July 23, 2009
Low Victor Echo: When it Finaly All Comes Together
Words and photo by Brian Tucker
At the end of a tour driving back to Wilmington, N.C., last summer Stephen Sellers felt overwhelmed with the question of why he was returning at all. He had no reason to stick around – no job, no girlfriend and no band to speak of.
“I’m like, what is bringing me back to North Carolina? I decided when I came back I’d hang for a little bit and split. I had been coming over to hang out at Michael Swart’s for a year. I told him I didn’t have a band and he said let’s play some.”
Low Victor Echo has seen several incarnations over the years as a band outside Sellers’ solo work. It’s been through membership changes and sound morphing, sometimes including slide guitar or a cello and existing as both a three piece and five piece. But currently it’s firing on all cylinders, turning into the band Sellers always envisioned. They are currently working on their new album, Touching Down, and the songs they’re recording are complex, thick, oversized and utterly dynamic. The music bears shades equal to a massive crayon box of colors, reaching far into some of the ideas Syd Barrett played with.
“Everybody in the room has played in bands,” Sellers says. “Nobody has to get over this learning curve. It’s really coming together in a way that’s shocking to me.”
Each in the group has their own experience: Jeremy Matthews on bass (Pacer, The Jackson Hives), Jeff Sanchez on drums (a DJ for a Mexican station), Lincoln Morris on guitar (Lamont Skylark) and Michael Swart on guitar (Jackson Hives, owner of Swart Amplifiers).
Sellers says that “Touching Down,” the longest and most involved song of the album, is the gem on the CD. “The way it’s progressing now, it may be the finest piece of music I’ve ever written and had people record,” Sellers says. “I’m listening to it out in the sticks. There are moments when I’m listening ... it just sounds killer. I think some of that has to do with Michael’s style, Michael’s amps.”
Sellers moved to Wilmington in 2005. He began writing and recording music in an old house downtown, which served as both a catharsis and a means to start a new life. He churned out several albums, playing most of the instruments, writing most of the lyrics and inviting guest singers. “I was cranking out a full length CD every six months,” he says. “That stopped when we put this together. I still continued to write. Once this group seemed to be gelling I told everybody we’re gonna record,” Sellers says. “I had about 20 songs that hadn’t been released and didn’t want to wait. I thought it would be a good way to keep everybody motivated.”
Last fall the band played at a W.E. Fest Fridays show, debuting the band after only two rehearsals, sounding like a fiery mind-meld of Jane’s Addiction and Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen touring spectacle sans back-up singers. The band has changed slightly since, with Michael switching from bass to guitar and Matthews coming in on bass.
Guitarist Lincoln Morris brings a surprising ambience to the group’s charged and guttural sound, unearthing something within himself when he plays, feeling out riffs versus merely unleashing them. The band’s sound is akin to a southern Jane’s Addiction, blending altcountry and thunderous rock ‘n’ roll.
Sellers’ voice is sharp and rusty. It can turn on a dime, moving from graceful melodies to a roar as if driving out a private fire. He plays amplified acoustic guitar, an aged and battered instrument tucked securely under his arm. Sellers is at home onstage, playing as if he were telling stories to strangers in his living room. This air of comfort gives a sense of truth and love behind the beauty and ferociousness of tracks like “I Hear You Now,” “Butterflies” and “The Beat of the Drum.”
“The songs that he writes actually have meaning. They’re like beautiful poetry,” Michael explains. “They’re not over complicated, but done in some sort of genius way. They’re very smart, his lyrics are crazy good. On top of that is his phrasing. He’s a natural entertainer. He’s got it.”
LISTEN AT: www.myspace.com/lowvictorecho