Josh Cool of the Uncertain Sea on growing up in Wyoming and his band's amicable split
You started SpokeShaver sometime after Out On Bail broke up. That band had a pretty unique sound that wasn't like anyone in town. How did that project come together?
I tried to start a band for about a year. I was in a bunch of crap that wasn't fun, and then I met this guy named Chris that played the guitar. He was really into Jawbreaker, and of course, so was I. He had all these songs that were really cool but I was so locked into country chords on guitar and traditional chords, and I had a traditional mindset on guitar.
So I said, "Well, why don't I play bass in this band because I'm not understanding what I should play on guitar." Then I met Rich Hazen, who had an ad on Craigslist. He had a drummer, and they had played a little bit. Their ad said, "Looking to start a band that sounds like the Broadways, Jawbox and Jets to Brazil." So I responded right away.
We jammed immediately with Chris, and we ended up losing the drummer and found Nate Marcy, who is one of the best drummers I've ever played with, through, again, a Craigslist ad. I think he posted something along the lines of wanting to be in a band that was like '60s garage rock, '70s punk, '50s soul or '90s punk. And I was like, "We're doing all of those things, so why don't we do all of those things together." Rich knew Kristin Garramone from Broomfield, so the five of us started playing and had a good time and wrote an EP worth of material. Chris had to quit because he had a baby, but we continued.
SpokeShaver was such fun to play in, and I learned so much about theory and improvisation and playing against each other and songwriting from jamming stuff. Which sounds horrible, but you play for a half hour and recording it all. Maybe there's thirty seconds that were really good in there and you just pull out that thirty seconds and you write it into a song.
That's how every band I've been in since SpokeShaver has written music that way. I'm a huge proponent that way: Playing something and evolving it and letting it happen naturally and picking the very best out of that. By the end, we were doing some interesting stuff, but we didn't get to record it or release it.
We had a concept record we had written that was like five songs of thirty or thirty-five minutes each that was about the death of creativity, big suites of music that were like three songs written together lasting eight minutes apiece -- kind of neat, progressive stuff. We had developed down a progressive rock avenue, while still keeping Jets to Brazil, maybe a little Jefferson Airplane and Neil Young close to our hearts.
Nate had another kid and moved way up to the sticks, and we went on trying to play with him maybe once a month. But when you're writing complex, intricate, odd time signature stuff and getting a drummer only once a month makes it pretty difficult. We had two years of playing one show a year and maybe eight practices with a drummer a year.
The rest of us would practice twice a week. It was kind of a bummer, but we still had a good time. Finally, Nate was like, "I can't do this to you guys anymore. I feel bad about it. I just need to realize I can't do this anymore." We found a new drummer Aaron Doxey. After two months or so, we realized we've only been playing the same seven songs off the same record for two years. It was hard to write new stuff because we had all gotten too comfortable with each other.
So we stopped right around the same time the Uncertain Sea broke up. It was kind of a mid-life crisis moment for me. SpokeShaver decided to end and about a week and a half later I told the Uncertain Sea that I was done. Just decided to give it all up and start something new. So Kristin Garramone and I are starting a new thing and I'm excited about it.
The Uncertain Sea wasn't as visible as I would have wanted us to be. We played a couple of shows when we started, and we got to go to SXSW, which was cool. Mike left to concentrate on Hooper in February, and we've been trying to replace him ever since. We got two dudes that are really good at what they do and fun to be in a band with. One of them replaced Mike as a singer and the other as a bass player.
Essentially what it was is that I wanted to start the band with Kristin and said, "This has got to be my thing." We had written in one direction as a band, and I wanted to do a little different thing. I didn't want to impose that on them. I feel bad when bands are "my" band. It's more like, "The band I play guitar in wrote a new song today, and I'm really excited about it." As shorthand people say, "my band."
That said, I extrapolate that out to its non-logical conclusion. I don't want to force my agenda on the band. I didn't want to shoehorn Kristin into the Uncertain Sea, and I don't think those guys wanted that either. It was best for everybody if I stepped away, and they decided it would be best to put a cap on the band and start fresh and not worry about any of the things that come with replacing a person. Or writing new songs without a person that sounds different than if they were in the band.
It's been really weird without Mike. It's going to sound different, of course, but Mike was definitely a big part of the band. Bringing in the two new guys, we've done stuff that is similar. We're playing new tracks tonight that are similar but definitely not the same. I was going in one direction, and the band was going in another direction, so it was a good time for both of us to start fresh.