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MP3 Buttercup - Captains of Industry

A rock band with a sound that is somewhere between the Kinks at their most depressed and Neil Young at his most ecstatic.

6 MP3 Songs
ROCK: American Underground, ROCK: Rock & Roll

It was really only a matter of time before Buttercup went nuts.

Of course, lotsa folks figured the San Antonio foursome was kinda already there from the get-go. Certainly frontman/guitarist Erik Sanden was always at least borderline crazy, going back to “Dial-a-Song” days when he wrote and recorded a tune a week just for anyone with enough time on their hands to call a special hotline and hear a song over the telephone. Not to mention the stunt where he committed to playing a single song over and over again for 24 hours, just to see if he could. And the bass player, Odie? Goodness, where does one start? Sweetest dude you’ll ever meet, but not “normal” even by the most liberal definition of the word. As for the two straight guys, drummer Jamie Roadman and lead guitarist Joe Reyes … they’d have to be nuts to hang around with the other two, right?

And let us not forget all those “Grackle Mundys” — Buttercup’s handle for their legendary, no-two-alike, what-will-they-possibly-think-of-next very special … events. Concerts, if you will — though they were more like performance art music socials. They were usually held in some tiny art studio in or around downtown San Antone. Or maybe in somebody’s living room or, every now and then, just to fuck with the status quo, an actual rock club. What happened at Grackle Mundys? We could tell you, but unless you were there, you wouldn’t believe it. Come to think of it, most folks who were there — band members included —didn’t believe it, either.

But they did learn to believe in a band that through years of strange gigs, countless songs, and more than a little practice has grown into a moody, melodic, powerful rock band with a sound that is somewhere between the Kinks at their most depressed and Neil Young at his most ecstatic.

Four loons, five-years worth of “Grackle Mundys,” and, just last year, a damn good sophomore album that they actually saddled with the name, um, Hot Love. So yeah, Buttercup has been on the road to madness for a while now. But as Sanden outlines the band’s schedule for the year ahead, it’s clear they’ve now officially gone certifiable.

With two albums under their belt (the aforementioned giddy Hot Love and the previous year’s moodier Sick Yellow Flower), Buttercup will triple their catalog in 2007 by writing, recording and releasing four CDs (three generous EPs and one full-length) before the end of the year. From scratch. First out of the gate is the freewheelin’ rock ’n’ roll EP Captains of Industry — its very title a cheeky nod to the band’s lunatic ambition. Hot on its heels will be the largely acoustic Living Again (July), followed by August’s Camp Zama, an “experimental” live album which may or may not be recorded somewhere in West Texas, far from the band’s San Antonio/Austin comfort zone. The as-yet-untitled full-length, schedule for October … well, there’s no telling what shape and sound that one will take. The band’s kinda making this all up as they go. Truth be told, the whole campaign was pretty much decided on a whim with a quarter of 2007 already in the rear-view mirror.

It’s an ambitious little to-do list, to say the least — and a cynic (realist?) would surely point out that they’ll never pull it off. But there were doubters at quite a few of those Grackle Mundy fetes, too: lured to the shows by friends or curiosity over what all the buzz was about, but ready to call “bullshit” the moment the band broke out the ukuleles, asked the crowd to watch the show on monitors at the bottom of oil drums or led the whole audience outside for a musical parade through a dicey part of town. By evening’s end, though, cynicism was invariably dropped in favor of the warm, fuzzy embrace of the “Buttercult.” Buttercup fans learn fast that this is a band that thrives on the unexpected and taking risks. And they’ve watched this band grow into one of the best, most solid rock bands around.

“We needed to move the goalposts a bit,” says Sanden of the Buttercup’s four-records-in-a-year gameplan, noting that Buttercup’s previous one-album-a-year schedule felt like a snail’s pace to the band. “I think doing this was my idea at first, but nobody in the band needed any convincing. They were all like, ‘Let’s do it! Why not?’”

Ah yes, the Buttercup battle cry: “Why not,” every bit as much as their songwriting and musical chops, is what makes this band tick. It’s what made Sanden, Odie and Roadman — three-quarters of San Antonio’s late, great Evergeen — decide to regroup after a year or two apart and pick up nowhere near where they left off: With the slacker, goof-off rhythm guitarist (Sanden) recast as a take-charge visionary and dynamic frontman, and the whole Stones swagger traded for an unabashedly more fey and whimsical but ultimately more daring and mercurial Kinks fetish. “Why not” is also the mindset that made Reyes, formerly half of the acclaimed Alamo City flamenco duo Lara & Reyes and a Grammy-winning producer (for Freddy Fender, R.I.P.), decide to throw caution to the wind and expand his musical horizons with a group of guys long on originality but initially short on prospects. A few years and countless laughs and musical dares later, “why not” remains Buttercup’s answer to pretty any challenge they set their minds to.

It’s also the key to the characteristic insouciance that pervades their approach to songwriting, performance and, most recently, recording. The Captains of Industry EP marks Buttercup’s first attempt at producing themselves, with every note cooked up in Sanden’s freshly installed home studio. Reyes’ Grammy-certified production mettle notwithstanding, Sanden admits to finding the DIY method daunting — but ultimately exhilarating. After recording half a dozen tracks that went into the “delete pile,” the band had a bit of an epiphany while recording “Sun in the Sky,” a 7-minute epic reminiscent of the Pixies and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd that Sanden describes as “scream therapy on a boat.”

The epiphany came when they captured Reyes beating up Sanden’s bathroom — slamming the toilet seat cover and spilling all his hair care products into the bathtub. “To my ears, this was freedom,” enthuses Sanden. “This was a realization that we could do anything we wanted to, and that there were no rules that we had to obey.”

Nuts? Yeah. But like everything else Buttercup has ever done — or even attempted — it’s all in the name of fun. In the name Art, too, of course, but first and foremost, fun. And should they fail … well, it still promises to be an epic ride.

“If we should falter in our quest,” says Sanden (invoking one of his musical heroes, Jad Fair) “we solemnly promise to wear our clothes inside out for a one year period. On this you have our word!”

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