BOCKMAN: A SOUND THAT IS GORJUS

By Matt Layton


Bockman
It is no secret that life is hard. We are born, we grow up, we die; and in-between all of that, we are left to our own devices to sort through the muck and weed out the beauty. For a lot of us, that beauty is found within music. I shutter at the thought of a life that does not include music in some form or another. After all, practically all of my favorite memories are stored with a soundtrack to fit.

What I have always looked for in a band is the ability to cover a lot of ground - to think outside the box and to not fall into line with one specific genre or style. Over the years, I have stumbled upon several bands that posses this quality, but the list remains rather small. I am talking about a sound that you might not be able to swallow the first few times through - the kind that you must acquire like a fine wine. It is these types of bands that have been more and more appealing to me lately, and the frontrunner in this category is, without question, a band out of Columbia, MO, named Bockman.


Canan & Weir by Matt Kanable
Originally named Bockman's Euphio, the band formed in late 1999 as a four-piece led by guitarist/vocalist Sean Canan. "When I moved to Columbia to go to school, I was aching to put a band together" Canan tells us. "Oddly enough, the first person I met was Andrew Weir. After a while, we became desperate for a bass player, and that is when Andrew introduced me to his high school friend, Wil Reeves, who was gigging around town with drummer Matt Schumacher. That was the original line-up until Matt quit in 2001. Then, we recruited drum wiz Danny Carroll and have not looked back ever since. Although at times we have been a five-piece, the current line-up of the four of us fits perfectly." It is interesting to note the normalcy of this comment when describing how the band came together - especially because there is nothing normal about this band and how it came to be. The real story starts with the name Bockman's Euphio and where it came from.

 
The change from 'Bockman's Euphio' to just 'Bockman' came as we were continuing to explore our own familiarity with audible pitch and the effects it had on us as musicians.
-Sean Canan
 

Taken from a short story called "The Euphio Question" by Kurt Vonnegut, the band title came from the abstract plot from Vonnegut's tale. According to the story, there is a mad scientist, Dr. Bockman, who creates a box that can transmit a humming sound from space. The sound, when heard by people on Earth, creates a sense of euphoria within all who hear it. As time goes by, the euphoric feeling begins to turn into chaos, and Dr. Bockman finds himself in a tricky position: eliminate the invention that had encompassed his life's work or be responsible for the demise of society. In the end, Dr. Bockman does in fact destroy the box, and the euphoric state ceases to be. This is where the band's story really starts to get interesting. Guitarist Sean Canan explains, "The change from 'Bockman's Euphio' to just 'Bockman' came as we were continuing to explore our own familiarity with audible pitch and the effects it had on us as musicians. There is a struggle that exists in the 'Euphio Question' between one side that wants to mass produce this 'euphio machine,' and the other that wants it to be silenced, as it poses a threat to the open mind of the human species. As a band, we have been through a similar struggle in trying to justify the feeling evoked from our sound in particular. We began to embrace the things that some would try to hide: fear, anger, love, and of course, uncertainty. In essence, over time we have emerged victorious over Bockman's Euphio and become the 'man behind the curtain' - Dr. Bockman."


Bockman at High Sierra Music Festival
What stands out most is the simple fact that the band never set out to make their sound fall in line with the plot of the story. In the early years, the sound consisted of heavy jams and sets of music that included as many covers as it did originals, if not more. It has since evolved into a complex sound that rustles together fine-tuned music that not only tells a story, it has a heart beat. Furthermore, it's fascinating to peel back the layers of a band that became so enamored with a story that they inadvertently become a version of it. Canan expands on that point, "The evolution of the band, and our sound in particular, happened naturally. We became much more aware of the substance we wanted to include in our music. It was seriously propelled in 2003 when we stripped down to the current four-piece and Wil and I started to write songs that had more personal meaning to them. It is actually very strange and completely unintentional that we have followed them from Vonnegut's story."

Stranger still is the album that the band released during this transition, Gorjus: Fighting Bockman's Euphio. This album contains so many layers and hidden themes that it is just impossible to reach a verdict during the first listen. "Focus has been just a little bit obscured" - this is the first line of the album that, upon digestion proves to be an epic journey from start to finish. From beauty to irony, the album is a sweeping ride that settles into electronica and progressive rock with elements of pop. All this and the boys still managed to sprinkle in some jams that groove along in the cracks of the meat. Sharing songwriting duties, Sean and Wil trade off on lead vocals, and it is not difficult to decipher between the two. Sharing an affinity for painting the lyrical picture in candid ways, the finished product is an array of sounds that rest loosely between the likes of Ben Folds, STS9, Brothers Past, and even elements of Soul Coughing. If that list alone doesn't spin your head, I am not so sure you are ready for this band.

 
The evolution of the band, and our sound in particular, happened naturally. We became much more aware of the substance we wanted to include in our music. It was seriously propelled in 2003 when we stripped down to the current four-piece and Wil and I started to write songs that had more personal meaning to them. It is actually very strange and completely unintentional that we have followed them from Vonnegut's story.

-Sean Canan

 
Photo of Kurt Vonnegut by Jack Mitchell

Thick melodies, spectacular rhythm, and brilliantly crafted lyrics consume the album as it battles itself through darkness and evokes a sense of calmness and clarity. The stand-out track of the album, "Reverie," embodies the journey that we embrace as people. It scuttles along in a playful manner with pop-induced lyrics that are as thoughtful as they are insightful, balancing back and forth from a darker heavier interlude that ultimately brings you back full-circle to the start of the ride. It is the kind of song that you put on repeat, and it never really gets old. You just approvingly nod along in agreement, muttering the last line, "Can I ask you what you mean by real?" Perhaps the most appealing attribute is the complexity of the material. The words themselves tell a story that seems to roll across without a deeper dimension or hidden meaning, but it is when you truly look at the history of the band and hold it up to the light that you see this ongoing theme that is as simple and as complicated as life itself. The great thing about "jam" music is that it is usually crafted by incredibly smart individuals for other smart individuals who need more from their music. Bockman takes the cake in this case. Not only do they cover the very wide spectrum with their sound, but they induce deeper thought in those who listen to their music. One can be certain that with Bockman, there is much more then meets the eye.


