Return Engagement 

The Coach and Four are back with a new record and a new plan.

After a six-month hiatus, local rockers the Coach and Four are back. The band, which formed in 2002 and released a fine debut album, Unlimited Symmetry, on the Makeshift label in 2004, put things on hold last March when singer/guitarist Brad Stanfill went on a personal sabbatical to Hawaii.

According to Luke White, who shares songwriting and guitar duties with Stanfill, the band had always planned to push forward and began recording their second record, the seven-song, 27-minute The Great Escape, in the days before Stanfill's departure.

"We did basic tracking and Brad's parts before he left. He had his plane ticket and was on a deadline," White says. "The plan was to finish the record and, when we got done, Brad would come back [and the band would move forward]."

Unfortunately for White and his bandmates, an unexpected delay occurred when the band's studio, Unclaimed Recordings, was forced to move.

"Right after [Brad] left, Unclaimed moved. I had to wait four months to get into the studio to finish my stuff," White says.

But now the record is done, and the Coach and Four will celebrate their rebirth this weekend with a record-release party at Young Avenue Deli.

When the band -- which included Daniel Farris on drums, Tony Dixon on bass, and J.D. Lovelace on keyboards -- emerged on the local rock scene a few years ago, they were a refreshing change of pace, their crisp, bracing, yet poppy guitar sound setting them apart from other local bands.

"We'd heard a lot of instrumental bands like Tristeza that would play these instrumentals that seemed boring to me," White says of his band's origins. "The songs didn't seem like they went anywhere. We wrote our instrumentals as if they were pop songs. There had to be a melody there, and they were about three minutes long -- just catchy, instrumental songs. On the first record, there were four songs Brad sang on, four I sang on, and four instrumentals. It had a good balance to it, and that's become our sound, really."

The Great Escape opens like old times, with Stanfill's "Hello Destroyer," White's "Hearts & Arrows" (re-recorded after appearing on the Makeshift #4 sampler earlier this year), and the instrumental "Sleep Skirt" picking up where Unlimited Symmetry left off.

But the band also pushes in some new directions. The instrumental "HH" has a bluesy, Southern-rock feel. Another departure is White's "Girl Arms Redux," a remixed version of a techno-soul song that also appeared on Makeshift #4.

"I really had a good time doing that song," White says of "Girl Arms," with its programmed beats and falsetto soul undercurrents. "I bought a drum machine and was trying to figure out how to use it and was just messing around with it. I think I'd been listening to Prince or something. I got to try some stuff I hadn't done before, like layering vocals."

White credits his participation in the "supergroup" cover band the Pirates for encouraging him to try new things musically:

"In the Pirates, I learned a whole lot playing different kinds of music. It was the first band I'd ever been in where we played for three hours. We played country and soul music and kinds of music that really lend themselves to singing. The Coach and Four was the first band I'd ever sung in, so it was nice to have a way to practice that.

Though Unlimited Symmetry did well, selling through its initial run of 1,000 discs and getting picked up for shows on both XM and Sirius satellite radio, White thinks the band is in much better position to promote The Great Escape.

"We're looking forward to playing shows and doing the kind of support we didn't get to do with the other record," White says.

With Robertson replacing Dixon on bass, the band recently returned from a two-week tour and hopes to head out again after their local release show.

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