Music in Review

Sins in Stereo * Born on a Bonfire

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 775   By: Robert 'Bo' White

29th August, 2013     0

There never seems to be a set patterned response to new bands breaking into the scene. The fans are fickle and unforgiving. Today's trendsetters become yesterday's news - once cool, now passé, lost in the shuffle of downloads and shrinking dollars. In a scene where no band ascends to the top of the pyramid, pickings are slim and the money is a joke; yet there is so much notable talent in mid-Michigan that no one is ready to throw-in the towel.
 
As aging rockers turn to country and cover bands, there are just as many small faces to take up mantel and fill-in the creative gap. There is a sizeable soundboard from which to experiment. Bands like Exit 675, The Jack Diamonds Band, Ten Hands Tall, Whistlin' Whisky, Big Brother Smokes,  and our heroes Sins in Stereo are ready willing and able to revitalize our ailing arts and music scene.
 
Greg Shaw, an innovative journalist (BOMP Magazine) and record producer (the Flamin' Groovies) told me in a 2002 phone interview that rock & roll music is no longer the premier music form and that hip hop, rap and pop had ascended to the top of the pyramid. Yet he cautioned that rock, blues and jazz would continue to flourish in small pockets across the globe. The spectacular proof is in the grooves of the many great bands that dare to bare their soul to yet another sigh of media-fed ennui. I say take it to 'em with both barrels blastin' - rock on brothers and sisters. Dare to listen to Sins in Stereo, fight the power!
 
JD Dominowski, singer, guitarist, songwriter and the voice of Sins in Stereo provided some deep background. Additional members include Ben Nolan, lead guitar, sax & vocals; Tim Stroh, bass; and Cory Sheppard, drums.
 
“Ben, Cory and myself were in a local cover band from about 2009-11 but we eventually lost interest,” he explains.  “I had some songs or parts of songs lying around thinking I might someday make an album of original music. The courage to do it came one night with a good buzz going around a bonfire (hence the EPs title) and from that point on I knew I wanted to do something with it.  In April 2012 we got together for a jam session and worked on a few of the songs that I had written.  We met a few times after that and decided to become an original band, not knowing at all what we were getting ourselves into.” 
 
“We kicked around all kinds of names for the band and nothing really stuck or appealed to us until our drummer Cory suggested Sins In Stereo. We all looked at each other and knew in a matter of seconds that was the right moniker for us.  I absolutely loved it.  Something about the name reminded me of Elvis Presley shaking his hips and the sinister cool early rock and roll seemed to bring.”   
 
“My vision as a new-to-the-game songwriter with zero experience doing this was very basic:  Take everything I love about classic rock, 90's rock and classic country, put it in our own blender and stir accordingly. So far it's worked.  I concentrate hard on what I love about Tom Petty, Pearl Jam, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, and Johnny Cash, and what I can do to take some of their mojo, deliver it to the rest of the band and let them massage it into musical existence.”  
 
“I met Andy Reed at a show at White's earlier that year and remembered thinking how cool it was he does his own thing and plays with the Verve Pipe. I only talked with Andy briefly and learned that he had his own studio.  So when the 3 of us decided to hit the studio in September of 2012 to cut our first official track, working with Andy was a no-brainer.  After all he'd recorded some of my favorite local bands such as The Banana Convention, Brody and the Busch Rd Trio, The Distorted Waltz etc…and this music was important to us, we wanted to work with the best around.
 
The review follows...
 
Get Gone * The opener begins with a mid-tempo acoustic pattern that feels warm and inviting though the lyrics are all about anger and betrayal. After a few bars Nolan follows up with full-bodied electric warrior thrash that smells like teen spirit. Cobain would be proud. JD Dominowski's incisive baritone is filled with power on the chorus yet is melodic and nuanced during the verses, the quiet/loud pattern works well. A searing organ patch gives it an extra punch.
 
Helen * This little biopic creates a dark landscape of internal carnage, a tortured soul who becomes an acid casualty. Nolan's contemplative noodling on acoustic nudges forward for several bars before the rhythm section kicks it up a notch with help from Andy Reed's screaming organ swirl and an emotive yet restrained vocal. Dominowski  is a flat out great singer without the tendency to overdo it like Chad Kroeger or Eddie Vedder. A neat call and response segment that works well and makes a point about the horror of addiction supplements the chorus. Nolan's guitar is the perfect voice for this song.
 
Whisky Drought  This is a song about a broken relationship, the deafening thump of a broken heart and when the problem (whisky) becomes the solution. It opens up with Nolan pickin' out a quiet pattern on the acoustic that segues to an electric explosion of grunge guitar, quiet & loud/darkness and light. It's like the Foo Fighters channeling Cobain. Dominowski's emotional reading seals the comparison and gives the song its emotional valence. It's a powerful motif that tells about a peering into the abyss. The fire of addiction is out of hand. He becomes the abyss.
 
Porcelain * This is a song written and sung by Ben Nolan. Structurally, Nolan shifts things around and opens the song with a chorus., a flourish of accapella singing and some slap back echo seems hopeful, she's a little country; a little rock & roll.  But Nolan's minor chord guitar patterns along with Reed's soulful lapsteel splashes hints at another interpretation. The chorus contains some great two-part Springsteen/Big Man harmonies. The Semper Fie lyric hints at an indelible memory of forced values and invalidation. The cauldron of moonshine and blow becomes a fatal recipe.
 
Goodbye Kiss * This is an up-tempo cowboy tune with a neat walking bassline and an insistent patch of twangy guitar trills that fill up the musical spaces like a Spector-ish wall of sound. Nolan's e-string mutations move along with the beat. Dominowski's vocal delivery is pure country and Nolan's bass string pickin' is full bodied. The music is colored in sepia tones and evokes images of Bonnie & Clyde the way Warren Beatty played it. He's sittin' on the front porch with Bonnie, a jug of whisky, some barbecue and a few outlaw friends - the cops are looking through the crosshairs ready to pull the trigger. This is the perfect vehicle to end the disc.

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