Bockman by Matt Kanable
Perhaps the biggest challenge still lies ahead for a band whose complexity makes it that much more difficult to categorize. They have two albums under their belt that sound nothing like each other and a current sound that evolves directly in front of its audience - a respectful and unique technique that makes it hard to place the band in a specific "scene." Regardless of mass radio appeal, Bockman has still carved out quite the contingent by hosting a yearly festival called The Campout. Growing in size every year, Bockman reaches out to its closest fans and friends by organizing and producing the event itself, which eliminates restrictive barriers on the sound and the community. As each year grows in size and with everything overseen and run from within the organization, it is quickly becoming one of Missouri's most anticipated yearly events, both for fans as well as for local bands that have a knack for creating a sound that is "outside of the box."


Bockman
The next few months will find Bockman back in the studio working on a new album and furthering the evolution of their sound. With this album being produced from by Wil Reeves, Bockman fans will undoubtedly get a heavy dose of hauntingly beautiful lyrics that address the trials that all of us go through on a daily basis. Sometimes dark, oftentimes danceable, and always crafted to perfection, Bockman is just getting into their comfort zone. As we as a people evolve over time and things become a bit more complicated, I believe lines will fuse together: racially, politically, and ultimately, musically. Bockman is one of very few bands that realize this, and the fact that they refuse to march to the common beat makes everything just a bit more tolerable. One might even go so far as to say "Everything the band stands for is Gorjus."

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Comments

shainhouse starstarstarstarstar Thu 10/20/2005 09:33PM
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Great story. It has convinced me this band is worth checking out. thanks!

joyjacobs starstarstarstar Sat 10/22/2005 01:39PM
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Nice article...I have been a suppoter of Bockman's for four years now. The Euphio Campout is such a blast and they really unite with their fans there as well as the other bands. Glad to see them get some good press.

Thanks,

Joy Jacobs
Kansas City

ivanho starstar Sun 10/23/2005 10:33AM
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I have seeen bockman's a couple of times over the last year,
and they are not that good. I dont know whay they get so much hype on jambase. There is an article every other month. Are they paying for this?

Drum whiz? Hardly. I met him at a show. He's got an ego the size of Texas and the talent the size of Rhode Island.

bernadette starstarstarstar Sun 10/23/2005 12:12PM
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bernadette

I met these guys up at High Sierra... talk about a hard working band! There set was awesome... I see big things for these guys!

llamar Sun 10/23/2005 05:07PM
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llamar

I've seen these guys twice and plan to again. They also host concerts under the stars in Kirkwood Ampitheatre. As far as the band members go I talked with Sean the guitarist for 15 or 20 minutes after a free show with them opening for Benevento/Russo Duo (insane show), and then he gave me flyers for their Euphio Campout to ahnd out to all my friends. Great band. Great guys.

Driver starstarstarstar Mon 10/24/2005 09:11AM
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I dig Bockmans, I have had the opportunity to see them a TON live and the Gojus: Fighting Bockmans Euphio album is very very good. Good to see them getting such nice exposure! The midwest does not get enough coverage of the great bands that Bockman has at their campout!

CoMOKB starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/24/2005 01:08PM
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Ivanho has no idea what he is talking about. Every member of that band has tons of talent, which they use in individual and fantastic ways. Danny the drummer is no different. Not only is he a GREAT drummer, who is pursued by other bands in and out of 'the genre', but his permagrin while on stage makes it look like he's enjoying the hell out of every show. Sounds like Ivanho is jealous....

Pay Jambase for publicity? Don't be silly. They don't pay Jambase....Jambase just knows a good thing when they see it, and they want to get the story before Bockman goes big. And they will.

They're bad, they're nationwide. Go see 'em. Their Euphio Campout is an event I won't soon forget....

KB

L2418d starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/24/2005 07:37PM
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YEAH! I love Bockman! Not only are they great musicians, but they are super cool guys and deserve only the best. Rock on!

tirefiretim starstarstarstar Mon 10/24/2005 07:40PM
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tirefiretim

I can't wait for the new album.

tori2112 starstarstarstarstar Tue 10/25/2005 12:08AM
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Hey Ivanho!
I have also seen Bockman a few times myself. They are extremely talented. A well-deserved success for a group of guys who work and play their hearts out every night. If you are a musician, maybe you should try it sometime.....
Danny is an amazing drummer with a heart the size of Texas. I would know.

Stingray2112 starstarstarstarstar Tue 10/25/2005 11:22AM
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Bockman's is one of my favotite bands ever! They've been kicking ass cosistantly for years. Gorjus was a complete success musicly and a mature step for any band. Finally, Danny Carroll is an amazing drummer and a big inspiration to me and many of my peers. I would love to hear ivanho play the beat from the title track "Gorjus",I don't think so. Peace

RaineeK starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/28/2005 06:18PM
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I think this is a great article about Bockman. I have been a fan for many years, since the early days. I've had the pleasure of watching Bockman's Euphio evolve into Bockman over the years and have enjoyed every step of the way. I love watching these guys play and am eager to hear what they've put together in the studio lately. All of them are super cool if you have a chance to get to know them. Danny is one of the best drummers I know and certainly the most fun to watch. He always looks so happy to be there doing his thing. All of these guys are great musicians and they just keep getting better. Check them out for yourself!