Members: Gabriel Wilson, Chris Greely, Eric Lemiere, Josiah Sherman
Stepping Into The Listening
Is it all too obvious? A band whose very name serves as a kind of unfolding instruction dares to tell its audience exactly what to do? By no means. For in the case of this new-veteran assembly of ambient, loud, mystical troubadours, their name is a reflection of themselves, as any moniker should rightly be. And in this case, these young men are The Listening.
By boldly and unapologetically blending seemingly incongruous elements into their brew, The Listening is simply furthering a long term fascination with a sort of eclectic, musical and meditational Dadaism. The supposedly secular realm of Rock and Roll, from early psychedelia to 90s era alternative, becomes an altar in the wilderness of the modern world; an outpost in a strange land. Deeply spiritual, painfully reflective and personally honest confessions splash across this canvas like unlicensed doses of shocking red. Faint echoes of Brother Lawrence, Thomas Milton, St. Francis of Assisi, John Lennon and Jesus Christ amble through hallways of the soul like ghosts checking doorknobs to unlocked and uncleaned bedchambers. The speakers overhead crackle with electro-magnetic noise, bringing announcements from the next world. A monk waits quietly at the front gate, tuning a vintage Stratocaster with a tear in one eye and a glimmer of hope in the other. The noise of the street, the caterwauling vendors, the pontificating pundits and the rest of the lost mouths bathe the outside world in a cacophony of useless noise. But inside The Listening, a wash of vintage analog synthesizers, ancient drums, a reliquary of well worn guitars and the plaintive, soulful sound of the human voice creates a sort of Franciscan spiritual drone that keeps the wolves of the world at bay. In the swirling sounds comes a strange silence of the soul. In its greatest moments, a still small voice can be heard.
Mixed-metaphors and pretentious ruminations aside, for all practical purposes The Listening is a rock band; A rock band with strains of Pink Floyd, U2, Sigur Ros, Love and Rockets and The Beatles wafting through their transom, and well worn Bibles within inches of their gear. Though they are a new entity, several of the cast of cast members have the momentum of years worth of touring, recording, dreaming and chasing God together behind them. Previous incarnations presented a sort of modern-day, amped up tent revival, with strains of rapturous praise and rock and roll revelry seamlessly intertwined. But The Listening is what happens when the earth shakes and a gale force wind takes down the tent, tears it from top to bottom and makes its very presence within the assembly. The tools of the trade are still scattered about, but they are used very differently. The voices are still singing, but not quite as much as the ears, and hearts, are listening to the calm, straining for the voice behind the silence. This is definitely a new moment.
Vocalist and guitarist Gabriel Wilson tries his best to describe the thing as he explains, Its not a Rock Show' per se, but an 'experience' that includes Rock and Roll music. Its enveloping, tragic, ambiguous, and healing. Keyboardist Josiah Sherman revels in the flow. Its an experience from beginning to end, he says. One song flows into another and hopefully the listener feels something bigger than himself. Its not just a musical experience but rather a spiritual one. Wilson sees the same phenomenon and feels it is an answer to an inner need in both the audience and the band. I believe that people come to experience something outside of them when they come to The Listening. They're brought to a place of introspection, getting in touch with their souls, and the struggle within. Wilson goes on, with a dreamy look in his eye, and a strange, peaceful smile, as he describes the sense of quiet that permeates the venue as the volume of the music ascends. Something from outside moves all of us, the band and the audience, inward. Often people don't clap, or jump up and down or really even move at all. Its uncanny; such a contrast from modern rock regalia. Yet, that's the beauty of it. We are attracting people that, whether they know it or not, want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Wilson knows The Listening is striking a much needed nerve as the feedback pours in like secrets in a confessional. I've been told that it has been the single most spiritual experience that some people have ever had. This testimony has come from both religious people and those not associated with any faith at all. One person said When you played, it felt like I had a huge hole in my chest that had finally been filled by something. Others have said God is in the room. These are the words that fuel The Listenings passion for their new era, and the words that echoed in the hearts and minds of the band as they sought to capture this experience on tape.
For their self-titled debut, the band set up in a well-worn studio, with their arsenal of vintage tube and analog gear surrounding them. We're purists in that respect, Wilson admits with glee. We have five Moog synthesizers in the family and five Vox AC30 guitar amps. The drums are all old 1960's Ludwigs and even our cymbals are old the hi-hats are from the 1940's! Holding up the bottom end of the sonic spectrum, both in the studio and on stage, is a significant departure from the standard bass guitar. One of the more unique aspects of our band is our low end, Wilson continues. We don't use bass guitar. Instead, we use old Moog synths to create a low end presence that is much bigger than that of a bass guitar. The notes pulse sometimes, but other times are long and sustained sub-octaves. In other words, tones that are eight notes lower than a bass guitar can even hit. Some have said that the low end carries the audience live. Its huge. The sounds, of course, are captured on analog two-inch tape instead of anything digital. Tape is becoming a forgotten format with the advent of digital technology, Wilson says. But again, we're purists. Analog always wins. Once the songs were recorded and mixed, the band went to the legendary Chris Blair of Abbey Road Studios for mastering. Chris is a guru of old EMI gear, Wilson adds. He's done a lot of older records for Abbey Road's most famous clients, including the Beatles. With a more recent resume that includes several significant influences of The Listening, including RADIOHEAD (Ok Computer, Hail to the Thief,) and TRAVIS, Blair proved to be the perfect choice for The Listenings self-titled, and self-produced debut.
So now The Listening hits the road, offering their experience to any and all who would have it. The venues are diverse, the audiences eclectic, and the band, ecstatic. In the case of this rain-and-spirit-soaked flock from the Pacific Northwest, listening is not a particularly somber or even quiet affair. In the world they find themselves traversing, there is a level of persistent noise that must be wrestled with, and beaten down. Thus their ambient, cascading and even pulsating sound is a visceral and auditory rebuke of the chaos that reigns in the hearts and minds of too many human beings, including first and foremost, themselves. As the Fenders rage against the dying of the night, the calm comes, amidst the storm. It is in this vortex that you will find The Listening, and the experience is delivered with loving passion and unrelenting commitment to tone and truth on their debut release.
If your spirit is willing, you too are invited to step into The Listening.