In the midwest in the early nineties, three musicians serendipitously found one another and began to power a sound. This sonic synergy charged not only the band’s own individually-heralded releases, but would also influence decades of artists-to-come who would cut their rock-n-roll teeth on Giants Chair records. After years of writing and recording, after innumerable sweaty basement shows, after thousands of miles of highway blur, and a million fragmented memories, lives progressed, and the fire that fueled Giants Chair gave way to new responsibilities — but it never went out.
In the fall of 1989, Scott Hobart (guitar, lyrics, vocals) and Byron Collum (bass) both arrived to attend the Kansas City Art Institute. After a catalytic connection and several early band iterations in Kansas City, Hobart and Collum opted for a move to Collum's hometown of Green Bay, WI in the winter of 1993 to play with drummer Paul Ackerman. The trio relocated back to Kansas City the following spring as Giants Chair with their debut 7” Hot Boy on Caulfield Records. Soon after the band assembled enough songs to record their first full length album, Red and Clear, a cryptic epic - it was equal parts raw and refined. While many of the band’s peers trended toward post-rock deconstruction in the following years, Giants Chair returned with Purity and Control, the record that solidified the band’s signature balance of tight rhythms and forward melodies — deceptively simple hooks that collide with lush and layered sonic force.
For more than two decades now these records have lived on turntables, blasted through car speakers, rattled apartment walls, destroyed headphones, and have finally become recognized as the timeless artifacts of emotional experience and endeavor that they are for so many people. Yes, for many, each Giants Chair release serves as a time machine that can instantly transport them back to an earlier memory — a soundtrack for their wobbly path toward adulthood. As decades decay, the path remains, and it is no less mysterious for any of us. Now, in perfect time, 2019 marks the return of Giants Chair with the release of the bands highly-anticipated new album on Spartan Records, Prefabylon. ...and a soundtrack continues.
"I feel like the band kind of found US again,” says Hobart, “like a two-decade long slap-back echo, and I’m sitting on the couch playing guitar to it. Similar to a lot of people in the world right now, we’re feeling pretty anxious, and I think these songs come from that.”
Thematically, as a concept, Prefabylon is rooted in lyrics of their new song “Lost Again” — Lost between ghost towns — prefabulous ruins / makeshift intentions to shelter hope’s fools. “I was thinking about people building lives and meaning out of leftovers -- how hope springs eternal, but sometimes it’s ill-fated,” says Hobart. "So the title/concept for me is kind of a double-meaning — it calls into question disposable means and values, but also respects that, really, that’s all humans have ever done -- made lives out of leftovers.”
With all of the the band’s original core components and members still intact (no small feat of itself!) listeners needn’t brace for any departure from the band's signature post-punk DNA. Equal parts early new wave (but without the keys), skate punk, prog, political folk, and 70’s and 80’s radio rock, Giants Chair’s influences can be traced across their now ‘era-transcending’ catalogue. “As a band,” Hobart says “I think we must sound ‘midwestern.' It’s essentially classic, no-frills, rock elements creating a big wall of melody. At turns, the music reminds me of rolling landscape, sky and highways, old factories and farms, distant street lights and radio towers - how these things make me feel. Kind of a lonely, but somehow-hopeful ache while looking west... then the sky shatters. I remember saying at some point early in the music writing that I was hearing AC/DC meets My Bloody Valentine, but I guess we’ve always erred, to some extent, on the side of AC/DC. And maybe more ‘D.C.'- as in District Of Columbia” by now” Hobart laughs.
Fans conquer, with Prefabylon, Giants Chair is simply picking up where they left off — the same guys, the same process, the same gear, and the same feel. After a year of intensive writing and focused pre-production, Prefabylon came to life at Weights and Measures Soundlab in Kansas City, MO. with the help of engineer Duane Trower. When the band was finally ready, drums, bass and foundational guitars were tracked live, lightening-in-a-bottle, in two sessions. Over the weeks that followed, vocals and the remaining guitar elements were meticulously added to the mix. “I’m hearing that we sound like we never stopped playing,” says Hobart. “I’d like to think that’s the timeless wonder of limitation that our minimal talents force us to work with. Guitar, bass, drums, mouth. Tape it all together and turn it way-the-fuck up."
While most listeners will rest easy in the notion of sonic familiarity, those looking for artistic evolution will find it in Prefabylon’s lyrics. "I didn’t want to write or sing or yell about growing old - as frustrating as it can be,” says Hobart, “so, at first, I think I was going down the old safe road of lyrical crypticism - but, ultimately, I found it hard to be passionate in shear abstraction. I really felt like I wanted to be more coherent in all this emotionalism. But, while I don’t want to be middle-aged ranting, I also can’t help that the things I’m most passionate about by now, are things about being a 48 year-old father of 2 sons, married for 21 years to the same patient woman, living in a big, rich, wasteful commercial of a country on an ailing planet -- sometimes wishing I could just get in the van with my rock and roll brothers and head West forever.”
While time passes for all of us, certain feelings and emotions have the ability to remain constant with the proper amount of stoking - and volume. It is through these feelings, these memories, that glimpses of refuge and hope still shine earnestly. The wheels spin, the cycles cycle, and we all tire, but there is enchantment in things, like these records, these sonic timestamps that point us back to who we were at our best — and our worst. And now we have another. While it’s unlikely that we head west forever, through records like Prefabylon, we can certainly keep that forward spirit alive and burning - maybe laughing back, from time-to-time, at our futures forgotten, before nostalgia kills us.
Giants Chair - The Streets EPJune 5, 2020
Giants Chair - PrefabylonDecember 6, 2019