Will the eventual release of This Is Goodbye's debut CD EP, Shapes & Numbers, signal the end of the group or start a new chapter? Only these local pop purveyors know for sure.
Formed in 2004, This Is Goodbye -- the brainchild of former Fireworks Over London frontman Seth Hendricks, Dora drummer Jared Rawlinson, guitarist Brandon Herrington, bassist Landon Moore, and keyboard player Wil Deshazo, all in their mid-20s -- got immediate attention from Young Avenue Sound executives Cameron and Don Mann, who signed the group to their Young Ave. Records label.
Their go-for-baroque pop sound, which blends the power of early U2 melodies with Coldplay singer Chris Martin's soaring, haunting vocals, was a success onstage but failed to translate inside the recording studio.
"We butted heads during the process," Moore confirms. "We liked hearing certain imperfections, but we had to cut take after take. It was incredibly frustrating -- like trying to walk through cement."
"While we learned a whole lot," Rawlinson says, "our initial experience was more like a musical boot camp than something fun. The music was good, but Seth needed someone to encourage him, and without a positive influence, we were unable to finish the record."
Frustrated, This Is Goodbye went on the road. Somewhere between St. Louis and Champaign, Illinois, they broke up.
"We had no product to sell, and all of us were sick of playing the same fucking songs," Moore says. "The fact that the CD never came out was our downfall. It was ridiculous. No band should spend six months on four songs. So we just called it quits."
Moore began backing local player Rusty Lemon, Hendricks joined forces with Chris Faulkner, and Rawlinson opened an advertising agency and asked his girlfriend to marry him. Somewhere along the way, a few members of This Is Goodbye reunited for a short-term project: scoring local indie flick Act One.
Meanwhile, their session tapes sat in storage at Young Avenue Sound, collecting dust, while friends and fans continued to wonder what happened. Then former Memphian Ross Rice entered the picture.
"Ross produced Rusty's album, and I noticed that he had really different ideas about production," Moore recalls. "This Is Goodbye had a gig opening up for Free Sol, and he came to check us out."
"The ideas he presented were so uplifting," Moore adds, an avowed fan of the emotionally charged, musically imperfect production style championed by contemporary success stories like singer-songwriter Ryan Adams.
With the music already in the can, Rice sat down with Hendricks to address the melodies and harmonies on songs like "Revolt" and "The Cliché Life." Engineer Kevin Houston rolled tape, and in two days, Hendricks delivered what had seemed impossible to achieve.
"We were so excited that Ross wanted to come in and work on it. He made all the difference in the world," Rawlinson says. "Everybody in the band was happy that Young Avenue Sound let us come back in and finish it. We were halfway there, and Ross finished it, which was thrilling."
Today, This Is Goodbye faces a unique predicament: Formerly a band without an album, they've finally crossed that hurdle, long after breaking up.
"Right now, we're just trying to pay back Young Avenue Sound for being so generous with us," Moore says. "They could've cut the cord, but they didn't. The reaction to the EP has been amazing. I love those four songs that we recorded, and I have a lot of faith in 'em. Now 'Italy' is actually getting airplay on 93X."
"The best thing about having the CD done," Rawlinson says, "is that we have something to show for all the time we invested. We put a lot of heart into this band, and when things didn't go right, we were all pretty devastated."
"It might be too little too late," Moore says with a shrug. "We should've jumped on Ross and finished the record a year ago. We can only blame ourselves for that.
"We played a show with Mute Math a few weeks back, and we've got another show on May 27th. If it goes great, we'll take it from there."
"Even if Saturday is our last show," Rawlinson says, "now we have something to show to our kids."
This Is Goodbye play a CD-release show for Shapes & Numbers Saturday, May 27th, at the Hi-Tone Café. The United and Chase Pagan open. Showtime is 9 p.m.; admission is $5. For more info on the band, seeMySpace.com/ThisIsGoodbyeMusic.