JamBase Questionnaire: Centro-matic

Welcome back to JamBase's baker's dozen to the bright lights of the music world. Last time we heard from Motopony.

New Album
Refinement is an art in itself. Knowing where to pare back, what to shave away and what to leave bare for all the world to see is something most bands only learn with time, their earliest salvos a floodgate opened, all the creativity in them rushing to reach listeners. 15 years in, Texas-based Centro-matic have delivered a model of refinement with Candidate Waltz (released June 21 on Undertow Music). While this reverberant, poetically cerebral unit - Will Johnson (vocals, guitar, songwriting), Scott Danborn (keys, violin, harmonies), Mark Hedman (bass, guitar) and Matt Pence (drums, production) – has often offered up slow burns that only unlock with time and intimate listening, their latest shocks with an immediate buzz, hooks abounding with Johnson’s voice front & center and the band tighter than a Tupperware lid.

Long a contemporary and pal of DBT’s Patterson Hood, MMJ’s Jim James, M. Ward and Conor Oberst, Johnson and his crew are long overdue for the same kind of theatre-sized cults, a great and original American band that’s been slogging away on their vision long enough to more than deserve the proverbial “next level.” However, now may be their moment since the Waltz in their new album’s title is appropriate, a hand extended to take folks out on the dance floor, twirl them a spell and return them to the punch bowl a bit brighter. Johnson calls this the band’s “meat-and-potatoes pop record,” and he’s not far wrong, except it must be noted that Centro-matic’s seasoning and preparation are master chef quality. This isn’t radio fare in the sad, sad modern sense but it is a call-back to the indestructible nuggets of the 1960s, not so much in tone but spirit, music full of killer lines, lashing guitars, sighing “oohs” and a beat you can move to. There’s a few corkers that bolder program directors could slot in, namely “All The Talkers,” “Iso-Residue” and “Solid States,” each smarter than most of what’s hitting airwaves now but infectious, captivating moments nonetheless, and the record as a whole accomplishes more in 32-minues than most double albums.

The sound of Candidate Waltz is extraordinarily rich yet never bloated, each cut a voluptuous little world sharing a happy orbit with its friends. The phrasing of things, not just the singing, is uniquely Centro-matic. While this is obviously pop-rock in a broad sense, it’s thick-bodied and expertly assembled, the kind of “meat-and-potatoes” one gushes about to friends, a “meal” nourishing and pleasurable. (Dennis Cook)

Here's what Will Johnson had to say to our inquiries.

Band Affiliation(s): South San Gabriel, Centro-matic, Monsters of Folk, Molina and Johnson, Patterson Hood and the Screwtopians, some solo stuff.

1. Great music rarely happens without…
A willingness to completely fail.

2. The first album I bought was…
AC/DC’s Back In Black

3. The last song or album to really flip my wig was…
Bill Callahan’s “America!”

4. When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be…
Ozzie Smith

5. My favorite sort of gig is…
Usually in smaller spaces with very good sound. It involves a reasonable soundcheck, a rider that is actually fulfilled, and a promoter and staff that are respectful and caring for their chosen trades and the other humans around them.

6. One thing I wish people knew about me is…
No Facebook.

7. I love the sound of…
My daughter’s laugh.

8. One day I hope to make an album as fantastic as…
In-season Dutch Herring

9. The best meal I ever had on tour was at…
Some place in New York City where they were serving in-season Dutch Herring.

10. I always find the coolest audiences in…
Dekalb, Illinois?

11. The worst habit I've picked up being on the road all the time is…
Constant, undying math. Cable.

12. Led Zeppelin or Radiohead, which flips your switch the most and why?
For history's sake, and given impact in very formative years, Led Zeppelin.

13. The craziest thing I ever saw was…
I don't know if it's the craziest, but here's one…Summer 1994, and my former band is on the way to Memphis for the first date of a two-week tour. It's hovering around 100 degrees outside, and the A/C on the van is coming up a tick or two short. We're eastbound on the stretch I-40 between Texarkana and Little Rock, windows rolled down, and there's not much traffic to speak of. Everyone's settled in, reading newspapers, living in their quiet. A silver pickup pulls up next to us in the passing lane, and proceeds to hold at the same speed we're going. My bandmate, Clark, who is riding shotgun, looks over and starts screaming, "He's jacking his penis!! He's jacking his penis!!" The two of us who were on the bench seats in the back pull ourselves upright to see what all the fuss is. Sure enough, the guy driving the truck was stark naked, wrapped in the unbridled passion of his mid-summer highway moment, looking right at us. There were no other cars in sight at this point, which made the situation even more…concentrated. Our bass player, Mike, was driving. He was extremely rattled. "What do I do??!!!!," he screamed. We collectively urged him to slow down and let the dude pass. We slowed down. The dude slowed down. We sped up. The dude sped up. This went on for about two or three minutes that pretty much felt like the greater part of God's Eternity. The rest of us took the opportunity to dive to the floorboard so as to avoid the vista. Of course, Mike had to keep the wheel and endure further scarification. Finally, the dude sped up, left us, and took the next exit. This was something we'd never dealt with before. Nobody said much of anything the rest of the way to Memphis. We rode through the remainder of the afternoon heat, mostly in silence. We had a terrible show that night.

Centro-matic Tour Dates :: Centro-matic News

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[Published on: 7/8/11]

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