Keep on Truckin'

Ready to hit the road, new band Truck tries to avoid assembly-line rock.

The members of Truck aren't afraid to throw a gimmick or two into the mix at their live shows. They gave out free Pop Tarts (toasted to order, no less) at a recent Che's Lounge gig and had a guest "professor" of sorts on stage at their Club Congress show in May eating weevils (ostensibly fake) during their crowd-pleasing song titled, perhaps not surprisingly, "Weevil."

These little tidbits reveal a band trying hard to entertain (something possibly lacking a bit in many local bands), but the quality of the songwriting is what is quickly earning Truck a following here in Tucson.

Jesse Stanley, the group's songwriter, guitarist and lead singer, has a gift for writing memorable vocal melodies delivered effectively through his raspy, on-target voice. Stated simply, he is a talented songwriter and the band as a whole, to its credit, recognizes this strength.

"The band is focused on the songwriting format," comments Jim Howell, the band's drummer and backing vocalist. "[We] stick to the singular idea of playing for the songs."

What is immediately apparent when talking to Truck is that the players genuinely like each other and respect each other as musicians. This has led to a supportive rehearsal environment that frees up Stanley's creative process.

"Our getting along so well makes it so that you're comfortable to then come up with songs, good or bad," Stanley observes. "Without that comfort level, you don't bring songs in."

The whole band respects that process and tries to create individual parts that make sense for the song rather than trying to demonstrate their chops. They aren't likely to bust out with any guitar solo histrionics, and Howell combines with bassist Rebecca Bleich to form a tight, not-too-busy rhythm section.

The band's beginnings lie in Stanley and Howell's previous band, Lord Primate. While some of the funk influences (and the songs themselves) have carried over from those days, the new songwriting has a more pop/rasp, hook-laden rock feel with the significant addition of beautiful, melodic counterpoint supplied by the cello of Jesse's little sister, Leah Stanley.

"There's been a lot of melodies floating around; they just naturally fell into the cello," states Howell. These melodic additions are part of what has helped Truck to stand out in the local scene. Songs such as the vaguely familiar "Suicide" and the hook-laden "Turn You Out" offer up somewhat bleak lyrical content ("Thought it was to get over my worries / Now I know that I'm in it for the money / Hey now, it's over my head / So low, you should have been there") delivered with nice dynamics, infectious rhythms and a certain drama that only a stringed instrument can provide.

The band's sound can vary quite a bit from song to song. But as Bleich comments, "[We] like not having a real set direction for our sound." Throughout the diversity, however, they always manage to sound like Truck. Stanley's distinctive voice and riff-oriented songwriting plus the tight hooks present in every song give them something identifiable that persists throughout the stylistic changes.

With the group more or less still in its infancy--the present lineup has only been in place since February--Truck has yet to put out any recordings. It is currently completing a demo/EP that will be made available at future shows (starting with a CD release party to be named later). The songs chosen for this recording are some of the band's newest, reflecting the diversity of its sound and Stanley's maturing skills as a songwriter.

In addition to the aforementioned "Suicide" and "Turn You Out," the tracks will also include "Come On Baby," which betrays the funk influence so prevalent in Lord Primate. Then there's "Rake," whose syncopated rhythms and big, suck-you-in pop hooks are complemented by well-constructed lyrics that contain an extended gardening metaphor from the perspective of the garden itself. All of the songs will have contributions from Leah Stanley on the cello.

Once finished with the recording, immediate aspirations will take Truck along the well-worn path to Phoenix and Flagstaff, plus bigger and better shows here in Tucson. Beyond that, the future is uncertain but promising. Although taken somewhat off guard by the immediate positive response it has been receiving, Truck plans to make the best of it while the members continue to improve and, hopefully, continue to enjoy themselves.

"We still feel we're in the development process," observes Howell. "[Having] people into where we're at right now is great."

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