Bad Liquor Pond Marries Shoegaze To Propulsive Rock
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You heard it here first, folks: Dave Gibson for President, 2012. Everyone's weary of election-zone mainstream media equivocations, but Gibson is the kind of guy you'd like to kill a six-pack with: the humble, easygoing, and salt-of-the-earth type. Talking on his cell phone en route to band practice in south Baltimore a few days before Christmas, he sincerely makes a reporter's queries his priority: "I'm parking my car now, so I can give you my undivided attention."
Gibson is the singer, guitarist, lyricist, and sometime-jaw harpist for Bad Liquor Pond, a Baltimore-area quartet that has been rolling out one psychedelic-rock shag-rug after another and playing in and around town--check out its shows on archive.org--since its 2004 formation. Its 2007 album Year of the Clam and last year's Radiant Transmission (MT6 Records) are clearly the work of musicians who've absorbed more than a few ounces of top-side and outsider rock; jog-lite repetition is their weapon of choice, a gentle cycling that acts as a treadmill path for Gibson's mellow drawwwwwwwwlings about matters commonplace and outright implausible. Listen close, and you'll be able to connect all kinds of reference-point dots: Green-era R.E.M., shoegaze, the Beatles, acid folk, even Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Gibson, 29, and his bandmates grew up in Woodbine, a town that straddles the Patapsco River and Howard and Carroll counties. Bad Liquor Pond--which conjures up the unappetizing image of a puked-up puddle of whiskey and half-digested food--is named after a pond there. "It just sounded ridiculous to us," Gibson remembers. "We took it as a name as a joke, not even thinking about it, and it stuck."
Early on, the group was little more than a hobby for original members Gibson, bassist Bobby Parrish, and drummer Poridge Blackwell. The trio poured its assorted influences--Bob Dylan, Donovan, 13th Floor Elevators, "all the obvious ones"--into deceptively constructed tunes that sucker the ear into thinking nothing much is happening before piling on the feedback, turning up the volume, and stirring in more sonic elements. "We're very much into ragas, and that type of stuff," Gibson says. "The first record was much more world music-oriented, with harmoniums, sitars, stuff like that."
That's putting it mildly. Clam begins deceptively with the harmonica squawk, Jesus talk, and piped-in feedback of "Apparitions" and the Dead Meadow-lite of "Molten Angel," but it isn't long before the going gets trippy. Coated with harmonium gel, interspersed with glowering displays of guitar-champ might, and featuring portentous pondering like "The panther, he raises a curious eye/As the clouds cloak the moon in the dark winter sky," the lysergic "Panther's Den" brings to mind late-'70s/early-'80s Genesis. "The Beginning Meets the End" broils from noodle-y sleepwalking into a grinding sitar inferno, while the disorienting "Honeycomb" makes for a convincing My Bloody Valentine salute.
Clam was released to little apparent notice. Shortly thereafter, Parrish called it a day. "A band takes up a bit of time, takes a commitment," Gibson says. "Before it was a hobby, and now it's picked up a bit of steam. [Parrish] wasn't into it. So he moved on, but we're still friends. Everything remains copacetic."
That isn't just conciliatory chatter: Parrish mastered and guested on Transmission, which found Blackwell picking up bass duties and new recruits Melvis Fargas (rhythm guitar) and Paul Fuller (drums) coming aboard. The album, which wades into more brackish waters, is simultaneously druggier and more ominous. The stumbling Xanax glow and the rose-colored haze of Clam are shaded with a sneaky sense of creeping gloom, as if a bad acid trip could be just around any corner or behind the next door.
This shift to Spacemen 3 influences appears to be returning dividends for Bad Liquor Pond, however minor. "We're finally getting internet and print record reviews," Gibson marvels. "We didn't get too much of a response when Clam was released. It's been a slow gain of momentum. It's nice to have reviews online and to get credit for putting in all the work. It's definitely been modest success--but we're pleased with modest success."
Lyrically, Bad Liquor Pond is all Gibson. His authorial style--open-ended, mystical, and a bit baffling--resembles those of some fellow rock locals: Arbouretum's Dave Heumann and the Agrarians' Matt Perzinski. Whether it's stoned profundity or spiritualist blather depends on who you ask, but personal inference--or maybe some really good acid--is undeniably key to unlocking Gibson chestnuts. Take for instance, "Look through the doorway/ Give you the answer/ The answer's misleading to all that you thought it would be/ Is this happening?/ You hope it's not happening" from Clam's "Emperor."
Bad Liquor Pond's songwriting, however is a collaborative effort. "We write the songs together," Gibson says. "Generally one of us will have a song idea and bring it to band practice, and we'll flush it out. It's a pretty democratic deal--everybody has input."
While Bad Liquor Pond can no longer be considered a hobby, its members stay busy. Fargas is working on a solo record, while Gibson busies himself with a pair of extracurricular musical activities: "an electronic solo side project" called Doctor Tuborg that's "based around synths" and the Pulpit, a harpsichord-centered venture with fellow MT6 artist Bo Lee Da. There are also, of course, the day jobs indispensable for musicians lacking national profiles and headlining festival slots. Gibson keeps body and soul together as a landscape designer, Fuller, 28, has what Gibson calls "some kind of desk job," and Blackwell, 30, and Fargas, 29, are electricians.
"We try to do shorter tours--we can't really afford to do longer tours," Gibson says. "We keep it to week-long spurts."
More exciting for Bad Liquor Pond, collectively, is its forthcoming release: a 7-inch vinyl single, its first. The reproductive and portable conveniences of aluminum--Clam and Transmission are only available in compact disc form--don't reflect the band's favorite format. "We've always wanted to have something on vinyl," Gibson says. "Right now we're shooting for a March or April release. We're definitely gonna try to get to Philly and NYC to do a little support run for the 7-inch.
"I like the product--the feel of having a big fat record in your hands," he continues. "I don't think any of us have ever paid money to download a record on iTunes. There's a whole different sound texture, hearing something on vinyl."