Music scenes often play like soap operas, ripe with murky affairs and switched partners. Even Kent can't escape the comparison. The college town quartet Channel formed in 1996 as the result of various band mergings and breakups.
The entanglement began when drummer Tim Perzhan was left without either of the two bands he had been in. Once a member of P.V.R. Streetgang with guitarist Matt Cassidy, Perzhan had also been playing in Summer with Kramies Windt.
After the two bands cut their losses, Windt began fronting Channel with Cassidy and Perzhan, and the new project hastily took on bassist Darren Thompson when Channel found itself a last-minute addition to a Grog Shop bill.
"Bands around here are really incestuous," Cassidy admits. "Everyone in Kent's like in three bands each, and everyone changes partners once a year. So everybody [in Channel] knew who everyone was and had probably jammed with everyone else.
"The thing actually started as a recording project," he elaborates. "We just started recording these songs in this church in Hudson; then out of the ten songs we recorded, we used, like, one of them on the CD."
That debut CD is Shooting Gallery, a full-sounding psychedelic take on modern rock, which encapsulates the last two years for Channel and the members' love of arena rockers like Pink Floyd. "Pink Floyd is probably the first band that I was a serious nerd for," Cassidy admits. "Everyone in [Channel] pretty much likes Pink Floyd. I just realized the other day how much 'Masseuse' starts off like Dark Side of the Moon--the chord progression is similar. But it's just an appreciation of that kind of music, like really big sounding, but then kind of a more modernized sound."
"Masseuse," the melancholic track which opens the 35-minute album, is not only a good example of the band's influences, but also shows that the group can be quite light-hearted at times. The song's title is an effort to nip in the bud any talk that the band's members are--as Cassidy puts it--"wussies." Though the original title was to be "The Masseuse Always Rings Twice," the simpler version stuck.
The title Shooting Gallery is another joke. "We're not fucking shooting dope or anything, you know?" Cassidy reveals. "That's the thing with a lot of the stuff that sounds really serious: It just came from a bunch of in-jokes. I mean, 'Channel' implies all this stuff about channeling spirits, but it was just based on the fact that Kramies can't read so good."
The vocalist apparently mispronounced the name of the famous perfume, Chanel. "Naming a band is like the biggest pain in the ass, and there was one day where we all agreed on Channel, and at that point it was too good to pass up."
One thing they are serious about, however, is their future as a group. "We'd like to get to the point where it at least pays for itself," Cassidy explains. "I don't have any real illusions about making it my full-time job or anything. It's a pretty flooded market right now--there's probably more people in bands than go to see bands. I think everyone's realistic about it, just because there are so many bands and everyone's trying for the same thing."
Still, in a time when garage-punk has all but taken over area bars, Channel appears to be heading for the same goal via a different route. "There are more bands doing psychedelic stuff like this," Cassidy reckons. "It's not just us--for Cleveland, anyway. It's kind of in resurgence. But people seem to be paying attention. We're getting to the point where they actually know some of the song titles and ask if we're going to play that. Whether they like it or not, they pay attention."
And from a personal standpoint, Cassidy finds himself--at last--a fan of his own group, leaving him with little desire to fool around with other bands. "It's probably the first thing I've done where I feel like it's listenable and I still appreciate it, and most other people would listen to it, too. It's different from P.V.R. Streetgang, where the band itself were probably the only people that got the joke. We'd get like ten people in a club, and everyone would leave after two songs. I really thought that was going to be a monster of a band--we wore like crazy costumes and all that--but we were really sloppy."
Not so any more. In a decided stylistic change for Cassidy, Channel wants to create aural landscapes--orchestrated epics that average six minutes in length. "We go for a big, grandiose thing. It's kind of morose or laid-back psychedelic music. Maybe the first fifteen songs we did were all psychedelic, tripped-out, echoey, and everything. It's pretty dynamic--a big, mass-guitar sound. I guess we just took our time with it and didn't have any hesitations about doing too many guitar overdubs. But that's kind of the thing we wanted to go for: thick and layered."
Channel plans to return to the studio in January to begin working on a follow-up to Shooting Gallery. Some tunes may be a tad more upbeat, though the band intends to take its time again. "We've got a lot of material to record," Cassidy says, "but we're in no hurry. We'll just keep going with this--maybe start playing out of town, or get the CD distributed, if we could. Or if we get signed to a label and they take care of it, that would be good, too."
Channel CD Release Party. Friday, December 4, Grog Shop, 1765 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights, $5, 216-321-5588.