Local Wire

Long Time, No CD

Gloritone bassist Nick Scropos remembers vividly when the myth of major-label recording came crashing down, near the end of the band's monthlong sessions for its 1998 debut.

Recording with producer Bradley Cook (Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age) in Hollywood's Grand Master studios, the group expected all the trappings of big-time rock 'n' roll glory, only to be disappointed.

"We kept waiting for 'it' to happen," recalls Scropos. "We thought that working in this big studio with this name guy, there was gonna be some magic transformation with the recording. Like all of a sudden it was going to just start sounding different, bigger, or whatever. But as things went on, that never happened."

The band -- Scropos, singer/guitarist Tim Anthonise and drummer Dan Lancelot -- was clearly disillusioned by the process, though relatively pleased with the resulting album, Cup Runneth Over, which the bassist characterizes as "a nicely polished local CD. Which, frankly, is what we wanted, in a way."

In the wake of the experience, the three members decided to take a different tack, investing money in recording gear for their Tempe rehearsal space and striking out on their own. Thus began a two-year period of intense writing and demoing, which has yielded some 20 new songs.

Along the way, the group parted ways with Lancelot. It enlisted the services of temporary kit sitter P.H. Naffah (of the Refreshments and Peacemakers) before signing on a permanent replacement in Scott Hessel. Then, just months later, Hessel and the band parted ways, citing a lack of chemistry -- and raising the question of whether Gloritone was heading the way of Spinal Tap. Not long after, however, Hessel rejoined the group, and his presence has infused Gloritone's live shows with a newfound energy as well as expanding its sonic palette to include loops and preprogrammed beats. Of the break-up/make-up with Hessel, Anthonise says it's "all water under the proverbial bridge."

Amid the lineup shuffles, Gloritone's plans for a follow-up to Cup were delayed and eventually dashed when its record label, the RCA-affiliated Kneeling Elephant imprint, went under massive restructuring. Gloritone is currently negotiating a settlement and release from its contract.

Although several labels have expressed interest in the band, Kneeling Elephant's demise means it will likely be three years between long-players for the group. In the meantime, Gloritone has self-released a stopgap effort called . . . before the paint had dried, a batch of mostly unreleased material culled from its post-Cup demos.

Recorded variously on four, eight and 16 tracks, the eight-song disc (which includes a hidden song, the punkish romp "133") is several cuts above most demo collections. Anthonise's post-grunge howl remains intact, and still owes much to the phlegm-charred vocals of Saint Cobain. The slashing rhythms of "Swan Dive" and the terse chords of "Die to Make a Dent" make good use of the combo's familiar percussive guitar attack. Elsewhere, the spacious "Bird" and the dissonant "Dumb and Done" reflect the influence of another alt-rock power trio, Hüsker Dü.

However, the disc's centerpiece, "Dear Vesuvius," represents a real breakthrough for Anthonise. A working musician's anthem of disillusionment, it casts his restrained vocal delivery against a clipped drum loop and fluttering gut-string guitar. The results are staggering, suggesting that beneath the dense layers of modern rock beats the heart of a classicist, a writer with a real sense of Brill Building craftsmanship.

The past few months have seen Gloritone return to the grind of frequent club dates (including a weekly Wednesday acoustic set at Long Wong's on Mill), a schedule that has served both the band's music and its chemistry well. The group's back-to-back performances this past weekend produced the kind of fevered and spontaneous audience response that few local acts enjoy.

Much of that is because of a looser onstage dynamic. To wit, Gloritone, never a cover-heavy band, has let a few favorite obscurities seep into its set list, songs that mirror Anthonise's creative direction at the moment: Nick Drake's "Pink Moon," 10cc's "I'm Not in Love," the Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way."

Though an uncertain future looms, the usually tightlipped Anthonise sounds pleased, if not downright jovial, about the band's current situation. Given similar circumstances, most artists would be champing at the bit to record a long-delayed second album. But Anthonise is content to take his time. "Nobody's in any rush to do anything," he says. "That's why we've spent the kind of time we have with the songs."

In fact, the singer is so happy with the results of . . . before the paint that he plans to let the demos serve as a blueprint for the inevitable full-scale recording. "A lot of times the final version never lives up to the demo," he says. "It's a common mistake. And it's something we're going to try and avoid doing when we make the next record -- whenever that is."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bob Mehr
Contact: Bob Mehr