Rocktoberfest, featuring Static Cycle, Stadium, AK Free Fuel, Fighting Silence and George and Sam, will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School. Doors open at 6 p.m., and a 21-and-over party will follow at Hooligan’s in Soldotna. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door, available at Hooligan’s and at groovetickets.com.
By Jenny Neyman
Don’t let the name fool you, there’s nothing static about Static Cycle these days.
The Alaska-grown rock band continues to explore its career nationwide, in part due to more and more fans hooking into their compelling songwriting and insistent sound, and in part due to the band’s hard work making sure their established base as well as new fans keep having something fresh to listen to.
These days, the band is in a cycle of performing, writing, recording, releasing albums, branching into different sounds and venturing down new paths in life. So, anything but static.
The band recently wrapped up national tours with Drowning Pool and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and was back in Alaska last week for a two-and-a-half-week run of performances in the state, including a show Saturday in Kenai and one last Saturday at the Alibi in Homer.
“Today, this is the first time we’ve all been in the same room at the same time in probably about a month,” said Jared Navarre on Thursday, lead singer and songwriter for the group, who spent some of his childhood years in Kenai. “It’s been a crazy 2011 for us.”
Personally and professionally. The band’s drummer, Dennis Smith, just welcomed his second baby girl into the world, and bass player Johnny Nabors recently got married, after getting engaged onstage during a show. That’s all on top of and in between the band’s continuing success since forming in 2007 as a collaboration between Navarre and lead guitarist Josh Witham, with Smith signing on soon after and the addition of Nabors and Danny Resnick, on keyboard, following.
After planting a flag in the indie rock scene with their 2008 album “When We Meet Again,” the band didn’t want to keep fans waiting for more. They parceled out their second collection into a seven-song release called “Part 1: Hydrate” in October 2010, and followed it with another five-song “Part 2” just this month. In the immediacy of today’s music world — with downloads, web streaming and all the other on-demand interfaces technology allows, bands can’t take their sweet time producing and releasing new music, Navarre said.
“We want to give our listeners as much music as often as possible. I think the model of one record every two years is dead. I know for me as a music lover, I’m too impatient to wait two years for new music from the bands I love,” he said.
So the band is constantly writing and popping in and out of the studio recording, in and out of the studio, in addition to satiating audiences’ demand for live performances. Static Cycle’s next release is currently being fine-tuned and should be ready early next year.
Navarre said the new material represents a departure from the band’s earlier work.
“We were going for more of an organic, American rock-and-roll sound, that’s a little bit of a different departure for us than the previous two records,” he said. “It’s more about the song and the emotion of the music. It’s good, clean, in-your-face rock and roll. We love it. I think this is our best record yet.”
Static Cycle kicked open the doors of the Alaska rock scene with driving riffs and an amped-up sound embellished with the wizardry of electronica. This go-around they’re downshifting from their more synthesized approach to let the bones of the music and songwriting rev to the forefront.
“Traditionally, we write from a hundred different angles. Some songs will come from a live rock setting, some will start from a beat, some from a track, some lyrical. Four songs on our new record all started from acoustic guitar and vocals, so we focused more on the songs themselves,” Navarre said. “We wanted it to sound organic, and a little bit live almost. There’s nothing on it that’s synthesized, which is a stark contrast for us from our earlier stuff, which was very electronic and synthesized and had a lot of tracks behind it.”
These four tracks were produced with Ken Coomer, the original drummer from Wilco. How that collaboration came about was organic in itself. Navarre and Ken Coomer were writing together in Nashville and started working on Navarre’s new track, “I’ll Be Back.”
“We weren’t planning on recording there or working with him as a producer. But he heard this track on the record, and said, ‘I would love to record that.’ We got in a room just to see if we jelled creatively. He understood the music and my vision and really complemented what I was trying to do, and it was a great fit. Sometimes flying around the country meeting with producers you get too involved in the process itself. We were almost like kids jamming in a room — it was all about the music. And we got the best songs we’ve had in our career to date.”
