"I guess you could say I got sick of music," says Jason Paxton, sitting behind a computer keyboard in the converted attic/practice space of his Midtown home. Precocious and inventive, Paxton, who fronted the Satyrs, one of the most popular Memphis bands of the 1990s, surprised area music fans when he suddenly dropped out of the music scene in 2002.
A vibraphone dominates the narrow room, sparsely decorated with posters for Metallica and John Coltrane.
"No, wait. I wasn't sick of it," Paxton corrects himself, worrying, like the perfectionist he is, that everything he's saying is wrong. "I was sick of playing all that emotional shit. I guess you could say that I used music as a form of therapy during my adolescence. And when I didn't need that kind of therapy anymore I got out. Besides, I didn't want to spend the rest of my life flipping burgers at Hatley's Garage."
Paxton doesn't flip burgers anymore. He traded his spatula for a job taking X-rays at the Med. But whether he needed the therapy or not, he couldn't stay away from making music for long, and on March 19th, at the Hi-Tone Café, Paxton's new band, Glorie, celebrates the release of its first album, an eponymously titled collection of brooding, gorgeously recorded instrumentals.
"The Satyrs were my favorite local band. I went to every show," says Jonathan Kirkscey, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra musician who plays strings for Glorie and who co-wrote "Lazy Day," a quiet but edgy lacing of vibes, strings, and guitar.
"This guy is a badass," Paxton says of Kirkscey, who repays the compliment, beginning a loop of mutual admiration that goes on for some time before returning to the subject at hand, which is what they intend to do with a record that isn't easily categorized.
"It's going to be categorized as post-rock," Paxton grumbles, sounding a little disappointed. "There's nothing wrong with that, but a lot of post-rock bands tend to make ambient music. My songs are moody and introspective, but they have very prominent melodies. There are tons of hooks and some big rock moments."
One such "big rock" moment comes at the end of "Gunshot City," a song inspired by an especially busy day at the Med when Paxton encountered one gunshot wound after another. The slow-burning number becomes increasingly tense as distorted guitar collides with Paxton's vibes and drums hammer out the asymmetrical rhythm of a drive-by shooting.
"Jason wrote all these songs before Glorie was a band," Kirkscey says. "He had a clear vision for what he wanted. There was a lot of rehearsal. And a lot of re-recordings. That's why it turned out so well."
"It's just me walking around the hospital making up melodies in my head," Paxton answers back, shying away from praise and wondering how crazy he made his bandmates, who include Robert Brimhall on guitar, Jeff Hulett on bass, and Andrew Saunders on drums.
While both Paxton and Kirkscey think it would be great if somebody decided to use their music in a film, they bristle when Glorie is described as "soundtrack music."
"When I think of soundtrack music, I think of something that's made to be in the background," Paxton says. "I don't think of this as being background music at all."
Paxton wrote sharp, introspective lyrics for the Satyrs, but he's always had an affinity for instrumental music. In fact, the Satyrs' only album closed with "A Tribute to the Great Joseph Carey Merrick," a potent micro-sonata that predicts a move toward more classically arranged work.
"Instrumental music is universal," Paxton explains. "We've already got fans linking to us in Taiwan, Russia, France, Poland, Belarus, and Sweden."
Paxton, who will soon become a first-time father, also attributes his band's foreign attention to his decision to distribute his music for free via Internet download at bandcamp.com.
"The biggest audience for this kind of music is outside of Memphis, and we're not able to do a big promotional tour," he says. "When you put this much time and money into a recording, you want people to hear it, and 20 times more people will hear it if it's free."
Copies of the CD, with cover art by primo painter Johnny Taylor, will be given away free with paid admission to the Hi-Tone release party.
With Vending Machine and 3D Acid Glasses
Hi-Tone Café, Saturday, March 19th
Doors open at 9 p.m.; admission $8