Welcome to Soundcheck, a new series that will help expose our readers to a different C-U band each week and provide a deeper insight into the band. Readers may find bands they have never heard of featured in Soundcheck, or they might discover something new about a band they’ve seen dozens of times. The main goal of these articles will be to dig a little deeper and provide background about the band and its members, to share where they came from and where they would like to go with their art.
For the first article in our series we’re highlighting Year of the Bobcat. YOTB is composed of Justin Bares (keys), Michael Hicks (bass), Denton Hird (guitar and vocals), and Blaine Wright (drums). The band formed as a growth of Hird’s solo work, and it was Hird who took time to answer our questions about the band.
Smile Politely: When was the band formed?
Denton Hird: I started writing songs in 2008–2009 and we played as a band for the first time April 24, 2010.
SP: How did the band come together?
Hird: My last band finished kind of quickly. No hurt feelings or anything, I decided I was done and went to pick up my gear and, randomly enough, the rest of the guys had decided on the same day to pick up their gear too without previously discussing it. Anyway, I went from playing basically every weekend one or two times to not at all, so I decided I was going to start writing and playing when I wanted. A year-and-a-half later, I was going to play a battle of the bands at Parkland and didn’t want to play by myself. I talked to the guys about playing with me and we ended up reworking all of my solo songs to hopefully fit as whole band songs. We ended up finishing second, which was a surprise to myself (laughs), but when all was said and done kinda just stayed a band.
SP: What music have you released?
Hird: Well, if it is any consolation, prior to releasing [our forthcoming EP], we have recorded a lot of stuff… We previously completely recorded a rough album and used couple of the songs as demos that are up on our Bandcamp and Facebook profiles. We later scrapped the whole thing to record at Earth Analog. We plan to have the EP that we recorded at Earth Analog out next month.
SP: How do you describe your music?
Hird: I always laugh and describe it to people as melancholy rock ‘n’ roll, which is a little counterintuitive, I understand, but I normally gravitate to really moody music. I also tell people we have more chill parts and then have real big parts. I love the ups and downs in music and enjoy incorporating a lot of movement and dynamic throughout, too.
SP: Who or what are your main influences, musically speaking?
Hird: I started in heavy music. I don’t listen to as much as of that as I used to, but there is a passion that I love so much in heavy music. A lot of my favorite heavy bands tell stories in their songs, such as Have Heart and Verse. But I won’t go down that rabbit hole currently. My favorite band of all time would probably be Pedro the Lion (and anything else David Bazan touches). David Bazan has probably been my biggest influence in regards to the style of YOTB. I have a lot of similarities in his upbringing and he is an artist that made me ask questions about my faith and what I believe.
The Snake The Cross The Crown, I feel, is another big influence on YOTB’s sound; the way they tell stories is incredible. As Cities Burn is a band that started heavy and by the last album were playing, like, bluesy rock n’ roll. We seemed to be on a similar journey, and the singer had some awesome thought-provoking songs.
MewithoutYou is a band that, over the past seven years or so, has been one of my favorite bands. I love the music and lyrical content they have. I don’t listen to lots of instrumental music, but This Will Destroy You’s album called Young Mountain is something I could probably listen to the rest of my life. So Long Forgotten is a local band that I’m so proud to get to say I’ve shared the stage with a handful of times. They put out incredible music with passionate lyrics, and to top it off they are all pretty awesome dudes!
SP: What has been inspiring you lately? Don’t feel limited to music, just whatever has been stoking your creative fire.
Hird: Maybe this is silly to say but, the guitar. I have been recording different songs lately in my room and I just get lost while playing and recording. My roommate and I have been discussing trying our hands at pedal boards and guitar cabinets. I’m a gear junkie, so maybe attempting to build gear is like a dream come true!
I’ve been listening to a lot of old hymns lately, too. There is something to the melodies in hymns, a lot of them are music and melodies stolen from regional traditional/bar songs, but I just can’t get enough from the melodies and interesting chord progressions. It seems our society loves repetitive songs/parts. We love to write a progression that takes four bars to get through and then repeat it three more times and move into your chorus. Old hymns take time to follow; most are not one, quick progression that takes a full verse to get through it. But I feel I’m also easily inspired, which can be a good thing and can be a bad thing, because I move quickly from being inspired from one thing to the next rather quickly.
SP: Where is your favorite place to play in C-U?
Hird: When we got to play upstairs at the Channing-Murray, that was so much fun. Not only was it a fun venue to play, it was during 2012 Pygmalion and the crowd was so awesome. Not to mention, we played with some great bands that night: Hank, Midstress, and So Many Dynamos.
SP: Which C-U bands are your favorites?
Hird: My two favorite bands in Champaign are no longer together, but I love New Ruins; they are fantastic and their two singers worked together so well. My other favorite was Evil Tents [Editor’s note: Hird and Hicks were briefly a part of Evil Tents before the band broke up]; those songs are so moody, low key, and catchy. I know John Isberg is still writing and I’m excited to see what happens with his new stuff. Champaign has some incredible bands currently; whenever I talk to people out of town, I tell them how awesome the music is currently in Champaign! I love dirty rock ‘n’ roll too, so I think Dirty Feathers are phenomenal, they put on a fun show!
I’d also like to mention Error Records. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see them growing. I feel Champaign is known for its indie scene, and rightfully so, but Error Records is allowing people to see Champaign’s punk scene. Also, if you haven’t seen Hank, you need to. And I think Enta is one of the best heavy bands I’ve heard in the past two to three years, and they are fantastic live too. I’ll stop now, but I could easily continue on with other local C-U bands because there are still more that are worth mentioning!
SP: What are your future plans?
Hird: Well, we are so excited to put this album out. We have been working on recording for so long, I think we basically have enough music for another album. But we’ll play on this album for a little bit before we record again. We are always writing, and hopefully we can play some more shows. We are all getting older, so we are wanting to play as much music as possible now.