Split Lip Rayfield: Fast, Rough and Loud

 
I had serious doubts about ever doing it again. But then when that TV show thing came up and we started playing together on the porch, you know, we had no ambition to go on tour or even play big local shows or anything. I think it was just the fact that it still felt good and it sounded like the band. It just kind of pulled us back in.

-Eric Mardis

 
Photo of SLR's first show back without Kirk by Ryan Hendrix

"I had serious doubts about ever doing it again," Mardis admits. "But then when that TV show thing came up and we started playing together on the porch, you know, we had no ambition to go on tour or even play big local shows or anything. I think it was just the fact that it still felt good and it sounded like the band. It just kind of pulled us back in. I don't want to be too mumbo jumbo here but when we decided not to have the guitar - to just keep it mandolin, banjo and bass - I could feel and hear the guitar and that vocal line was still there. I felt like it was keeping Kirk way closer to me then just pretending like, 'Well, that was great, but now it's over.'"

By carrying on and kicking ass, the band seems to be keeping him close, not just for themselves but also for the fans. Rundstrom's lasting musical fingerprints and his enormous strength of spirit reverberate in the rousing fervor and unrestrained zeal the band delivers onstage. Each Split Lip show is dedicated to Rundstrom and at the Continental Club the audience cheered at the dedication, glasses raised. I heard a couple folks swapping stories with strangers about past shows, sharing their experiences as vets with newcomers. The network of fans, always well appreciated, has been invaluable during this time. Gottstine says: "It's been real positive. You know everybody wants to hear those tunes. If people didn't like it we wouldn't put it out there, but everybody's been liking it. People have been really supportive. You know, they miss Kirk and they always bring that up, of course. That's normal, but they also say they're glad we're still doing it."

Attacking Around

Jeff Eaton by Ryan Hendrix
Having a batch of fresh material to work with from I'll Be Around (self-released on October 1), the show at the Continental Club was also a CD release party, and we got to hear the album tracks kicking live onstage. Much of it is classic Split Lip material - some grins, some darkness and plenty of musical mayhem - all woven together with a genuinely blue-collar view of the world. There's a sneaky sense of melody throughout, the kind that finds you humming the tune days later, maybe banging the swinging rhythm on your desk until your hand is sore and the guy in the cubicle next to you wants to know what that racket is. It was recorded over the course of a week at Daybreak Studios in Lawrence, Kansas with engineer Colin Mahoney, who worked on the previous three SLR albums. "He knows what we're about. He does a good job capturing our sounds and all this magical business I don't understand," says Eaton. Spontaneity and a hard working ethic combined in the recording environment like it has before. "It was pretty much the way we've done all the records," Mardis says. "It was just kind of throw it out there and hope it sounds good when we play it back [laughs]."

"It was different, but it was good. We just went in there and attacked it," Gottstine explains. "We had all the songs pretty much ready. It wasn't something we over thought too much. We just went in there and started moving until we were finished."

Many bands write songs about working class life, but the guys from SLR live that reality. They still drive their own van from show to show and have day jobs to make ends meet. Gottstine worked in a factory while on a break from the band in 2005 through summer 2006, and this experience was the inspiration for the song "Factory."

"I was in the punch press department, and I would load these huge 100-pound dyes into this machine. My machine was called 'The 400 Ton' because it had 400 tons of hydrologic pressure. I would make those little rings that you see around jet engines. It sucked, the oil from The 400 Ton squirted all over me all day, so I would come home covered in oil; my hands were all black all the time. And then just when I was starting to get the groove, thinking, 'Alright, this will be alright I guess,' they moved me to another department called brake press. What I liked about punch press was that you had two big buttons, [and] the machine wouldn't work unless your hands were on these two big buttons. But brake press, you had a panel and you would hold pieces of metal up to this brake press thing and this finger chopping machine would come down. So I said, 'Fuck that.' But I was probably, well, a third generation factory worker the moment I took that job. My mother worked in a factory for 40-years, my grandfather worked in the same factory for 35-years, and then I worked in that crappy factory."

Meanwhile, an absurd sense of humor and fascination with the dark side led to Mardis' speed metal-esque "The High Price of Necromancy." Necromancy, for those of you not in the know, is the practice of raising the dead. Sounds pretty cool to a zombie-film-fan, but Mardis assures me that it's not a profession worth going into.

Continue reading for more on Split Lip Rayfield...


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