The Salt Lake takeover

By By Trevor Hale

By Trevor Hale

In downtown Salt Lake City, the chances are pretty high that you could throw a rock out of a moving car and hit someone in a band. More than that, the chances of you hitting someone in a good band are almost just as high.

Salt Lake City has always had a reputation for producing good, often great, bands, and most of the time they’re playing for the love of music and not to snag the cover of Rolling Stone.

“Utah has one of the greatest underground scenes in the country, and we feel privileged to be a part of it,” says Form of Rocket guitarist Peter Makowski. “So many great bands, and — whether it’s all-ages or a bar — the crowds are always fun and supportive. It’s a huge reason we’ve lasted this long.”

Form of Rocket has been a cornerstone of Salt Lake City’s underground music scene for the better part of a decade. Since forming in early 2000, the band has released three albums and toured more than most small-time bands would ever dare attempt. Its approach to song writing and music in general was creative enough to spawn an entire sub-scene of bands that wanted to practice what Form of Rocket was teaching. Its spastic, low-end fueled math rock carried over into some of the most intense live shows Salt Lake City indie rock headquarters Kilby Court has ever seen.

Loom is one band that took obvious influence from Form of Rocket but did it with enough creativity that, while it might elicit comparisons, the band is far from a copycat. With jazz-influenced rhythms and tight, catchy songs, the band stands out in the crowded Salt Lake City scene. Loom has been hard at work promoting its recently released EP Angler by doing what any band with aspirations of avoiding day jobs should — going on tour.

“We went out on tour four times last year, hitting up the West Coast twice, the Midwest three times and the East Coast once,” says drummer Jarom Bischoff. “It was difficult monetarily but about the most satisfying thing we could have done.”

Touring is a big part of life when the band isn’t that well-known, as is the case a lot of times in Utah. Most bands realize this and work hard to keep proving themselves and winning new fans on the road. That’s the attitude that has kept fellow locals Gaza on the road for most of 2007, playing more than 100 shows in support of its first major label release I Don’t Care Where I Go When I Die.

The record has been getting great reviews and selling well across the country, which is a sign of relief for the guys after putting in such hard work to support it.

“To some industry people, selling a couple thousand records might not seem like a big deal, but to us, it’s pretty astonishing,” said drummer Casey Hansen. “Maybe it’s just me and I’m thinking ‘small time,’ but I don’t personally know a couple thousand people, and there are that many that like us enough to pitch 10 to 15 bucks for something we recorded. That’s nuts to me.”

While Gaza’s fall tour was plagued by problems that forced a cancellation — one that the band promises will be made up — Hansen said he understands that self-promotion is the key to longevity in the business.

“At the level we’re pushed by our label, or lack thereof,” Hansen sarcastically adds, “touring is generally the only way to get our name out.”

It seems to be paying off for Gaza.

“A lot of times we show up to a place we’ve never been, and there’s a sizeable amount of people that are not only there to see us, but know the music and are really excited to get into it,” Hansen said.

Touring is a new but not foreign concept to one of the most promising new bands in Salt Lake City, Reflect. With all five members clocking in at barely 20 years old, the up-and-comers shed light on an exciting future for the Salt Lake City hardcore scene.

“I love everything about this scene,” singer Mike Turley said. “It has some of the most diverse and passionate bands in music today.”

Having just returned from its first out-of-state show, Reflect proved to be a definite highlight at the two-day Coming of Age Fest held in California last weekend.

“It had to be one of the best shows we’ve ever played,” Turley said. “It was a really good experience for all of us and such an amazing feeling playing somewhere we’ve never been. People were singing along and just getting really into it. I want to be able to have that opportunity again.”

Regardless of youth, Reflect knows its roots, drawing influence from hardcore legends such as long-gone Unbroken, Mean Season and Prayer for Cleansing.

“We base our lives so much on friendship and love, hope and defeat, loss and heartache, dedication and discipline,” Turley said of what inspires the band. “It’s what drives the emotion behind the band, and we try to show that as much as we can.”

It’s very humbling to see such down-to-earth appreciation in Salt Lake City’s new breed. In a world where ego too often takes center stage, it’s nice to hear sentiments like Hansen’s discussing how Gaza likes to involve the entire band in interviews and Turley’s expressing the unity of Reflect. None of these bands are in it for the glory or the girls — or in Loom violinist Kim Pack’s case, the dudes — they simply want to create genuine music and spread it as far as possible.

All four of these bands have big plans for 2008, but most of the winter is going to be spent avoiding the icy highways, working on new material and playing local shows, so be sure to keep an eye out.

Gaza has already begun the process of creating its new album and planning a way to make up the just-cancelled tour dates, but its biggest goal of 2008?

“Be home when the Jazz beat the Celtics for the Championship. Hopefully, Carlos Boozer doesn’t get kidnapped by Dan Aykroyd and Daniel Stern.”

Reflect and Loom are both hard at work crafting new material for their debut full-lengths and preparing for future tours.

“We plan to tour for at least five months next year and release a split with label-mates Prize Country in January,” Bischoff said of Loom’s resolution for the New Year.

“I just hope this band doesn’t fall apart,” Turley said of the impending down time.

“I’m sure a new record will be in the works after our long needed vacation,” Makowski said of Form of Rocket’s winter plans. “We may be down, but we’re not out.”

“I just hope everyone involved in local music here continues to push the envelope and keeps striving to be creative,” he continued. “So many things about Salt Lake City make it special: its geography, politics and religious tension make for a unique and colorful underground. I think when bands and artists allow themselves to be influenced by all this, it creates something interesting and original.”

“I wouldn’t pick any other place to keep or start a band,” Turley said.

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