Green Death, evolution of a sound4/3/2013
Sol Bales, Mark Reinking and Erich Tran have played together for more than a decade. While in its previous band, Only, the trio began to develop its own sound.
“At the end of Only, we (three) were starting to get heavier, and everyone else wanted to go in a different direction,” said Bales. “We just wanted to get heavier and heavier.”
“Only had its heavy moments, it had its lighter moments,” added Tran. “But Green Death is all heavy.”
When the trio made the decision to scrap the sound that Only had established for itself, it thought long and hard about how complete the transformation should be.
“We’d had discussions about whether we wanted to continue on as Only or not,” said Bales. “But I think we were all kind of burned out on it by then.”
Changing a band’s sound is one thing. Scrapping a whole identity, however, is not undertaken lightly. Regardless of whether you’re a nationally-known, touring act or a small, local band, 10 years of fan identity isn’t something you cast aside without recognizing the gamble.
“It’s a big decision for a band to change your identity like that,” explained Tran. “It’s a big thing to be like, ‘OK, we were Coke, now we’re RC.’ It could be a great decision…”
“…It could be New Coke,” Bales interjected.
For the members of Green Death, the gamble’s paid off. Even if the change never rockets them to new heights of popularity, the three core members feel at peace with the decision.
Tran again: “Everyone’s re-energized. It’s a new direction and breaks any past stigma. It’s great, because we’re finally doing what we really want to do. All three of us are on the same page: We wanted to be faster, we want to be heavy, so we’re going to do it.”
“Doing it” started with the band’s first EP, released last Halloween. Its second EP drops this week with a CD-release party at Wooly’s and another is yet to come followed by an LP/DVD combo.
“It was really a conscious decision to kind of bombard people with stuff,” said Bales. “So when we released our first EP on Halloween, we thought, ‘Let’s do a video, too.’ So we released the video and CD on the same day.
“We just decided to do it as big as possible. We hired really good artists to do the artwork, we made the video — we’d never done videos in Only in 10 years — and we decided to just go all-out.”
Bales, Tran and Reinking played all the instruments in studio for the first two EPs, with little thought of ever playing live.
“We had to record these songs,” recalled Reinking. “For ourselves, if not for anybody else.”
But eventually the desire to play live stuck, and the trio went looking for live musicians to round the band out. After a series of auditions and a little luck, it added On a Pale Horse drummer Nick Svoboda, and 17-year-old bassist Parker Willis. Both players eventually impressed the band with their passion and hard work and both were made official members alongside front man Bales, lead guitarist Tran and rhythm guitarist Reinking.
While Green Death marks a dramatic departure for the core members of Only, it’s an evolution that owes a debt to what came before.
“I appreciate those Only years a lot more now,” said Bales. “It taught us what not to do as a band. We learned a lot of lessons.”
“Only was a good rock band, but it lacked focus,” concluded Tran. “With Green Death, there’s a lot more focus.” CV