Most of the songs The Reflection plays end in the same raucous fashion: with the howl of two overamped guitars, loudly reverberating on the same chord, holding the tone like a musical staring contest between the players until one of them blinks and the pitch veers off in unpredictable and exciting directions.
Clearly, the four guys in the two-year-old Tempe band have a thing for feedback.
"We all play these hollow-body electric guitars, so when we turn the gain up on the amps, it really peaks inside there," says Reggie Shumway, who, along with songwriting partner Jason O, makes up the dual-guitar core of the rising indie rock band, whose self-titled debut album was released on the Common Wall Media label on March 29. "I'll hit a note, and the next thing you know, it'll be singing."
For Shumway and O, however -- who've known each other since they attended middle school together in Mesa -- feedback is about more than just the oscillation of output resulting from slight variations in tuning between instruments. It's the sweet sound of two guys so in tune with each other, but still coming from different-enough places, that they virtually hum when they get close enough to hitting the same groove.
"We never disagree about what works," says O, a 26-year-old former record-store clerk (currently unemployed) who's shared an apartment on and off with Shumway -- first in Tempe, then in L.A., and now in Tempe again -- since the two turned 18.
"If there's a song I wrote that I think will be really good for the band, and Reggie hears it and tells me it doesn't work, I'll be like, 'You're right,'" O says. "There's never an argument. It's something that can't be explained. Everyone has to feel it."
"That's how you know it's perfect," Shumway adds, "when everybody says, 'Yeah!'"
O says he and Shumway are prolific enough writers ("We sneeze out hits," he boasts. "We're a song factory") that if a new song doesn't reverberate right with all the players on first hearing, it's off the set list.
"If someone can't get it, that's enough proof right there that it's not a song we should play," O says. "Honestly, if someone says once, 'I'm not feeling it,' that's enough."
The patented amp feedback, O says, is just the natural sound of four rockers coming as close to being perfectly in tune without becoming totally *NSYNC.
"That's just us being ourselves, and not worrying about making it all perfect," he explains.
For the aptly named Reflection, those little oscillations in pitch represent what happens when a single vision is mirrored by four similar but unique vantage points, each aiming their view a little off-kilter from the other.
In conversation at the band's favorite Tempe hangout, Casey Moore's Oyster House, the simpatico statements mirrored by Shumway and O are getting their own off-pitch feedback from Ivan Rose, the band's loose cannon of a bass player. Each time the songwriting duo, who clearly fashion themselves as a kind of Mill Avenue Lennon and McCartney, come a little too close to echoing the same pat sentiments about music and life, Rose chimes in with a comment that sends the whole conversation warping off on an entirely new, weird tangent.
For example, after Shumway and O spend several minutes hyping up the British pop sound of their first single from the band's debut CD, Rose interjects that the song, "Brandy & Wine," is actually "our Patsy Cline single."
"How do you get that?" O says, staring across the patio table in dumfounded awe.
"Well, she always wanted to be Hank Williams Sr.," says Rose, the band's sole outlaw country fanatic. "And . . . I don't know. It's hard to explain."
Shumway and O move on to discussing their mutual love of underrated U.K. rock acts like Razorlight and Stereophonics (for whom The Reflection will be opening at Tempe's Clubhouse on May 2), and mention that their shared dream is to play a tour of Europe, where their particular brand of raw pop-rock is more appreciated than it is on their own home soil.
"We're looking to Britain," O says, while Shumway nods in agreement.
"And we're thinking of doing a reservation tour," adds Rose, once again grinding the conversation to a halt. "Seriously, our number-one fans, the ones who come to every show, are these people from the reservations."
While Shumway and O stare on in open-mouthed silence, Rose digs in his jeans pocket for the names of the fans, pulling out his "Napoleon Dynamite Chap-Stick" and a turquoise-shelled cigarette lighter in the process.
"Look at my lighter!" he says. "I swear, I have Indian blood running through me."
After Rose excuses himself to go to the restroom, O leans in and explains why their booking agent normally only summons himself and Shumway for press interviews.
"He's the reason you were told only Reggie and I would be here today," O says, not entirely smiling. "There's a lot of stuff he'll say that will sound totally dumb. But it'll make sense if you talk to him long enough."
O says the band's absent fourth member, drummer Karl Scheibner, is Rose's polar opposite -- a "mellow, totally chill" dude the band regards as its grounding Charlie Watts. "He balances us out -- because the rest of us are pretty eccentric."
As a Lennon-McCartney model, the purposely disheveled O is clearly the brooding, music-addicted John to Shumway's lighter, more female-friendly Paul. "It's all about the music," O says, adding that while Rose is married and he, Shumway and Scheibner all have girlfriends, "Any of us would leave our significant others in a second for our music. Right?"
Shumway, who works days as a cook at the Brit-themed Cornish Pasty Co. on University Drive in Tempe and admits to a fondness for the late-'60s Donovan (whom he resembles a bit in both appearance and soft-spoken demeanor), reluctantly concedes. "If it came down to it, yeah."
But Rose, returning to the table after stopping the waitress for a hug, sharply disagrees. "My wife would never let me," he says, ordering another Fat Tire to replace the one he knocked over earlier.
For all their differences, however, the four guys in The Reflection like to see themselves as a united front, with those individual eccentricities only adding to the mix like so much feedback circling around the in-tune harmonies.
"We don't have a front man," Shumway says. "We're all equal in this band."
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"Even though we're different people and we bring our own styles to the music, it all ends up sounding as one," agrees O. "We're The Reflection. That's who we are."
"Yeah," Rose adds. "If you're looking for what's different about each of us, you'll have to wait for the solo albums."
O heaves a heavy sigh and once again glowers across the table at his perpetually off-the-wall bandmate.
"Why?" he asks, exasperated. "Are you planning one?"