Sit and Spin, 441-9484, $7 9 p.m. Sat., June 2
AN OFTEN PARAPHRASED maxim says that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. The idea has been repeated so many times that no one's really sure who said it. Was it Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, or Thelonius Monk? It doesn't actually matter who said it; what matters is that it's the gospel truth. Writing about music is the ultimate losing battle: Music is in the music, it's not printed on newspaper pages, and it's not properly addressed simply by attaching hyperbole to its noises nor critical analysis to its crescendos. But that doesn't stop me from doing my best to delineate the noise, and it doesn't stop you from reading about it, either. It does, however, sometimes prohibit musicians from feeling comfortable about being cross-examined, dissected, and analyzed. So as I sit with the local rock outfit Aveo in a semiquiet corner of the Baltic Room, we decide to ditch the tape recorder and the inquisition in favor of dark beer, red wine, whiskey sours, and an agenda-free evening.
The band's debut record, Bridge to the Northern Lights, will soon be available on Brown Records. It's a gorgeous affair; steady tempos propel the melancholy instrumentation and allow for an oddly evocative juxtaposition with moody, metered lyrics. Guitar notes resound with the just-barely vintage sound of an effects pedal set to Sad Chorus, and in each corner hides a cleverly scaled lyrical map. With Aveo there are options: Work to decipher the scales and signals, or lose yourself in the pretty mess. That opportunity ends up being a lot like the experience of hanging out with these characters.
William Wilson, the band's elusive frontman, hails from Las Vegas—and he's quick to point out that (a) so does our mayor and (b) most people from the city of showgirls and slot machines are assholes. When our conversation ends up in a discussion about rural outposts of societal dropouts and political zealots, he suddenly offers to go "on record" with the statement, "Fuck those Aryans! Up with people. I'm not even down with crackers." That this is the only comment that he invites me to write down is half-hysterical and half-heartening (and just might have something to do with the fact that we're on our fourth round of drinks when the subject comes up). After all, it's only with humble reluctance that Wilson sits in the fabled catbird seat.
On the title track, Wilson's smooth, vaguely British-sounding vocals pace out the words, "There is no guarantee/that there are angels even listening," and, although something in me wants to assure them that there are, in fact, plenty of spirits paying careful attention, I know that this is probably inconsequential. It seems that for Wilson the prime objective is to get the words and the guitar chords out. He has little concern for where they go once they have escaped him. In a rare moment of unadorned honesty, he says he's always enjoyed the element of anonymity, the rare opportunity to appreciate work based only on its artistic merits with no regard for its creator's psyche.
Perhaps it's because they've been playing together in a handful of bands for a handful of years, but drummer Jeff MacIsaac and bassist Mike Hudson seem slightly more comfortable with the way that their contributions fit into this rock and roll schema. Yet MacIsaac admits that his own insecurities often get the best of him. In the end, we all agree that seldom is anyone eloquent when it is demanded of them and that each of us is our own worst critic.
SO INSTEAD OF REVEALING which influences they're willing to stitch onto their sleeves and which ones they wear as scarlet letters (although at one point a-ha's "The Sun Always Shines on TV" was the topic of an irony-free discussion, and I'd bet the Smiths, Husker Du, the Cure, Guided by Voices, and Mission of Burma also figure pretty prominently), we return to discussing important stuff, like scams found in the back pages of Maximum Rock and Roll and ice hotels of the northern hemisphere. Just because you've been bestowed with the ability to pick the perfect guitar chords, smash just the right rhythms, knock out careful bass lines, or recite lines of poetry, it does not necessarily mean that you welcome the opportunity to be an authority.
And after four hours and five rounds of drinks, do I know anything about Aveo that the tuned-in, reflective listener could not discern after spending an equal amount of time (and perhaps an equal amount of chosen poison) with Bridge to the Northern Lights or a live performance? Maybe, maybe not. But, as I said, music is in the music, and ultimately that's the only place you're going to uncover it— unless, of course, you're the type who can be found happily dancing about the architectural lines of bridges.