On the Couch

Big Blue Couch finds a new upholsterer in former Windigo singer Matt Strangeways. But can it resist further wear and tear in the fabric?

Despite this peaceful new wrinkle, Doyle -- whose interstellar guitar playing has been the Couch's chief calling card -- maintains that "the band's mentality is more aggressive and confident. We're ripping the songs as tight and hard as we can play it. We're a lot angrier now than we were a couple of years ago."

One subject that can turn Doyle's usual goofiness sour is the band's still-unreleased CD 1969 -- named in honor of the year Big Blue Couch claims its members were cryogenically frozen.

Freezing a band's development onto a piece of plastic is a make-or-break proposition which many groups don't survive. Perhaps part of the reason the Couch has stuck it out is that the disc hasn't seen the light of day -- despite having been remixed twice and in the can for more than a year.

Big Blue Couch: From left, Chris Doyle, Jayson Gilbert, Matt Strangeways, some hot chick and Jon Demrick.
Erik Guzowski
Big Blue Couch: From left, Chris Doyle, Jayson Gilbert, Matt Strangeways, some hot chick and Jon Demrick.

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Scheduled to perform on Thursday, April 12, with Clyde, and Souls of Present Grace. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Bash on Ash in Tempe

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"The band on that CD," says Doyle, stubbing out his cigarette like a bad memory, "is the sound of four guys scared to death because the clock is running in the studio. We didn't have the luxury of fading this song out or putting that thing there. All we did was fill up the tapes as quickly as possible."

Still, it's quite a good record of the band, albeit the version from a year and a half ago. Almost as a matter of closure, the Couch has elected to press 250 copies to give away to fans and friends. And the group has not ruled out reusing the basic tracks somewhere down the line with Strangeways' vocals on top. However, adds Doyle, if he had his druthers, the band would be jamming a lot more to come up with fresh material.

But for now the Couch's focus is on getting the current catalogue rehearsed with its new singer. Marshaling the group's rampant eclecticism -- something that has allowed it to dip so successfully into a variety of styles -- has always proved to be a challenge. To aid in channeling all the group's creative energies, Strangeways posted up a helpful rehearsal aid.

"Welcome to 'The Wall o' Rock,'" he announces, pointing to the inside of the group's practice space. Each wall contains small strips of paper with song titles, posted under a larger sign designating which stage of development a particular song is at.

"Stage one," he explains, "is Hawkwind. Any song idea we can build on, a drum beat or a guitar riff, falls under Hawkwind. Stage two is Black Oak Arkansas. This denotes any song that has some semblance of order. Stage three is when songs are ready to be played live -- the Stooges!"

Old Couch chestnuts, particularly rockers like "Sweet Little Sister," "Volcano" and "Road Map," have rapidly fallen into Stage Three mode, as have newer songs including "You've Got to Be Sure," a vaguely Radiohead-esque number which proved to be quite a crowd-pleaser at the first of the band's two secret warm-up gigs (before its official return to duty on April 12 at the Bash on Ash).

"From the time Matt did the sound check, I knew it was going to be a good show," says Doyle of their anonymous stint at Chasers Lounge. "Before, I always had a trepidation about shows. Having played at the club's dreaded eight o'clock slot, we didn't even tell the soundman who we were until after the show." By set's end, plenty of patrons were asking "who are these guys?" in a virtual replay of the New Times showcase almost a year ago.

"We kept our attitude casual, and there weren't any major wrecks," says Strangeways. "I got food poisoning the night before, but aside from that near-death experience, it felt great."

For the Couch's second warm-up show this past weekend, the band played Tempe's Billy Gordon's under the moniker "Scent of a Demrick." And as bassist Demrick theorizes, there must be some greater power that has helped the group weather every conceivable storm over its tumultuous decadelong history to remain together.

"When I left Michigan, it was hard because I knew that Jay was the drummer I was supposed to play with and Chris was the guitarist I was supposed to play with," he says. "After Jay called to say he was coming out here, we knew Chris would be here soon, too. It's kind of like, 'If you build it, they will come.' Adding Matt seems like the ingredient that's been missing all along. Who knows what's vested in the power of the Couch?"

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