Floater Mixes Up A Stew Of Wildly Different Styles
If ever a rock song has started in one place and ended up in another, it is Floater’s “The Sad Ballad of Danny Boy.”
What begins a rollicking catchy drinking jig turns abruptly into a crashing metal-hardened dirge. It’s feel-good-fun turned into bite-your-head-off vehemence.
It’s a rough transition, but one that successfully mirrors the lyrical content of the song - the good times of getting drunk versus the ugly aftermath of an alcohol binge gone bad.
Although not all of this band’s songs make such impetuous personality changes, “Danny Boy” is a good example of what the three members of Floater like best in the music they create.
“It kind of catches people off guard,” says Robert, singer and bass player for the Eugene, Ore., group.
“It comes out of the desire to sort of throw you from one thing to the next so you don’t get too content in one sort of a sound.”
Floater formed in 1993 with David on electric guitar and Peter on drums (they don’t give out their last names). Robert says that from the start each member came from wildly different musical perspectives. Hence, they fumbled a bit in coming to a sound that suited them all.
“I would say, ‘Oh this is going to be a real ethereal, Middle Eastern, ambient kind of hypno music.’ And the guitarist would go, ‘No, I think it should be brutal death metal.’ And the drummer would go, ‘I think it should be a tribal, world-beat thing.’
“We’d all look at each other and go, ‘Well, let’s try it.’ ”
And so it has turned out that Floater’s music encompasses all of the above: spacious hypnotic grooves a la Pink Floyd, furies of metal a la Pantera and thick beats that seem plucked straight from the jungle.
Often it works well. Their last album, “Glyph,” deftly traverses mellower acoustic territory with “Bottle” as well as hard-driving guitar crunch with “Cinema.” Songs like “The Knowing Dirge” and “Persecutor” are haunting as they are catchy.
“We went through a lot of ‘No, that’s too heavy metal, no that’s too pop, no that’s too psychedelic,’ ” Robert says. “But kind of through butting heads and shoving stuff together we end up with a sound that - when it gets to a point where all three of us are happy with it - we know we did something right.”
Both “Danny Boy” and “Cinema” get regular play on Z-Rock 103.9 FM. But having a sound that doesn’t cram so easily into a specific category can cause difficulties when it comes to finding a place in the bigger music machine.
Floater’s last album came out in 1995 and since then the group has struggled to find a label interested in helping them put out a follow-up.
“No matter how many people would come to the shows or how many records we sold or what was on the radio, we heard consistently that until we had a clearly defined sound - until we were a pop band or a ska band or something - that we were just out of luck.”
So, Floater has opted instead to do their third full-length album on their own. Currently in the mixing stage, the album is expected out this spring.
“If the first album was eclectic in the style of music, and the second album was more so, I think this one is probably the most,” Robert says.
On the other hand, “I think the songwriting on this new album is just a lot more grown-up.”
Floater will perform some of their new songs as well as earlier favorites when they play at Ichabod’s North and Aces Wild this weekend.
On Saturday, Floater plays at Ichabod’s North with Sugar Pig opening. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. They spend Sunday at Aces Wild in Coeur d’Alene with Boycott and Phrumunda opening. Show starts at 9 p.m. Cover both nights is $5.
Other good stuff
It’s hard to say exactly where the band The Dead Casuals are from.
I suppose you’d just have to say the state of Washington. After all, they’ve pretty well got the place covered, what with a percussionist in Spokane, a singer and a guitarist in Seattle, a rapper, a guitarist and a drummer in Pullman, and a bass player in the Tri-Cities.
The question is, with the distances making it difficult to practice and perform together, why even stick it out when far lesser inconveniences have been the end of many bands?
“I ask myself that question all the time,” says guitarist Adam Crowell with a laugh. “I think it’s just the chemistry between us not only as friends but also as musicians. I wouldn’t want to give it up.”
The Dead Casuals bring that chemistry to Outback Jack’s tonight and the Fort Spokane Brewery Thursday where they’ll perform their fusion of hip hop and funk rock.
With Jason Mohr singing and Isamu Jordan rapping, previous performances in Spokane have found these guys laying down solid dance grooves.
Bassist Justin Chapman is a standout performer. Crowell is joined by his brother Oliver for a dual guitar front with Jeremy Kirk and Ben Cater on drums and percussion respectively.
“I like to think of us as trying to do something with all the different styles we have as far as tastes,” Adam Crowell says. “We’re trying to bring that together and create something that can keep you dancing.”
Show starts at Outback Jack’s tonight at 9:30. Silly Rabbit from Seattle also performs. Cover is $4.
Also catch The Dead Casuals at the Fort Spokane Brewery on Thursday. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $3.
For those who don’t know, Harry O’s Bistro offers not only food and wine, but music, as well. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night catch blues and jazz acts in the wine bar while you toss back a glass of beer or vino.
This spring look for an expansion that will include a bigger stage and a dance floor.
Until then, catch one of our finest bluesmen, Tim “Too Slim” Langford, Thursday evenings through Feb. 12. Music runs 7-10 p.m. There’s no cover charge. Border Run performs Friday and Case Closed performs Saturday from 8 to 11 p.m. Again, no cover charge.
Harry O’s is located at 508 E. Third.
Swamp Mama Johnson, the five-woman blues rockin’ band from Bellingham, performs at the Fort Spokane Brewery both tonight and Saturday. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. Cover charge is $6. Be prepared to dance.
Speaking of dancing, Petting Zulu and Civilized Animal return to Ichabod’s North tonight with their ska, reggae, rock, dance thing. Soup opens the show at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $4.
Punk band The Adversives headline at The Westminster Congregational Church tonight. PDC 13 and Upper Class Racket open the show, starting at 7:30 p.m. Cover is $3. The church is located at the corner of Fourth and Washington.
Smash Velvet headlines a show at the Libby Teen Center Saturday night. Another Day and Tone Row open the show. Doors open at 8 p.m. with Tone Row kicking off the music at 8:30 p.m. Cover charge is $3 and the teen center is located at 2900 E. First.
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