Just as life is progressing for the band, so, too, is songwriting inspiration. “I’ll Be Back,” for instance, was sparked by a weighty moment for the band as it was poised to head off on a national tour, which forced the musicians to leave behind family, friends, relationships and an almost-finished doctorate degree for the tour manager, in order to take their next career step.
“The weight of all that — everybody was following a dream and passion for what we wanted to do and this music and the power we think it has. That’s where this song came out of,” Navarre said. “I think that’s where some of the best songs come from as a writer, where there’s nothing else but pure emotion. You just write. You ignore the format and ignore the commercialism of it. I had no idea what that song was or whether people would love it. I was writing from deep within. Not coincidentally, the song really resonates with people.”
In reinventing their sound, bands run the risk of alienating fans who are hooked on what’s come before. But Navarre said that hasn’t been a problem with Static Cycle’s following. Fans have welcomed anything the band has put out, he said.
“We have the greatest fans in the world. We continue to evolve our sound and they continue to love and support our changes,” Navarre said. “I think people are missing that human element of music, and that over-synthesized and over-composed electronic music can seem pretty stale.”
Static Cycle plans to perform “I’ll Be Back” and another new song from its forthcoming release at the show in Kenai. Navarre said it’s good to get a chance to play in familiar territory.
“Coming back to Kenai, it’s just great. It’s so nice to have some familiarity. So many people are family and are like family to us. All of Alaska feels like home,” Navarre said.
The Kenai performance is an all-ages show, put on by Hooligan’s. Bar manager Molly Poland said this is the first time she’s done an all-ages event like this, but that Static Cycle and the band’s local fan base has simply outgrown the bar setting.
“So many people have asked for this so I figured I’d better go ahead and do it,” Poland said. “The last two times we had Static Cycle at Hooligans the tickets sold out a week in advance, so I decided to take it to the (Kenai Central High School) auditorium this time. And it’s all ages, just because I have kids that absolutely love their music, and their friends love their music, so I started putting feelers out there and discovered they have a huge high school, junior high and even elementary school fan base.”
The show will include four opening acts — local bands Fighting Silence and AK Free Fuel, high school
musicians George and Sam making their large-venue performance debut, and Stadium out of Anchorage.
“Fighting Silence, they’re a bunch of really talented artists out of Kenai who decided to collaborate and start a band. Stadium is where Static Cycle was two years ago — they’re up and coming, tons of energy, with a brass section even. We’ve had them at Hooligans and both times people requested for them to come back,” Poland said. “George and Sam, they’re really excited to make their debut. And AK Free Fuel is an incredibly talented group of guys. They’ve done openings for several big acts statewide.”
A comedian will open the show and emcee the proceedings, which will include a
“The coolest, funnest, most-original costume gets a cool prize,” Poland said.
Static Cycle is planning on being in the running — and, no, they aren’t coming dressed as Static Cycle, though Navarre jokes that they discussed wearing masks of each other’s faces.
“Nobody thought that was as funny as we did,” he said. “We were in costume shops today. We have to find something we can move around in onstage and still play.”
The band will be available to meet fans, sign autographs and take pictures after the show, before heading to a 21-and-over after party at Hooligans.
“That’s just how they are, they’re just super cool, cool guys. They’re really personable. They come down here and remember where they’re from,” Poland said.
Also coming up at Hooligan’s is an all-ages, smoke-free comedy-hypnosis show on Oct. 27. Tickets are $15. On Halloween, Hooligan’s is throwing its ninth annual “Hoolloween” bash, with tickets for two on a cruise to Mexico as the grand prize in a costume contest. Poland said Hooligan’s 15-seat Lincoln navigator limo also is going to be available to take trick-or-treaters out in style on Halloween. Parents can keep an eye on their little ghosts and goblins from the comfort of the limo while the driver walks them door-to-door and takes the group on a candy-seeking quest around town in style. Reservations are $20 a seat or three seats for $50. Three trick-or-treating times are available.
For more information, visit Hooligan’s page on Facebook.