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Court & Spark.

"I FEEL LIKE A MAN without a country sometimes," says MC Taylor, guitarist and singer for the San Francisco group Court & Spark. It's early on a Sunday morning and Taylor is explaining, between yawns, the group's contemporaries. "I'm glad the air-country genre that writers have lumped us into in the past seems to have died out. I didn't have a whole lot of affection for that. We have much more affinity to the psych folk thing, because those people are doing weird stuff. I'd rather Court & Spark be included with Six Organs of Admittance than Ryan Adams. But we like rock n' roll as much as folk or dub."

From an early age Taylor was interested in the folk and country music that his father would play around the house. "I remember listening to my dad play guitar and sing while we were eating breakfast. It was something I was always drawn to and eventually felt the urge to further explore."

If folk music was Taylor's introduction to music, the hardcore scene of the early '90s is where he found his initial voice.

"Hardcore was a good way to get into music. It's more about passion and inspiration than technical knowledge. And it is also based around a supportive community of intelligent, often marginalized individuals," explains the now 29 year old Taylor. Along with Court & Spark's other guitarist Scott Hirsch and drummer James Kim, Taylor played in the experimental hardcore band Ex-Ignota while attending UC Santa Barbara.

"We toured a bunch, but we didn't exactly fit in with the other bands on our label (Ebullition Records out of Goleta). We were these artsy stoners who were more interested in Sonic Youth than being straight edge," finishes Taylor.

Taylor was the first to quit Ex-Ignota, choosing rather to sit down and work out the mathematics of the guitar and learn how to sing. "I realized I was too old to become a really good guitar player, so I decided to become a better guitarist. So Scott and I started playing acoustic guitar around the house and began to build a band around three and four part harmonies and slower, quieter, subtle music. We had no road maps to what we were doing. All we knew was we wanted to meld new music into old music."

After college Taylor, Kim, and Hirsch were separated for a short time and Taylor found himself back home in Orange County ransacking record shops for folk, country and world music, stuff he had never imagined himself buying. These records included the bohemian wanderings of folk troubadour Michael Hurley, the behemoth collection known as the Anthology of American Folk Music, the complete catalog of the '60s group The Band, anything by Jimmy Martin, the king of bluegrass and of course the legendary Willie Nelson.

After producing their first release, 2000's Ventura Whites and 2001's Bless You, Taylor, Hirsch, and Kim relocated to San Francisco. Steeped in counter culture mythology and bohemian living, the three had always felt a certain affection for the area and geography proved to be destiny when Taylor met local pedal steel guitarist Tom Heyman and hassist Dan Carr of Creeper Lagoon and Preston School of Industry. Soon afterwards, the group began work on their latest efforts Witch Season and the Dead Diamond River EP (Absolutely Kosher).

Three years in the making, Witch Season is an incredibly lush and sophisticated record, still with an air of rebellion. The songs experiment with concepts of rock and traditional genres like funk, dub, bluegrass, and country, blending it all into a sound that is rootsy, soulful and honest. The songs are lead by meandering tempos, Heyman's pedal steel guitar, and Taylor's ripe tenor vocals, which give the old west vibe. But it's the 20-plus guest players, on everything from French horn and trumpet to clavinet, pipe organ and violin that push Witch Season into a sonic space that defies all genres.

When asked why so long of a wait between records, Taylor answers, "I thought I had this process figured out. It's daunting to be looking down the barrel of something you already went through the pain and sweat of, to only turn around and do it again. The real reason we made the EP was because the full length was taking so long and we wanted to see if we could make a record at home, ya know, sit around the house, smoke pot, drink coffee and make a record like in the movies. A record is only as good as the vibrations coming from it. I like the results on the ER It has a loose feel to it."

Taylor would much rather prefer to keep things loose, uncomplicated, and laid back. He's just that way. He's the kind of guy that notices the subtleties in life and is more concerned traveling with his friends and discovering what they can do on stage every night as a group than moving units or magazine stories. Yet one thing Taylor has been unyielding about, even dating back to his hardcore days and now more than ever, is experimenting.

"We're about melding tradition and folk with a contemporary mind-expanded sound. We want to drag the past kicking and screaming into the future," he says. "The results are going to be amazing."
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Author:Locks, Jesse
Publication:Thrasher
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:883
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