Since its genesis as an informal coalition of players helping out singer-songwriter John Schneider at gigs, Madison progressive rock band Baghdad Scuba Review has grown into a consistent presence in the scene. By now, local music followers have probably just about gotten used to the group's unusual name -- "all the good ones were taken so we just made something up," says bassist Erik Riedasch via email -- which debuted for a New Year's show in 2005, shortly after a stable lineup coalesced, drawing musicians from Groovulous Glove, Minglewood, Northern Pines Band, The Green Situation and Runga Kutta.
Baghdad Scuba Review won't be popping up on the calendars of local clubs very often over the next year, as the group has announced that its upcoming performance this Friday will be its last for a while. Don't panic, fans; it's just a bit of a breather from a hectic schedule, and plans are in the works for more music in the future.
Holding down day jobs and finding time for family and friends while simultaneously maintaining forward progress with a band can be tough, a fact summed up well by drummer Justin Gerstner in a press release about Saturday's show: "When you are playing four to six shows a month, practicing for live shows, working a full time job, and having a life there is just no time to write and record new music."
A big part of Baghdad Scuba Review's break from playing live will be to free up more time for writing its third album, and the band has figured out a way to work on creating new music whenever inspiration hits, whether the entire group can convene or not.
"We plan to write and share ideas online with the ability to add parts to songs-in-progress at our homes," says Riedasch. "In addition, we're going to outfit [keyboardist/singer] Jason [Krueger]'s basement with ProTools and other recording equipment so we can make the next album on our own at our own pace. Breathe was done by local recording engineer Mark Weber, and we'll probably work with him again to some degree (mixing, mastering), but we want to have the space to record whenever we want -- at the drop of a hat, not have to schedule time in a studio, pay by the hour, and conform to all that. We want to basically write our next album in our own studio. Rob [Bloch, percussion] is an experienced recording/sound tech. We are very capable of doing most of it ourselves."
The band's second album, Breathe, was released in May, following 2007's Testing the Waters. With a name like Baghdad Scuba Review, it's no surprise that the group puts the "progressive" in its rock. The messages on Breathe are more often about personal responsibility in living one's life rather than the occasionally more overtly political stance of the group's debut disc -- there are no songs with titles like "GWIII" this time around. While the album gives listeners something to think about, the messages are balanced with frothier songs such as the flirtatious "Miss B. Havin" and the fishing ode "Red Sky." Musically, the group combines its influences, from the easygoing lope of the Grateful Dead to Prince dance grooves, just to name a couple, into a unique blend of its own.
"Ooh Ahh" is one of Baghdad Scuba Review's gentlest numbers, befitting its lullaby-worthy title. The song's tight vocal harmonies and dueling guitar lines are reminiscent of Pink Floyd's quieter work in the early 1970s, but without the chilly edge. The somnolent mood turns out to be a perfect reflection of the song's genesis; the band reports that "Ooh Aah" was inspired by the feeling of drifting in and out of sleep, in this case to the sounds of an all-night jam session at a music festival with overnight camping.
Listen to an MP3 of "Ooh Aah" in the related files at right. More music by Baghdad Scuba Review is available on its MySpace page. The band's final show of 2010 is at the Harmony Bar on Friday, December 10. While the band plans to play mostly original music, fans can vote online on a list of potential cover songs for the show.
Looking ahead, fans can catch Baghdad Scuba Review as part of the annual "Night of the Dead" Halloween show at the Barrymore Theatre. The band's members can also be seen playing in various other combos, including side project Electric Spanking. This will debut a new lineup soon, explains Riedasch, who has stepped down from playing and will be working with the it on the promotion/booking end.
Additionally, Riedasch's former band Groovulous Glove has plans for a few reunion shows coming up; guitarist Chad Thompson can be heard in the band Crimson Vim, and John Schneider plans to play some informal acoustic shows with a rotating cast of players.
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