“Shipwrecked on Shores”
In Stores – 9/19/2006
Sean Lynch: guitar, vocals
Megan Dibble: violin, vocals
Mike Galt: piano, vocals
Steve Serfazo: drums, vocals
With the nearest major metropolitan area ten hours away in any direction, Billings, Montana may not seem to be the most ideal or likely hometown for a respected up-and-coming indie rock act like the 1090 Club. Wedged between the Northwest’s Seattle and Portland scenes, and Midwest music meccas of Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio, Billings is an oft-forgotten location, which has been left to create and support its own musical community.
But the members of the 1090 Club are hoping they can faithfully represent the Treasure State that’s been crucial to their success as a band outside its own borders. After all, being a big fish in a small pond (and one of the state’s only signed rock bands) does have its advantages — something guitarist Sean Lynch learned, when he opted to move back to his hometown to open a café after living several years in Portland.
Upon his return to Billings, Lynch became an instrumental figure in the local music scene, actively promoting shows in the area and opening a recording studio.
“Coming back to Billings was one of those things where I felt like I could add something back to a community that probably needed something,” he says.
In 2002, Lynch also released two compilations of local Montana bands and included a contribution from his yet-finalized project on the disc with collaborator Mike Galt, which was dubbed The 1090 Club.
The band began to take form over the next year, with the addition of drummer Steve Serfazo and later, violinist Megan Dibble. But the major turning point came not with an addition, but the omission of a member — namely the band’s bassist.
“Before we were writing poppier songs, more shoegazer indie pop stuff,” says Lynch. “But we all started to sing and when that happened, the feel of the music started to change as well. It was a huge decision for us to decide that we weren’t going to play with a bass player, but we played a show without one and thought, ‘Wow, this is it right here.’”
Able to carry on without a bassist, the band began re-tooling its compositions to include vocals from all members and found ways to compensate on the lower register.
“It took a few months to actually get used to playing without a bassist,” says Lynch, “and now there’s no looking back.”
With influences from bands like The Decemberists Death Cab For Cutie and Stars, the 1090 Club quickly began perfoming locally and regionally with a host of artists including Minus the Bear, The Gossip, Neva Dinova, Orenda Fink, Even In Blackouts and The Jealous Sound.
The band also launched its recording career via a series of split recordings with an eclectic mix of artists, including The Brother Egg (Lynch’s former band), The Forecast and The Front. Chalk it up to the “one scene fits all” attitude of its locale.
“The scenes are all the same up here,” says Lynch. “There’s just an independent music scene. It’s not like, here’s the indie kids, here’s the ‘whatever’ kids. It’s just, here’s the music scene.”
Still working in the concert promotions business, Lynch became aware of SideCho after booking one of the label’s acts, Neva Dinova, at a local club. On a whim, he sent the label a demo and kept the label informed of the band’s progress. Next thing he knew, label owner James Cho was interested.
“James was very similar to us in the way we think,” says Lynch. “For him to call us and say he liked our demo, that was the best part to us. We went with our gut feeling on it and the label has a lot to offer.”
The 1090 Club immediately began work on its debut full-length, sporadically recording in Lynch’s studio throughout the entire year of 2005.
When it came to mix the album, the band had two excellent options of which to choose — so they selected both. Six tracks were mixed with veteran engineer Steve Fisk (Nirvana) on an extremely tight budget. “Because he liked the record, Steve did it for quite honestly, virtually nothing,” says Lynch. And three other tracks were mixed by Alex Newport (The Mars Volta), also on a “virtually nothing” deal.
The act christened the album Shipwrecked On Shores — a fitting title if you ask Lynch. “Billings, Montana is like being shipwrecked on shores. We’re out in the middle of nowhere. Still trying to get off this island, this isolated scene.”
Shipwrecked On Shores fires off with “Hello,” of which Lynch says was written with an air of optimism about a big turning point in his life. Other key tracks include “Gypsea” of which Galt says, “I’ve got loads of stuff to pick through so I pieced together lines. I started to laugh about how tough it is at times to write a song, so that’s what the first lines are about — making sure everything’s all right, making sure everything’s supposed to be where they’re at.” “It Starts With” is a full-on collaborative affair between Lynch and Galt. “That’s a good song for us because I feel like that’s the direction we’re moving in,” says Lynch. “That’s the newest of the songs on the record.”
With the album wrapped and ready, The 1090 Club have shifted into full-time band status, including plans for national tours, of which they can thank their largely affordable hometown.
“The best thing for us is that it is very inexpensive for us to live here,” says Lynch. “That allows us the opportunity to tour. And for us, being able to afford to do this is really key.”
“We can say we are from Montana and can represent Montana,” adds Galt.
“We’re excited to put the focus on Montana. It’s not all cowboys or Unabombers. It’s been a fun and interesting experience so far. And it’s kind of like we’re right at the first step of many.”