The situation On a recent Wednesday evening, I'm at Oddfellows sharing pints of Manny's with Brian Standeford, formerly of the Catheters, formerly of Tall Birds, and currently of Idle Times, a lo-fi, low-maintenance project he started as a way of really and truly doing his own thing.
"I got sort of burned out from being in a band," he says. "The last two that I was in kind of broke up on not the best terms. They were both really frustrating experiences . . . So I just started writing songs just for fun on a four-track by myself. I really liked working that way, just because I could work through all my own ideas without other people chiming in."
(Live, Standeford is joined by his roommate Paul Waudé on bass and drummer Thomas Burke).How He Got Here Standeford works days at the Seattle Aquarium ("I'm not a scientist. I shuffle papers.") and also does freelance work as a graphic designer, which he got into by being nitpicky. "When the Catheters were on Sub Pop, I would get really opinionated and up in the art director, Jeff Kleinsmith's, business when he would work on our stuff . . . One day he was just like, 'You should just do this yourself.'"
He's since designed album covers for Unnatural Helpers, My Goodness, and the Moondoggies, as well as the multicolored cube on the cover of Idle Times' self-titled debut, which I suddenly remember snarking about on Reverb last year.
"That's OK. To each their own," he says, generously.
Shop Talk Standeford appears to be at a crossroads with his musical career intentions--on the one hand, he's a consummate songwriter (the Idle Times record was generally hailed as a successful merger of rowdy punk noise and good-time power-pop melodies; he estimates that he's got about an album's worth of new material written already) who's been playing in a band for half his life. But he's contemplative as he parses out thoughts like "I love writing music and playing music, but I don't know if I like the lifestyle . . . Touring became a total grind. Living your life in bars and getting there for soundcheck and just waiting to play. It's really boring. It's not very stimulating."
"This band's been a lot more casual. We just try to keep it loose and fun . . . The more seriously I take it, the more self-conscious I get about it," he continues, pausing to think for a second. "The more I think about it, the more I fret over it . . . As soon as it starts to become an obligation or too structured . . . it kind of sucks the creativity out of me."
BTW Part of Standeford's uncertainty might be due to a certain milestone he's about to hit next month--his 30th birthday.
"I don't really feel like I know myself or what I want," he admits. "18-year-old Brian probably thought he'd be playing music full-time. There's definitely a part of me where it's painful to realize you're getting older and you don't have all these years ahead of you to try to be a musician. At a certain point, you just want to be comfortable."
Idle Times plays the Sunset Tavern on Tuesday, June 21 with Times New Viking and Sister Wife. The show starts at 9:30 p.m.; tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door.