Oscillation & Power Chords��

Charleston City Paper | October 13, 2005
It hasn’t even been a full year since local trio Leslie’s first gig and they’ve already established themselves as one of the scene’s most musically ambitious acts. Noted for their melodic sensibilities and twangy tendencies, Leslie land firmly on their feet with a realized sound in their new, self-titled EP to be released in town this week.

“We put this together as a something solid we can tour behind,” says singer-guitarist Sadler Vaden, 19. “We wrote 20 songs and went in with [producer] Jake Sinclair to record the best ones. We didn’t really want to do a full-length album because we’re such a new band. We decided to work on finishing five songs, releasing them, and going ahead from there.”

The young guitarist formed the band in October 2004 with drummer Jonathan Carmen, 22, and bassist Jason Fox, 20. Fox played previously with Vaden in a high school group named The Revolving .45’s. The band name refers to the company that manufactured the classic, refrigerator-sized speaker cabinet with the oscillating horn speaker that warbled the higher frequencies — usually employed as an organ or keyboard amp. “Yeah, I play guitar through one of those things and it sounds pretty weird,” says Vaden.

Born in Charlotte, Vaden spent his childhood in North Myrtle Beach and relocated to Summerville in 2000. In high school there, he got serious about playing guitar and writing rock songs. Two years back, he became a hired “working guitar player” for local alt-rock band The Working Title, filling in on tour. Carman joined the group as a roadie and merch guy.

“We really met out there on the road, even though we attended high school together,” says Vaden. “We kind knew who each other was, but we’d never played together. On tour, we started talking about jamming and forming a band. During breaks in the tour, we started running through song ideas and working out sounds and arrangements. That worked well, so we started looking for a bass player.”

Jason Fox entered the picture and learned the songs. Leslie played their first show opening for Best of All Breathing.

“We opened up for them at Cumberland’s,” says Vaden. “They asked us to play expecting us to be ready. We were ready, but we had to hustle and write a couple more songs. We played for a half-full room and rocked it out.”

Usually, Vaden acts as the band’s main songwriter, works on demos on a four-track machine at home, and presents the tapes and song sketches to the band. Sometimes, the band simply gets together, jams on riffs, and collectively arranges their songs on the spot in the practice room.

Leslie recorded the tunes earlier this year with Sinclair, bassist with local band The Films. He brought in his iBook with an external hard-drive with digital recording program ProTools and handful of Shure microphones.

“We set it up old-style with four condenser mics,” says Vaden. “We used old rugs for isolation, did live tracking and nailed it out, and did the vocals separately. It was mostly recorded live. It was a poor way to record [by today’s standards], but it’s what we sound like live. We don’t want to come across as an overproduced band, so it’s good.”

Those expecting to hear some ’90s-style alt-country twang on the Leslie disc might be surprised by the aggressive guitar work and raspy howl of the EP. Opening tune “Sex Gospel” kicks off with a cocksure attitude, rave-up beat, and nasty guitar sounds. Power-pop gem “Depths of Time” bounces on a Bo Diddley rhythm and features a few of Vaden’s more “T. Rex moments” on the vocal mic. The 16th notes in Carmen’s snare rolls and the jangly guitar and bass interplay of “Empty Space” recalls the masterful stuff of Cheap Trick’s first two albums. “New Wave” is the disc’s most sneering and straightforward “rawk” track. The slower, more anthemic “Sick” closes the collection with the elegance of classic E.L.O. and the soulful edginess of The Faces — a concert-ready number begging for the flame of a Bic lighter held high above the crowd.

“We try to keep to keep it raw and stick to the roots,” says Carman, who rolls with the Clem Burke-style horizontal drum kit setup. “It seems like a lot of bands these days spend too much time in the studio perfecting and polishing. We want people to be able to feel the energy coming through the recording. Listen to The Stones’ Goats Head Soup; there was something happening in the studio when they did that record and if you really listen to it you can feel it, and the little imperfections just make it that much better.”

“We are still developing our sound, just like any new band,” says Vaden. “You know, the last thing on our minds is getting signed. The main thing right now is getting out there on the road and building up a fan base around the country. We haven’t even grown yet, so we don’t want to attack the labels. I think that’s a big problem with a lot of young bands. You know, I believe in music; I just don’t quite believe in the music industry! It’s the truth, man.”

It’s a mature and realistic approach from such young musicians. Some bands may let attention and acclaim like the stuff Leslie has enjoyed this year go to their heads. Luckily, Vaden and the guys keep a positive attitude and a sense of camaraderie about them as they press ahead.

“I think we can play with any band in Charleston,” adds Carman. “No matter what kind of crowd they bring, the people get it. The music we play is the roots for all the many genres we have today. People realize and appreciate that. As far as personalities, we are pretty much the coolest guys ever.”��

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