, better songs. We’re not looking for a commercial sound. We’re writing music for the sake of how we like it. We’re not trying to fit into any one sound or worrying about being indie rock or power pop.”

The Sixfifteens play with the Scientific Maps and Blend Engine at Valentine’s on Saturday (Oct. 11). The show starts at 9 PM and is $5. Call the club, 432-6572 for further information on the show. For more information about the band, visit www.thesixfifteens.com.

ROUGH MIX

THEY FOLLOWED THEIR OWN TRAIL BACK HOME: The über-resourceful Web site CRUMBS—the Capital Region Unofficial Musicians and Band Site—is back up and running after a two-year hiatus, and you can find it at www.crumbs.net. Crumbs was one of our area’s earliest (1996) and most comprehensive local-music sites. The site came back with baby steps, beginning in March with the popular message board. In early September, the “big list” of more than 400 local artists reemerged.

With their return, the CRUMBS fellas (founder Ron McClamrock, Jeff Hotchberg, who’s in charge of the daily operation of the site, and newcomer Andy Gallo) tried out a new feature, an around-the-clock local-music webcast. Gallo, from another local-music webcast, Sanctuary Radio, was recruited to help with the project, and ended up joining forces with CRUMBS. Sanctuary Radio is now CRUMBS radio, and though it presently plays commercials and requires users to sign up, the CRUMBS guys plan on restructuring it so that’s not the case. “We’re in the process of developing a homegrown, commercial-fee webcast which is a lot cooler and more user friendly,” says Hotchberg.

Another related venture involves local-music compilation CDS; the CRUMBS folks have released You Are Here (1999) and You’re Still Here (2001), and plan on a third project, Here We Go Again—although they’re unsure what and when the final outcome will be. We’ll keep you posted.

SWAMP THING: “Powuh Blooze” purveyors Lowthief will charge the stage of Troy’s Ale House on Saturday (Oct. 11), performing three sets of their special brew. No doubt some of those songs will be found on their debut CD, now in preproduction, tentatively titled Popskull—“8 tunes about booze, bad love and the devil,” says Lowthief’s leading man Albie. Albie’s also working on a solo record, Scrap Iron—“8 songs about weather, circus freaks and yet again, bad love”—which features the talent of Mitch Elrod (guitar and vocals), Jonathan Cohen (bass) and Steve Candelin (drums). He’s also recorded a solo dobro piece, “Breaking Hearts in Every Port,” for the upcoming Chromepeeler release, You’ve Got Your Orders Vol. II.

SCARY GOOD: Peterwalkee Records chief and Kitty Little frontman Matto is putting on another local-music production of epic proportions. He’s scheduled two talent-packed Halloween shows, one at Valentines and one at the College of St. Rose, both on Oct.31. The Valentine’s lineup: Small Axe, To Hell and Back, Snmnmnm, Jump Cannon, Magic Recording Eye and Complicated Shirt; the St. Rose lineup: the Highsocks, Evixxion, Kitty Little, End of a Year, the Switched On, 1991, and another band to be announced. And, of course, there will be a costume contest, games and candy. If you already have plans for Halloween, change ’em. These shows, and it will be hard to choose between the two, will smoke.

PARTNERLESS IN SCHENECTADY: The Van Dyck in Schenectady has undergone some changes as of late, and in addition to the new culinary finds (see Food, page 25), you can expect the show to go on. Peter Olson is now the sole owner, his partners have flown the coop, and he promises to continue to book fine jazz, folk, rock and pop shows. You can also expect the Tuesday-night jazz jams, hosted by Brian Patneaude and Adrian Cohen, to continue. It’s similar to an open mike, but you’ve got a talented bunch of musicians backing you. Every Thursday night finds pianist Nate Buccieri hosting a piano bar, where you can get up and belt out your favorite number while Buccieri tickles the ivories. He’ll also accompany on piano. Presently the Van Dyck is closed Sundays and Mondays, but Olson hopes for a Monday-night blues jam in the near future. You can head to the club’s newly revamped Web site, www.thevandyck.com, for further information and upcoming show announcements.

—Kate Sipher

 

 


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