Monday, June 1, 2015


bCKAWCK and fans.
Dedicating a few paragraphs here to a band like Volumen is a kind of ridiculous thing in a number of ways, here's why: I can't think of any other Missoula band over the last roughly 20 years that inspired the same kind of love, had the same kind of weird pockets of mostly upper-teenage boys willing to put duct tape Vs on themselves and offer their allegiance, and that's released as great a body of music. Like the Fireballs of Freedom, there are probably thousands of stories to go along with the band, and they're better told in person where the inflections, facial expressions, hand gestures, Prince impersonations all can get their due.

Volumen started at some point in the middle-latish '90s when childhood friends Shane Hickey and Doug Smith decided to end their Laramie, Wyoming band (Some Kind of Cream) and move to a weird mountain hamlet called Missoula, Montana. Shane and Doug used to play along with a drum machine, drew as much inspiration from Motherbaugh/Casale as they did Gene/Dean, and Bowie. Shane was and is a science fiction reader and Doug used to be a member of Up With People. Like a lot of bands without legitimate, human rhythm sections, their audience was "under capitalized." 
Volumen a Total Fest IV in 2005.

Luck would intervene in the form of three individuals, Bryan Hickey, Bob Marshall and Chris Bacon who would help to form a five-piece band with five of the most psychically-meant-to-be-playing-music-together individuals that really I've ever encountered. From there, lots of things would happen in quick succession: They'd record their first official output, How Do You Spell, go on tour, and begin regularly playing at Jay's Upstairs often, using an ironing board as keyboard stand. That all would continue for a lot of years. They would purchase an old ambulance with a working light rack, install an Atari and drive it around, getting approximately 9 miles to the gallon. They'd regularly record, tour, play in Missoula, and around the region etc.

Food shopping in Estonia. 
In 2002, at the urging of Bryan Giles from then Last of the Juanitas, now Red Fang (who said something like, "they're like the Beatles, man. You should put something out!"), I encouraged the band to go record with Tim Green in San Francisco, and released a kind of 30 minute mini-LP of their stuff called Cries From Space. I still love how Tim recorded them. In 2003, Andy Smetanka and I helped book/roadie for an Eastern European (Baltic) tour, that started in Finland and went as far south as Vilnius Lithuania. they learned the Finish and Latvian National Anthems and played them amazingly, in a highly-engineered (by Smetanka and me) attempt to win the interest of a stoic audiences. It turned out not to be terribly necessary, but was fun to watch regardless. As time went on lives became filled with different family and work responsibilities, and I don't know what the official word was, but they stopped playing much, and then altogether in 2009 about six years ago.

Volumen Army Recruits.
Like I said, Volumen inspired fan loyalty like I've never seen. And that loyalty translated to large audiences who'd regularly turn out for Volumen shows. They bankrolled the Baltic tour largely on money saved from shows. I think the fan loyalty can be attributed to simple things: 1) they're a really tight, well-rehearsed band with a great sense of melody 2) they're fun as hell to dance/sing/party along to. When I decided this would be the last Total Fest a few months ago, I also decided that having Volumen play it would help it go out with the kind of bang I wanted. Volumen played the first Total Fest in 2002, and I'd be damned if I wasn't going to ask them to consider it. Luckily, they said yes!

Some stats:
-Number of people officially enrolled in the Volumen Army: 54
-Last time in Estonia: 2003.
-Last album: Skipper of Reverses (2009)
-Last show, April 28, 2009.
-# of Volumen-owned/operated businesses that directly support Total Fest: 4


No comments: