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Issue: March 2013
Photo of
Photo By Max Sharp
Signal The Revolution

A Call for Revolution...

On a rainy, dreary January Sunday, I ventured into the wilderness of Southern Indiana 's Washington County, to the lair of Signal the Revolution, a five-piece rock band that denies, indeed, refuses, genre classification. I was headed to the band's practice pad to hang out a few and see the band's full set closeup, rather than at a show, where 900 people are talking loudly to me or themselves and/or I am otherwise distracted.

It was cold way out there and the forest was dark; the place had an eerie vibe: the boonies. I half-expected Bigfoot to appear and ask for tree-fiddy. The practice pad was a small shed behind drummer Bob Lewellen's house, with all the amenities a band could ask for, including the most important one for this time of year: heat! No freezing garage for these fellows. They were set up like kings, with a mini-fridge, a perfectly set up little P.A that had no feedback and sounded great, plus the room was packed with expensive professional music gear that many musicians could only dream of acquiring. Top grade amps and speaker enclosures with mountains of tone, sweet drums and cymbals, super-sweet effects and some fine guitars as well. These boys don't farg around. Someone hit the light swithc and all that was illuminated by an amber-colored strand of lights strung around the top of the shed. Apparently, it was time to rock.

Charisma, stage presence, pro gear, creativeness, good songwriting skills; these guys must have fine mojo. Introductions were in order: Josh Carter/vocals; Zach Bandy/guitars; Chris Marple/guitars; Jacob Carter/bass guitar and the aforementioned Bob Lewellen on drums.

The History of Revolution

Josh and Bob had jammed before in Portrait of a Suicide and Tornacade and they were on the lookout for a bassist for a new project when things sort of fell apart. That's when Josh's brother Jacob came in to the discussion. Sergeant in the Army, he was serving in Afghanistan. He was stoked at the proposal and accepted immediately. Upon his return, they started jamming right away.

Signal The Revolution

Photo By

Signal The Revolution Signal The Revolution

Signal The Revolution

Photo By Max Sharp

Signal The Revolution Signal The Revolution

Signal The Revolution

Photo By Max Sharp

Signal The Revolution Signal The Revolution

Signal The Revolution

Photo By Max Sharp

Signal The Revolution Signal The Revolution

Signal The Revolution

Photo By Max Sharp

Signal The Revolution Signal The Revolution

The band first performance was as a three-piece seven years ago at Uncle Pleasant's with Josh on guitar and vocals,. They hadn't named the band at that point but wound up with a name onstage that night. Josh, unhappy at the time with George Bush, the crappy economy, outrageous gas prices and, seeing all his friends broke and suffering, so he ended up with a name that indicated that it was time for change, and that change could the revolution.

They continued playing as a trio while they searched for an additional guitarist. Josh invited guitarist Zach Bandy, a guitarist in Brandenburg's And The Armed and an older band, The Weaks Notice. a three-piece punk band that had even toured a bit, out to see their show at Uncle Pleasant's. Zach liked what he saw and heard and joined up, five months after Jacob had returned. And just in time to play the Jambodians Fest in Bowling Green with national acts Black Stone Cherry and Matt Schultz of Cage the Elephant.

The band admits they were pretty much considered outcasts on this bill.

Competence and confidence grew and the shows started to come in. They played a Derby Eve sow at Phoenix Hill Tavern, opening for SevenMaryThree, high-profile gig for an unsigned regional band. (It was the first time I them; I was impressed with the band, even if it wasn't my type of music.) The band also opened for national acts Powerman 5000 and Adema, and even traveled up to The Al Rosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio.

At that time, Josh had begun to concentrate more on his vocals and wanted to add a second guitarist. Enter guitarist Chris Marple, formerly of Flaw, Caldera and Kentucky Deathwish, among others. Marple's high-flying guitar theatrics, knowledge of scales, melodic solo work, considerable experience touring with Flaw and absolutely beastly guitar tone and pro gear made him ideal for the slot. It was a perfect match, because up until then Chris had only played in more hardcore metal bands and was looking for a new band with a much wider and more soulful musical spectrum. He joined immediately and a new chapter was born.

With the lineup finally complete and ready, they played some showcases as well as some noteworthy benefit concerts, including Phoenix Hill Tavern's Annual Rock For Kosair Benefit, and, more recently the Lane Goodwin Childhood Cancer Awareness Benefit at Diamond Pub and Billiards.

Capturing The Magic

The band recorded a six-song demo in Nashville in 2010, and a four-song demo with Jordan Haynes at EarlyGrayce Studios, but then in October and November of 2012, they got an opportunity to record two songs with producer Toby Wright. a friend of Frank Karaglanis, the band's manager. Wright had worked with Metallica, Alice In Chains, Slayer, Ozzy, Korn, Sevendust and Primus., plus Louisville's Tantric, so his experience was appropriate. The band headed to Franklin, Tennessee and Sound Kitchen Studios, the Southeast's largest recording studio, where artists ranging from Rush, 3 Doors Down, Bruce Springsteen, Tim McGraw, to current American Idol judge Keith Urban had recorded. The band made an instant connection with Wright.

The songs they chose were "Dichotomy" and "The I in Hate." Listening to the recordings, it was clear why the band was excited to have Wright produce: "The I in Hate" sounds fantastic. Josh's vocals are killer, with beautiful effects when called for. The drums thunder. Halfway through Chris Marple's solo., there's a heavy breakdown that's vicious, yet very melodic. It's a radio-quality tune.

"Dichotomy" starts out heavy and groovin' in a nu-metal way, with vocals that evoke Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong or maybe Blink 182. It's harder, musically, but retains the melodic vocals, with another ripping solo from Chris.

They would like to have recorded more, especially a new song, "Day Star," and some older fan favorites like "Still Crawling" but trip to Franklin pretty much emptied their bank accounts.

I asked Josh if he and Jacob grew up in a musical family. He said:

"My father played guitar since I can remember. When I was a child, I would go visit him and he would take me around to watch his friends play in their bands. One band, called Laughing Sam's Dice, had a huge impact on me. A man named Kevin Maurice Brown, who played lead guitar for the band, gave me the passion for music. Watching him play was the most amazing thing I had ever seen at the time. I begged my Dad to buy me a guitar. Some years later, he gave me one for Christmas. I had never wanted anything more. My brother Jacob wasn't far behind me. Soon after, he began to play the drums, but one night he picked up one of my Dad's basses. He never went back to the drums.

I would spend ten hours a day during summer vacation playing guitar. It was all I could think about. I started showing my brother all of these lead licks I was learning from Steve Vai's music and Metallica. He began applying guitar techniques to his bass playing. It is what makes up his unique style. I have been playing guitar for 21 years, and Jacob has been playing bass for 19 years."

Bassist Jacob Carter is a fireball, with wild designs in his shaved head and his wall of bass sounds: a little metal, a little funk, and some other styles thrown in for good measure. A ball of energy onstage, the guy has stage presence, bigtime. Jacob's influences are Pantera, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cliff Burton, Fieldy from Korn and Victor Wooten.

Guitarist and band spokesman Zach Bandy, a key component in STR, drives almost two hours one way to practice with the band. Zach, one of the younger band members, writes most of the band's music. He has an excellent talent at writing memorable and catchy guitar riffs, which the band takes and builds upon. (I first met Zach when he was in And The Armed, and I gave those guys much credit in our newspaper for sounding so professional.) Zach'smusic is influenced by the Deftones, A Perfect Circle, NIN, Incubus, Tool, Sevendust and others. He cites Maynard Keenan, Sid vbicoius, Trent Reznor, John Lennon and Tom Morello as people he admires.

STR's latest member, guitarist Chris Marple, has probably more experience than anyone in the band. Despite being in his mid-twenties, he has road experience, touring and playing guitar with Louisville hard rock act FLAW . Chris has played in several regional original metal bands including Caldera, Ky Deathwish, Execrate, and others. During that period, Chris was an all-out technical metal monster. That was just how he rolled, and all he had known up until then. But as he got older, he decided he wanted to play music with more feeling and emotion, plus he could finally use some beautiful, clean guitar parts that he had never really used before. He used to tell me quite often how bad he wanted to get in a band with some good players to write some diverse, soulful rock music. He got his chance when Flaw enlisted him a few years back, but eventually, that band imploded (again), so Chris was back to the old drawing board once again. He was unhappy and looking for a band/project for a while before talking with Josh about joining Signal.

His influences are the late great Dimebag Darrell, Wes Borland, Slash and Tosin Abasi.

Drummer Bob Lewellen is quiet and a very nice guy. He's probably the most humble, good-natured cat in the band. He always has sunglasses on. It could be 4 a.m. and in would come Bob, with those jet black sunglasses on, tripping over stuff.

