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Feature Thu Aug 17 2006

Pompeii: Some Assembly Required

Pompeii, hailing from Austin, TX, is an emerging band that recently picked-up some notable attention at SXSW. Their debut record Assembly, will release in early October from Eyeball Records, a label more commonly known for launching My Chemical Romance and Thursday.

pompeiipressimage1.jpg

Pompeii is (from left to right) Rob Davidson (drums),
Shane Stevens (bass), Dean Stafford (vocals/guitar),
Erik Johnson (guitar), and Caitlin Bailey (cello).

When I first listened to this record I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive. A sort of "here we go again" came into my mind. I thought for sure I was going to be subjected to one more contribution to the brooding indie scene — guitar-laden songs that are soft, melodic, heart-felt and bittersweet. Well, I was. All those adjectives did come to mind, however, I didn't find myself immediately turning my face to cringe as if the band could see my expression being beamed through the wires in my CD player.

To my delight and surprise there was more here than another set of tracks suited to the perfect teen prom slow-dance. (Though I did find that as a soundtrack album Pompeii would be great for some montage of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy contemplates the events in a café.)

With only two short years together, Pompeii have already burst through the record industry floodgates. Somehow, they managed to find each other is the busy Austin music scene and create a foundation that an earthquake couldn't shake (if there were earthquakes in Texas). They are friends, business partners and family members, and these life experiences have shaped their sound by incorporating everyday life into their lyrics. As it goes, the more you've gone through in life, the more complete a picture you can paint, thus, Pompeii creates images that invoke a tight sensibility and familiarity. One can't help relate to the sorrow and joys that the songs speak about, as memories are brought back, and sighs are generally heard across the room.

There is a deeper than surface sound that emanates from this five-piece ensemble. Pompeii's Assembly is complex with waves of '80s sounds, experimental noise, and voluminous strings mixed in with serious and down-to-earth lyrics — a concoction that proves to be both touching and haunting at the same time.

The majority of this album is all about lost loves and letters, like in the title track "Assembly", leaving the arms of home in the song "States” and bit of a light at the end of the tunnel concept in the track Catalogue. It's true Pompeii does touch on subjects that most other artists do, but they do it with a removed and real perspective. It's a calm, "big picture" approach to the broken heart, and to venturing out to find a new home. Pompeii leaves you with the feeling of Yes, I've been there, and I get it.

No, this sense of familiarity is not due to some constant comparison to Death Cab for Cutie which I almost hate to mention here. (Yes, Pompeii's lead singer Dean Stafford has a similarly high-pitched voice and, yes, there are jangly bass and guitar hooks served up by Shane Stevens and Erik Johnson. Caitlin Bailey, the only gal in the group, plays the cello and Rob Davidson rounds out the pack on the drums. They are talented musicians, and song writers.) What music doesn't borrow from elements from the past and present? Despite what general comparisons of malaise and confusion you might find in the stories they tell, you won't hear it in Pompeii's arrangements and performance.

Pompeii plays the kind of music that quietly seeps into your emotions as your ears fill with reverberating sounds of high and low. They're a band that is proving to be inventive and passionate — two things that any art form can thrive from having in its collection.

Pompeii will be playing on Sunday, August 20th, 2006 at The Note (for all the details, check Slowdown).
-Catherine Rigod


Pompeiiinchicago1.jpg
Erik, Caitlin, Rob, Dean and Shane enjoy a Chicago moment.


A Gapers Block: Transmission Interview — Pompeii

Pompeii is an indie band from the hot southwest but their bass player Shane Stevens is originally from Chicago. Gapers Block: Transmission contributor Catherine Rigod recently spoke to Shane and he shared a few thoughts about coming home.

CR: How did this tour come about?
SS: We are on tour now just trying to get our name out before the record comes out (Assembly Oct. 10th on Eyeball Records)

CR: Any good stories that you care to share that have happened on this tour so far?
SS: Well it's only just the beginning of this tour but we’ve already sidestepped a landmine that we came across last tour, which was staying at a kid's house that we dubbed "Sweaty Already". The name itself should paint a picture.

CR: Who's plays pseudo-manager, big brother band-mom? Who is the slacker, the one that never sleeps or sleeps too much? Which one is dubbed the "black sheep"?
SS: Well, I’m the first 3, pseudo manager/big brother/band mom. Dean is the slacker, Erik takes 3 hour-long showers, and Rob is the black sheep.

CR: How is it to be back home?
SS: I get so excited when I know I’m coming back to Chicago, I can't really think about any other shows. Everyone else get excited too, partially because of my influence. I love my friends here, and everyone who lives in Chicago loves living here and is readily available to give tours, etc...

CR: Do you have a favorite Chicago memory or experience?
SS: Hundreds
CR: Well...?
SS: ...

CR: Got a favorite place to chow-down here?
SS: Clarke's

CR: What venues does the band like to play at in Chicago?
SS: Fireside Bowl (the old Fireside, anyway. I miss Hammer.)

CR: Are you friends with other bands on the bill (local Chicago-based bands or did you bring them with you?)
SS: I had my cousin Sara's band put on as an opener (The Spoken Four)

CR: Any thoughts on the Chicago music scene today?
SS: Still seems pretty strong.

CR: Cubs or Sox? Shane, what kind of fan are you going to raise your kid as?
SS: You've got to be kidding...Cubs. If I didn't have WGN in Texas I wouldn’t be able to take it.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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