Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of their debut album, Cake, the Trashcan Sinatras find themselves at a career crossroads. Two of the band's four remaining original members reside in their native Scotland, while the other two now live in sunny Southern California.
"We've already written a couple of songs together where we've exchanged mp3s and co-written, but what we really miss is having a room somewhere where we can sit and make a noise and play music and let it roam and go where it wants to go," says singer/guitarist Frank Reader, who along with lead guitarist Paul Livingston calls the Los Angeles area home. "That's how In The Music (the band's fifth studio album, released earlier this year) was made and it scares me a wee bit that we don't have that."
Setting aside the trans-continental logistics that the band's future will require, the four Sinatras have come together for an acoustic tour that marks two decades since Cake made them college radio darlings in the US on the strength of deliriously catchy singles "Only Tongue Can Tell" and the cheekily-titled "Obscurity Knocks."
"I think it was a wee bit of not so much tempting fate, but it just seemed to fit our personalities at the time to make that the first single, you know, just because of the name of it," Reader recalls. "We all liked a little bit of a joke, I think, then. We didn't take it too seriously."
The band -- scheduled to perform at 7pm Tuesday, Oct. 26 at Martini Ranch in Scottsdale, details here -- began their first American tour in February 1991 with a Scottsdale show at Anderson's Fifth Estate (now known as Club Forbidden).
"It's hard to remember, but that was the first gig of that tour. We were very, very kind of ropey then, we could barely play!" Reader says. "We had the songs and we had the ambition and I think there's a beauty in watching people kind of strive, you know, sort of beyond their capabilities at that time and we were definitely doing that. I remember, from that time, some really bad clothes and bad haircuts. It's kind of difficult to look back on, really."
While that was the first show of their first US tour, it was the group's second show in America, having performed the previous December at a radio station's Christmas show in Los Angeles.
"We warmed up at the Universal Amphitheater in L.A. for Scottsdale!" laughs Reader.
The band's current tour is an all-acoustic affair, with just the four remaining original members, as opposed to the full electric show the band took on the road with adjunct members to promote In The Music earlier this year. That trek did not stop in the Valley.
"It's much more relaxed, everybody's kind of in a different frame of mind," Reader says, comparing the acoustic shows to the amplified ones. "They tend to be really wonderful, a completely different feel. We tend to have a table with drinks and the songs kind of have to stand on their own."
The Sinatras' tunes -- meticulously crafted guitar pop gems with clever lyrics, soaring melodies and gorgeous harmonies -- are plenty sturdy enough to do just that. And to the delight of longtime fans, the group is accepting song requests for the shows via their website.
Fans attending the show can also pick up an advance copy of the Sinatras' next release, Brel, a 17-track acoustic album recorded in Glasgow last year. It's slated for digital release next month, with physical copies available only through the band's website. Appropriately for an anniversary release, it touches on 20 years of the band's recorded legacy.
"The songs are the precious things that come out of being in a band," Reader says.
And here's hoping the Sinatras soldier on to create many more of them -- despite the continental divide they now face.
"I'm still happily being Americanized," Reader says. "I've been here for over two years. My temporary green card status is coming to an end and I have to reapply for permanent residency."
It helps immensely to share that experience with a bandmate.
"It's been nice actually for me and Paul because we sort of have a different slant on our relationship," Reader says. "I met my wife through his wife, so they were already friends. It's great, we get together and the gals chatter away and me and Paul try to sort out our lives together."
"There's really no escaping each other!" Reader laughs.
And the singer's own spouse is helping him face the band's complicated future with optimism.
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"My wife's always telling me, 'You don't have to know how it's going to work out,' " Reader says. " 'You just have to sort of trust that it will.' "
True story... back in February 1991, three friends and I attended the Trashcan Sinatras' show at Anderson's Fifth Estate in Scottsdale. Talking outside the venue after the show, we were approached by a fairly well-known DJ from the local "alternative" music station, who -- in a state of inebriation -- mistook us for The Charlatans UK, who were playing in Tempe the next night. We may have looked like musicians, and all of us were playing in local groups at the time, but we certainly weren't speaking with English accents. Still, no amount of dissuading would convince him that we weren't who he thought we were, as he bragged to his female companion about "recognizing" us. So, when he offered to buy us a post-show meal, we took him up on the offer at the Denny's on Scottsdale Road just south of Osborn. The moral of the story? Even under false pretenses, a free grand slam breakfast still tastes good!