In a sabbatical of silence in the desert, Sam Sanford of Sound Team had time to ponder. "I was at a point in my life where I wanted to find something to do.... I didn't want to work in restaurants my whole life. I had been an assistant teacher, but I didn't like the school I was at, and I felt like my creative energy was going to waste. That's how I ended up on the retreat."
After going on the journey, where participants would speak to each other only for a few minutes on Sundays, Sanford returned home to find a note from Bill Baird on his door saying he wanted Sam to join the band. Following several national tours, a handful of DIY releases, and an ever-larger lexicon of great songs, Sound Team finds itself en route to Miami, having recently signed a contract with Capitol Records and a new album, Movie Monster, due June 6.
"Bill had been doing four-track recording since around age twelve," guitarist and Reed College graduate Sanford recalls. "I had known Bill from high school. He was going to Portland and he needed somewhere to crash, and they crashed with me."
Sound Team is heavily influenced by both early Americana and German keyboard rock, sounding at once folksy and futuristic. "I would have to say Brian Eno, Doc Watson, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, the Harry Smith anthology. Then you have to include the Beatles and the Velvet Underground ... German stuff Neu, Kraftwerk, Can," reflects Sanford. The six-piece ensemble features Gabe Pearlman on keyboards, Michael Baird on mini-Moog, his brother Bill on bass, Sanford on guitar, Jordan Johns on drums, and singer Matt Oliver, who alternates between guitar and electric piano.
Over the past seven years, the band constructed a studio inside an old record-pressing plant in east Austin, Texas, and released two cassette-only projects as well as some vinyl and numerous CDs. The members also became engrossed with hand-printed designs. "I started out doing cut paper designs and then made color copies of them for posters for shows. And then I started doing block-printing for the posters, and then Gabe finally convinced me to do screen-printing," relates Sanford. Despite signing with Capitol in 2005, Sound Team has been able to maintain creative control and claims the transition to a corporate environment has been seamless.
The collective approach has yielded a fine bunch of ridiculously hooky, perfectly orchestrated compositions rife with antiquated analog delay, space echo, and all manner of Eno-influenced errata. The music is textured, layered, and full of melody. To top it off, this band gives good show too: Its triumphant hometown set at the recent South by Southwest music festival was a conference highlight.
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