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Listen: The Fear And Trembling

on July 25, 2009, 12:35pm

The Nashville scene is a place where the decadence of rock and roll meets with sweeping guitar god virtuosos. It’s a land that has married effortlessly the standards of both country and rock, and where the down home soul vibe and underdog mentality are king. For rockers The Fear and Trembling, Nashville wasn’t just home; it was a cultural identity.

Growing up in the shadow of Southern rock, Adam Bains (guitar, keys, vocals), Ryan Stimpson (guitars, keys, vocals), and Morgan Loy (drums) spent their formative years adoring bands from the Smashing Pumpkins to Hum and from Tool to Failure. After coming together at Belmont University, the three men soon came to a painful realization regarding their musical Mecca. Despite its unique birth, the scene is often homogeneous and has not had any musical leaps in many years. Instead, it rests on its pedigree laurels.

“Over time, it became apparent that Nashville might not be the best fit for an experimental rock band,” Stimpson said over email. “It is the sort of place that likes to put everything into categories. Being such a music industry town, we found people were trying to fit us into their preconceived ideals of what a ‘rock’ band should sound, look, and act like.”

Before their departure to Brooklyn, where they’ve been playing shows since April with newly-added bassist Zac Meyer, the unsigned band completed their album The Fear And Loathing’s Octopus. The sound represented by that album blurs the line between Southern rock and spacey, ethereal experimental music.

l c93e8cdfde48426893ed213f2474e101 Listen: The Fear And Trembling

The song “Introduction” is an instrumental piece that shows off their country roots and dedication to the mechanics of playing. The string work is meant to lull and soothe the listener without overpowering the vocals. Make no mistake, though; this is a side of twang with an orchestral ambiance and class to it. The music isn’t all a dream, and there is a boastful swagger to their Southern rock, a level of cockiness and brash sound. But this larger-than-life quality in their work, particularly in regards to the string playing, only enhances its more basic qualities.

“The Southern musical tradition is the foundation of our upbringing, but a love for experimental music was something we all bonded over,” Stimpson added. “The noise of shoe-gaze had the same impact as the twang of Southern rock.”

l 013020d39dff46409c88199808eca942 194x300 Listen: The Fear And TremblingThe real treat is almost what lies beneath that sound. There’s a tension of sorts, and perhaps some kind of expectation. It’s the power of the unknown that is the most appealing. The same goes with their lyrics. What you’ll hear is honest and emotional and well-written, but it seems the boys are more willing to let their skills do the talking. With most songs over seven minutes, they’ve got plenty of space to do so.

The open spaces are minimally filled by lyrics that are relatively simple in their overall structure. They’re not crafted to be overly poetic. Instead, much like with their sound, the meanings behind the lyrics are vast and comforting. Take the title track, “Octopus”. You’ll go from the obscure and borderline absurd line, “I left a hole in outer space when I was born in America,” to the down on your luck hope of “A miracle can’t help you see what you’ve chosen not to believe.” It’s a two-way, dead-end road.

“The Southern culture is one of defeat and redemption, of doubt and acceptance,” Stimpson said. “That is the underlying theme of our lyrical ideology.”

With their lyrical aim clear, their near future will stand as fine-tuning phase while they acclimate to the highly kinetic Brooklyn scene. With at least a few tracks delving into heavy distortion, the hope is for them to move beyond the standards of other experimental rock. Time and a new album later this year will tell how they’ll expand and if they continue to play to their strengths of meticulous planning and rock-heavy songs teeming with gorgeous open spaces.

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