His playing evokes modern day, hard-hitting drummers from such bands as Sevendust and Korn, but he definitely has the ability to kick it up a notch or three when needed. Bob's double bass skills are sweet; he can play any type of music he wants. Having been in marching and school bands early, and, later on, even becoming a drum instructor at school, Bob had found his calling young, by age 11. Studying with a drum professor in college probably didn't hurt, either. Dude is now a beast on the skins! Influences range anywhere from Dream Theater (especially drummer Mike Portnoy, whom Bob believes to be one of the best drummers living), Tool and Metallica, and all kinds of rock in between. Bob grew up listening to Lars Ulrich every day, so he was a major influence. Bob's mother plays piano; Bob even took piano lessons when he was young.

Bob hasn't been in as many bands as the others, but he did play in a cover band and even tried his hand at being in a jazz band. Bob laughed "I lasted a month, but I tell you what. I have mad respect for those Jazz drummers! It's a whole different way of looking at drumming. Jazz just wasn't my thing."

Every band has a few good stories. Josh Carter tells us about how STR met the mountain men of Deliverance:

"We were recording down in southern Kentucky about three years ago. When we left the studio, we were following Jacob, who had GPS in his truck. He took a turn onto a dirt road. We followed behind, thinking that he must be turning around or something. He kept going until we passed a run-down house with a rotting cow carcass by the front porch, giant rebel flags everywhere, and people in rocking chairs in the front yard, straight out of "Deliverance."

We stopped driving, but Jacob kept going, following his GPS. He went down over the hill, into a mud pit and disappeared into some woods. Five minutes later, he emerged with his truck covered in mud and tree branches. An old man approached our vehicles and asked what we were doing. We told him we were using GPS to get home and it led us to this road. He said that it hadn't been a road in 30 years. The old man asked Jacob if he ran over his fence in the woods. Jacob was dragging half of the old man's fence under his truck. Wire was wrapped around the drive shaft making a terrible noise. Jacob said, "What fence?"

We finally drove away as two younger men approach with less teeth than the old man. I figured the rotting cow was being used to cover the smell of cooking meth or something. It was an uncomfortable moment."

Exploring The Music And Influences

Signal the Revolution's music is diverse: there are sections with beautifully clean guitars and parts with heavy guitars that demand headbanging. Zach and Chris rarely play the same line on their guitars together, as many bands do. It's not that simple to find two wholly different melody lines that work work together. These guys have got that department covered. The tone changes are flawless, effortlessly moving from clean to heavy, weaving together very melodically. Clearly, it was created slowly with purpose and meaning.

Josh Carter can go from a soft whisper to full-out belting in an instant. I commented to him that his style reminded me a little bit of the singer for Linkin Park, which I thought was a compliment; Josh said he hated Linkin Park. A quick and no-nonsense style, it's modern, but not whiny. He does not scream, which is one of the things I love about STR.

Their music has an alternative vibe in it, with a totally rocking semi-nu-metalish type groove. Carter's lyrics are as good as his emotional vocals. He writes all the lyrics for STR. You can tell the guy writes from the heart.

I really dig an STR song called "The Revolt" because it's heavier but it still has a sexy feel and groove to it that the ladies should enjoy. The lyrics are "We won't give in/Bred to resist your fascist resolution/Slaves to the one no more because/We've learned to fight your system/Everyday we tell ourselves it's got to end to keep from losing control/And everyday there is someone else rising up to bring you down/I hope I'm there when you take the fall."

Back to the Shed:

I was watching Signal the Revolution play their newest song "Day Star," which is about getting out of a controlling relationship. Zach's powerful intro was perfect. The way Chris works with Zach on the guitar parts of this song, with both of them doing something different and cool, is a perfect example of how well Chris and Zach work together. I heard the song twice at the practice shed, and I'm kind of jonesing to hear the song again soon. It has a wonderfully weird celestial feel to it. Some decent lyrics too. Hopefully, they will record this new one soon.

Signaling The Future

What does 2013 hold for these five rockers? First thing, they say, is to get the singles recorded with Toby Wright out on the market, but artwork, manufacturing and distribution takes money, and the band has to generate some funds for this cause. That means packing some shows and selling a ton of merchandise. They are trying to land some national shows, and hopefully will be getting out to other cities and showcasing the music to some labels.

One thing is clear, the sky is the limit with these five dedicated musicians. They certainly have the music, image and professionalism to make something happen. I've rarely seen an unsigned original band before who had their stuff together more than Signal The Revolution.

. . . AND Then

At the end of the band's practice it was time to go home, but not before the guys played me their new cover song, "Everything Zen" by Bush. I don't like Bush and thought it was a bad idea at first, but when I heard them play it I changed my mind. It rocked, and mixed with their style perfectly.

Ow. My ears are ringing.

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