South Carlen EP release with special guest Strange Her
Saturday, Dec. 9, 9 p.m.
Alchemy Tavern, 7 S. Joachim St., 251-441-4471
Tickets: Call for info.
The growing number of local bands and continual visits by nationally touring acts are proof Mobile’s music scene is maintaining a positive momentum. During the past year alone, Mobile has experienced an increase in the number of local groups ready to take their homegrown music beyond the city limits.
Mobile indie rock outfit South Carlen is joining the list of up-and-coming bands from the Azalea City. With only a few live shows on its résumé so far, South Carlen is set to release its first studio effort, “Playing the Ghost,” with a release party at Alchemy Tavern. Fairhope’s Strange Her will provide support.
While South Carlen may seem new to many, its members have been playing together more than two years. The band’s origin can be traced to a house on the midtown street from which the band took its name.
Even though they were already friends, the concept of South Carlen took shape when Ty Shaw (lead guitar/vocals), Dave Cole (bass) and Matthew Hendrich (drums) all lived under the same roof. With their respective musical backgrounds, informal jam sessions occurred naturally, later evolving into the desire to solidify a musical project. Shaw says the addition of guitarist Kevin McKeown was a “push” to take the project into more serious realms beyond casual jams.
“We realized that we had something,” Shaw explained. “While we were jamming around, we played around with writing original songs. We wrote four or five songs initially. Then we decided, ‘Hey, this isn’t the kind of music that we want to be writing.’ That was also a turning point as far as taking it seriously. We were already jamming pretty well and could write songs together. So, we decided to write songs that we really liked as band.”
Once South Carlen was established, the four members began to create a common sound, which was a challenge itself. Cole’s background was in ska. McKeown’s past leaned more toward the underground. While he had been in bands in the past, Shaw’s musical endeavors were solo.
Shaw says the band’s sound was established over many songwriting sessions filled with experimentation. Hendrich says the group actually scrapped several original songs on the way to achieving their goals. South Carlen eventually composed two songs that laid the foundation for the band’s future pieces.
“‘Easy to Forget’ and ‘Like a Bullet’ were the two main ones that defined our sound,” Hendrich said. “Once we had those, we were like, ‘This is what we like. This is what sounds good and has potential.’”
“Those songs gave us a vein to keep mining,” Shaw adds. “That’s what we’ve followed since then. Getting there was a graveyard of four or five other songs.”
After establishing a “unified” sound, South Carlen began to add music to its original repertoire. The band’s next goal was to collect enough songs to fill a setlist.
After completing seven originals, South Carlen began performing for audiences. Live shows not only helped the band establish a local following, they also helped the group network with bands from other cities, developing connections that could help with finding gigs beyond the Azalea City.
While building its reputation as a live band, South Carlen’s next goal became releasing a collection of original songs. As with many up-and-coming indie rock bands, the group decided to use DIY methods for recording a four-song EP. Naturally, the members chose a back room in its South Carlen house with “a bunch of blankets” as the studio, with Dave Cole mixing, mastering and producing.
Shaw says the experience can best be described as “building from the ground up how to record music.” He says the band taught themselves many studio techniques such as microphone positioning.
“The biggest challenge was positioning everything to make sure that we have the right sound,” Shaw said. “If I was singing, then I had to make sure that I wasn’t moving my head away from the mic, and repositioning mics to make sure that you had the right amount of acoustics in the room.”
“We were also battling a timeline between conflicting schedules of people who work full-time jobs,” Hendrich said. “This was also Dave’s first time producing an album. There was a whole mixing and mastering hurdle for him to learn as well.”
With a title taken from a billiard’s term meaning to play against oneself, “Playing the Ghost” begins with the powerful indie rock anthem “90’s Song.” With its versatile rhythm and smooth vocals, the album’s opener lives up to its name.
“Easy to Forget” provides blast after blast of intricate indie rock syncopation matched with an impressive lyrical meter. “Like a Bullet” is filled with a swagger that is a nod to classic alt. rock sounds. South Carlen provides an energetic conclusion to “Playing the Ghost” with the driving rock beat of “Skyline Singer.”
This debut effort provides an excellent introduction to the band’s sound, and Hendrich could not agree more.
“We have a finished product that we’re incredibly proud of,” he said. “It was all organically grown and created by us. Now it’s this neat and tidy product that I couldn’t be more proud of.”
After the release of “Playing the Ghost,” South Carlen will take yet another natural step for a band at their level: taking their music into new cities. Shaw says the band’s concept of “the scene” stretches beyond Mobile into the rest of the Southeast. With this in mind, South Carlen hopes to visit cities such as New Orleans and Nashville in the near future.
In the meantime, Shaw says South Carlen will continue to cultivate its sound for future releases. However, he says the band will take its time with the next effort.
“This EP came together kind of quickly,” Shaw said. “So, it will be nice to have time to figure out where we’re going to go in the future.”
(Photo | Provided) With their beginnings jamming in a house in midtown Mobile, South Carlen
recently recorded songs for their debut EP “Playing the Ghost.”