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Travis Wyrick at Steve Wildsmith

Steve Wildsmith

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Big things in the works for local rockers Divided We Stand

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dividedwestandDivided We Stand

A couple of weeks ago, rock band Hoobastank played a $5 show at The Valarium in Knoxville, and while many of those in attendance showed up to see the headliners, there’s little doubt they got rocked proper by opening act Divided We Stand.

“We’re a scene band, so we can bring it heavy or bring it for the ladies, and we did a little bit of both there,” joked DWS drummer Mike Russell, a Blount County native and Heritage High graduate. “We brought sexy back.”

Next Thursday, Oct. 4, Divided We Stand will return to The Valarium, this time on a bill with Gone in April, Shallowpoint, Johnny Newman and Nuclear Symphony. It’s a 7 p.m. show, and tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. For his band — which includes members Phil Zimny, Trevor Tucker, Randy Krouse and Joe Turner — to get to play the 1,000-person club twice in less than a month’s time is a good sign.

“We’ve wanted to establish ourselves with that venue for a while,” Russell said. “For our fans, we want to obviously start playing in bigger venues.”

Currently, the band is working on an album with noted local producer Travis Wyrick, formerly of Knoxville rock act Sage and the guy who helped bands like Jag Star, 10 Years, Pillar and Disciple define their sounds at his Lakeside Studios. So far, Russell said, the sessions have been more productive than expected.

“I don’t know if anyone can light a fire under your ass more than Travis,” Russell said. “I think Joe Satriani could go into his studio and leave with question marks. He knows how to get the best out of you, and when this record drops, it’s gonna blow some minds.”

Working with Wyrick and playing The Valarium has set the boys’ fields of ambitions burning, Russell said. The guys pride themselves on having a loyal local following, but they’re also interested in branching out beyond East Tennessee. It’s going to take a great deal of hard work, but he feels they’re up to the task.

“We can’t get complacent; on a small scale, we can accomplish big things, but there’s so much out there that’s bigger,” he said. “It’s a matter of work ethic, as far as how far you want to take it. We’re starting to take small trips — we’re playing Oct. 6 at Capone’s (in Johnson City), but there’s so much more than just playing music that’s involved behind the scenes. And business-wise, we’re trying to get all that stuff lined up.

“I think when we do that, it’s going to be great. You’ve got to walk before you run, and we’ve seen so many people try to take those big steps and fall flat on their faces. We’re trying to get a solid foundation as far as travel arrangements and equipment go. People around here may see a little bit less of us in the next year while we get all of these things together, but when we do put on a show, it’s gonna be big and be a good experience.”

Written by wildsmith

September 28th, 2012 at 10:33 am

Skytown Riot gears up for big changes

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Almost a year after changing names and directions, the members of Skytown Riot are finally satisfied with the progress they’re making.

That’s saying a lot — after all, these guys aren’t easy to please. After scrapping their old project — Bellfield — the same members reformed earlier this year under a new moniker and started working on harder material. A planned EP, however, didn’t meet their exacting quality control standards, so they went back to the drawing board.

Now, guitarist Rob Morrow told The Daily Times this week, it feels like Skytown Riot is ready to take the next step.

“Initially, there was a lot of changes that we underwent,” he said. “Stylistically, we were approaching the writing process entirely differently, and we ended up writing a whole new body of material. But we weren’t too concerned with starting over, because we weren’t happy with the sound or the direction of the material that we had as Bellfield. And it’s been worth it. Within a year as Skytown Riot, we’ve played three shows that have been bigger than any of our shows as Bellfield.”

They look to add to that streak on Friday, when Skytown Riot opens up for metal outfit Finger Eleven at The Valarium in Knoxville. It’s the latest stop on a growing quest to spread the word about the band’s new material, Morrow said — and to continue to win over fans of the old project as well as add new ones.

The band that started out as Bellfield began when Morrow and bandmate Van Gallik lived near one another as kids, along with a mutual friend who died in an auto accident after high school. At his funeral, Gallik and Morrow re-connected and got together to jam. The chemistry was immediate, and Bellfield was born. Taking a love of bands like O.A.R., the Dave Matthews Band and Will Hoge, as well as a penchant for jazz picked up during his days as a trumpet player in high school, Gallik decided to learn everything he could from Morrow, who was already experienced at writing songs and poetry.

In the beginning, the band’s sound was all over the board; a little more than two years ago, however, drummer Jimi Touché was brought on board, and Morrow and Gallik were ready to start playing out and about more. They trimmed the lineup even further — finally deciding on the classic four-piece, and in the fall of 2009, the rented The Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville and recorded a live album.

It should have been a time of exuberance, but something felt flat. Ultimately, Morrow said, none of the members felt any sort of allegiance to the material — and that led to some a rocky place where they could just as easily have lost allegiance to one another.

But they regrouped, recording a four-song EP — “Highway Nightmare” — that felt like a disappointing first effort as Skytown Riot, Morrow said.

“When we finished it, it felt like, sonically, it wasn’t what we needed it to be for the direction and style we were headed,” Morrow said. “We released it, but we haven’t really pushed it at all.”

Over the past several months, the guys threw their hats in the ring for a battle of the bands competition at the West Knoxville dance club Cotton Eyed Joe, sponsored by local hard rock radio station WNFZ-FM, 94.3 The X. Out of 12 bands competing for studio time with fabled local producer Travis Wyrick, Skytown Riot took home the brass ring.

“We did some tracks with Travis that are much more representative of what we’re going for, and we’ve gotten a lot more play on 94.3,” Morrow said. “We’ve recorded a few more songs at (local studio) The Sound Lair, and we’ve been playing a lot of shows at The Valarium.”

Some of those shows have been particularly high profile — opening for such bands as Halestorm, Filter, 10 Years and Smashing Pumpkins. The guys are currently working with Chris Harris, the former tour manager and film editor for local-boys-gone-major-label 10 Years, who’s shooting a video for one of the songs the band recorded with Wyrick. The band plans to coordinate the filming/premiere with the release of a self-titled EP at the beginning of the year, and Skytown Riot will hopefully hit the road to expand its fanbase outside of East Tennessee, he added.

“The new EP is much more direct and concise, and ultimately a much more successful and marketable work,” he said. “We’re committed to writing material that’s a little edgier, heavier and more purposeful lyrically. For us, it’s just kind of one of those things – if we’re going to change it, we’re gonna go all the way with it.”

FREE MUSIC! Download “Thunda,” by Skytown Riot: Right-click here (choose “Save Link As” or “Save Target As”)
Skytown Riot online: Click here
Watch the video for “Thunda”: Click here