Memphis has somewhat of a reputation for spawning a host of musicians and bands who eventually become more revered outside of the city limits than within. It's time to add local art-punk mastermind Mike Bibbs to that growing list.
"I was doing an interview for an Australian magazine, and the writer asked me if I had ever received any press at home, saying he'd tried to look up some local reviews and couldn't find any," Bibbs says. "Maybe I haven't pushed as hard locally, but it seems like anytime I go out of town, I get write-ups."
Getting out of Memphis definitely has been a key for Bibbs. Since disbanding his previous band, the Antique Curtains, in February of this year, Bibbs has spent much more time on the road — around 30 shows this year so far — with his new band, Modern Convenience. Essentially a solo project (Bibbs plays all the instruments on recordings and is backed by a rotating cast of side players live), the project has given Bibbs the freedom to tour more than ever before. And so far, the result has been a growing following.
"I actually had to say no to some shows this year," Bibbs says. "I've never been in this position before."
The increased autonomy also has led to more songwriting and recording. Modern Convenience's debut CD, Porcelain Doll, was released in August by Bibbs' own O.K. Stars label, a follow-up EP on the U.K.-based label Savoury Days is due in December, and another full-length is tentatively scheduled for early 2010.
"I've kept it more or less a solo project for a reason," Bibbs says. "I got into recording late last year and wanted to be able to do something with all the songs I was working on. My intention, at first, was not to break up the Curtains, just to have an outlet for all these songs. But then Tony [Lucchesi, Antique Curtains bassist] left town, and it just felt like time to finally do something new."
Another recent under-the-radar local release is the eponymous debut of longtime Pawtuckets and John Paul Keith & the One Four Fives bassist Mark Stuart's new project, dubbed M. Edgar S. & the Slightly Possessed. The project marks the long-awaited unveiling of a collection of instrumental songs Stuart and One Four Fives drummer John Argroves have been kicking around for quite some time.
"I had the riffs in my head, and sometimes at the end of a session that John and I would be working on together, Kevin [Cubbins, producer/engineer and One Four Fives guitarist] would press 'Record' and let us goof off a little bit with these ideas I had," Stuart says.
After taking the basic tracks (rhythm guitar and drums) to four songs from these studio sessions, Stuart finished all overdubs and tracked two additional songs at home on his four-track recorder. The end result is a loose, fun assemblage of danceable rock songs, or "butt-rock" as Stuart and Argroves call it.
"We call it 'butt rock' because it's supposed to make your butt wanna shake," Stuart says. "We're just entertaining ourselves, really — having fun. It's all done with a sense of humor."