If you go
• What: A Lot Like Birds, in concert.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13.
• Where: Branx, 320 S.E. Second Ave., Portland.
• Cost: $10 through Brown Paper Tickets, 800-838-3006 or http://brownpapertickets.com.
• Information: http://rotture.com.
When vocalist Kurt Travis looks at his peers in genres such as hardcore/emo or modern progressive rock, he doesn’t always like what he sees and hears.
“I don’t want to be too harsh, but I feel like a lot of bands nowadays, especially in the genres we like to dip in, they’re there for the wrong reasons,” he said in an early January phone interview. “They’re playing music because, ‘oh, we’re going to cater to this audience,’ or ‘oh, this is really hot right now.’ To me that’s a compromise and that’s a cop-out.”
Music should be something you play for yourself, not something you target at other people, he said.
Travis hasn’t come anywhere close to falling into creative stasis — especially within his new band, A Lot Like Birds.
The vocalist, who first gained notoriety fronting the band Dance Gavin Dance, has joined a band that is rapidly evolving. Between A Lot Like Birds’ first CD, “Plan B,” and its recently released second effort, “Conversation Piece,” it almost sounds like a different band.
A Lot Like Birds wasn’t really a full-fledged band when “Plan B” was released. Instead, the debut was the brainchild of guitarist Michael “Mikey” Franzino and bassist Michael Littlefield (known to his bandmates as “Butter”). They recruited a host of other musicians from their hometown of Sacramento, Calif., to play on the album.
“The reason ‘Plan B’ came about is because bands are really, really hard to keep together, and I think they weren’t fed up, so to speak, but they were just like, you know what, we can do this,” Travis said. “We can create something of our own and we’ll wait for the members that come to fill those places. But
first and foremost, we just want to write really good music, the music that we have been trying to do and make this the new cool thing.”
This is indeed what happened, as guitarist Ben Wiacek and vocalist Cory Lockwood (who both played on “Plan B”) were joined by drummer Joe Arrington and Travis to turn A Lot Like Birds into a full-fledged band.
From the start, it was apparent that the music on the second album was going to be considerably different from “Plan B.”
Where the debut was largely instrumental, the next batch of songs was going to be much more centered around the vocals of Travis (who primarily does the sung vocal parts) and Lockwood (the screamer) — although those roles occasionally reverse on some songs.
The sonic textures of the first album, with music primarily written by Franzino, are also very different from what the full-fledged group created on “Conversation Piece.”
“The drums are all programmed drums, and they’re just crazy. They’re all over the place,” Travis said. “And I feel like Mikey wanted to do that on purpose and kind of have this over-the-top, extremely intricate, almost unhuman sound to the drums and to everything else.”
By contrast, “Conversation Piece” was written with the idea of being able to reproduce the songs during a live performance — with Arrington, a rock-solid drummer, handling the vast majority of the rhythms.
Still, there was a little technology involved in creating the songs on “Conversation Piece” — which blend the chaotic and harsh elements of hardcore (complete with screamed vocals) with more free-form instrumental parts of modern progressive rock. And that has come into play as the band begins its first full-fledged tour in support of “Conversation Piece.”
“Mikey is really, really creative with putting in sound clips,” Travis said. “We’ve also got some really good backing tracks, which I usually don’t like to use. … I think it sounds really good. It sounds really tasteful, and it’s not too over the top.”
With the album finished, the group is ready to hit the road.
“We want these tours to be really, really professional, as professional as we possibly can,” he said “I think in the venues we’re going to play, it’s going to sound good.”