TIMELESS MUSIC ISN'T easy to come by these days. Austin's Silver Scooter is the sort of band that belongs back in the Huck Finn era, when boys preferred catching crawdads and jumping riverboats to pursuing coquettish girls in flouncy hats. But unfortunately, one of indie pop's most beloved voices is stuck in a world where the cash flows to he who lures the most fans to that pay-per-view number. The odds ain't so good for a band made up of two skinny lads with thick-rimmed glasses and a bass player who looks like Paul Bunyan—the "nerd rock" tag sticks to Silver Scooter like a Velcro scarlet letter.
Crocodile, Wednesday, March 29
Still, songwriter Scott Garred perseveres, sending up halos of ephemeral cheer from his Texas home. Silver Scooter's latest album, Orleans Parish (Peek-a-Boo), simultaneously rejects self-pity while it exalts in the joys of boyish acts like staying up late listening to the radio. If the musical formula of sincerity and melody has lost its appeal, riding in the sidecar of this talented quartet just might reawaken the longing for soft-soled musings pioneered by Versus, the Pastels, and New Order.
Currently in the middle of recording a new album before they hit the road for a West Coast tour, Silver Scooter is polishing up what Garred calls "a very upbeat record, what I think is easily the best we've done." Newest member Shawn Camp (keyboards, guitar) joins singer-guitarist Garred, drummer Tom Hudson, and bassist John Hunt. Camp's addition allows Silver Scooter to explore a deeper, more textural sound in the studio and on stage. A longtime friend—Camp played with Hudson and Garred during their collegiate days in Pullman, Washington, and Moscow, Idaho—he recently relocated to Austin in order to join the band. Garred cracks, "To compensate, we're going to pay for Shawn's schooling, just like a business development course. He's going to keyboard school!"
THE WORKING TITLE of the new album is The Blue Law, slang for the fine counties of the Midwest and Deep South that don't sell beer on Sundays. "We were playing a really cool house party in Bloomington, Indiana," Garred recalls. "It was a Sunday, and we realized we couldn't buy beer there. Of course, John Hunt immediately goes, 'Oh yeah, that's called the blue law.' He's the expert on that stuff." Don't expect the record to reflect its sober namesake, though. Silver Scooter's songs contain a cavalcade of blissfully drunken moments, and The Blue Law's momentum should increase the buzz. "There are actually only a couple of slow songs, and who knows if they'll make it on the record or not," Garred says. "There are some definite pop songs, some moody moments, but overall it's pretty rockin', I think."
But until The Blue Law is released (probably this fall), Silver Scooter has a wealth of edgy pop from the coffers of Orleans Parish. Garred's is the voice of sincerity, one you'd want to hear from the next barstool after a long day in office hell. "Someone tell me/what a good day's for," he warbles on "Sleight of Hand." The warmth of his vocals is a good nest for Hunt's notable bass lines—it's rare that a bass player threatens the guitar's limelight like he does—and Hudson's unhesitant fills. A sweltering, rainy feel permeates even the punchy "New Orleans" and "So Long," engraved with the ideals of a hopeful insomniac who waits all night to hear a radio DJ play his request. Garred, a friendly and unpretentious guy, isn't hesitant to champion Orleans Parish. "It's really when I became a fan of the band," he declares. "With our earlier stuff, I always wondered if I wasn't in the band, would I like it? With Orleans, I realized I would."
But something hickory this way comes: "Tribute to the Phone Calls" holds a rich slide chord that hints at Garred's deep love of country. "Since I moved to Austin, I realized how close to my heart I hold that genre of music," Garred says in a gentle tone. "My parents always had country records, and now it completely parallels the type of songwriting I'm into. It's the same kind of chords, just a different tempo." The singer's affection for twang also comes through in his other longtime project, Super XX Man, a more rustic brand of porch-pop than that heard on Silver Scooter tracks. After Silver Scooter completes their tour, Garred will hop in his white van to tour with the Mendoza Line in support of Super XX's latest, Vol. IV. It's probably a good thing he recently quit his day job to work full-time in a local studio (with Dave McNair, who's Silver Scooter's producer); more singers like Garred are needed in the trenches. Without them, pop just isn't the same.