After spending most of 2011 in the studio and the first half of 2012 playing hometown shows to a steadily growing local audience, The Torn ACLs now turn their attention outward. On this trip, the energetic four-piece will be supporting their latest record, Make A Break, Make A Move.
Core members, William Cremin (singer/songwriter) and Miles Ranisavljevic (bassist), began playing music together in 2004. Their shared enthusiasm for clear-eyed, carefully-crafted pop music has sustained them through several lineup changes and carried The Torn ACLs into their eighth year as a band. They have performed live on KEXP; shared stages with bands such as Telekinesis, The Curious Mystery, and The Head & The Heart; and played almost every club in Seattle in the process. Jason Tabert (drummer) and Tim McClanahan (multi-instrumentalist) round out the current lineup.
On Make A Break, Make A Move, the ACLs bring the stark rhythms and cascading melodies of their earlier work (2008's Cedar-by-the-sea EP and 2010's Sympathy For Criminals EP) into sharp focus with a newly unified direction. As the title suggests, these songs lean heavily on forward momentum and physical energy. Josh Lovseth of Sound On The Sound heralded the group as "a band in their element" after a recent show, and The Stranger's Megan Seling called Make A Break, Make A Move "the perfect sonic companion."
Upon returning home, The Torn ACLs will release their new EP, Real Risks, at the Sunset Tavern on July 21st.
Tour: July 13-21
Where: Olympia, WA; Eugene, OR; Portland, OR; Sacramento, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Fresno, CA; San Francisco, CA; Portland, OR (again); & Seattle, WA
Written by William Cremin
Arts Genotype Creator Supporter - Literary Arts/Music
Lives in Seattle, Washington, United States
Speaks Has not set any languages
Working On: music!
"Anything you want, baby. It is all good."
We are currently staying at Tim's childhood home in Lacey. The first show of the tour was cancelled with exactly 24 hours notice, resulting in a frantic, late-night email campaign to secure a place to play. We appealed to bars, clubs, and DIY spaces in both Olympia and Tacoma, knowing that these messages were unlikely to land in time to do us any good, and even if they did, they still had to contend with the infinitesimal chances of finding any last-minute openings.
Shockingly, there was a two-band bill at Le Voyeur in Olympia, and one of the bands gave us a tentative green light to jump on. We were still awaiting confirmation from the booker, so we drove down with some uncertainty about whether we had a show or not. Arriving to an impressive electrical storm that continued through the night, we sought refuge from the intermittent downpours in a very friendly Jewish deli. Miles bought some foreign confectionary items to bring back home and wondered how to keep them from melting once we get to California. The friendly deli worker gave us 5 free knishes.
Tim received an email response from Le Voyeur's booker, validating the stop at our state capitol and resonating like so many thunderclaps heard overhead: "Anything you want, baby. It is all good." And it was! We took the stage around 12:30am, only pausing to facilitate an impromptu tamale transaction. (Mid set, a woman breezed into the room and proclaimed that she had tamales for sale. We politely declined, fearing the effects of a potentially spicy treat on our primed and limber vocal chords, while one adventurous audience member patronized the oddly ballpark-like service. The native Olympians seemed unfazed. We resumed our set.)
At the suggestion of one enthusiastic listener, we stopped off at the karaoke bar next door after loading out, hoping to cap off the night by rocking some R Kelly. Sadly, last call was imminent, and it wasn't meant to be. Oh well. There's always the next night. There's always Eugene.
After a pit stop in Woodland, Washington, we received a hot tip from a friend that I-5 was likely to be snarled by Seattle-To-Portland bicycle traffic. I-205 seemed the most sensible route to circumvent any gridlock, but an accident was blocking the left lane, adding an hour to our travel time. During this delay, Miles instituted a celebratory measure to be taken upon arrival in each city: the "Driver High-Fiver," in which the band gathers outside the vehicle and a group high-five occurs. Our first attempt at this was clumsy at best, but we expect to refine the technique as we go.
It was a bit hard to get a feel for the town, as it had been largely abandoned for the Oregon Country Fair, as well as a nearby Beach Boys concert. (Damn you, Mike Love!) The quiet night notwithstanding, the show itself was a lot of fun. We got to play with two bands we really like--The Groundblooms from Eugene and The World Radiant from Portland--and the venue, Cozmic, doubles as a pizza place, so we enjoyed some top-notch eats after loading in. Everyone sounded great, and the show felt like a nice hub of activity in the otherwise sleepy downtown area.
The most noteworthy detail had to be the presence of one colossally inebriated music fan who camped out in front of the stage for most of the night. He would pace back and forth, gesturing skyward, apparently seeing visions, bowing down Wayne's World style, air guitar-shredding, interpretive dancing, just generally having the best time ever.
After The World Radiant's third or fourth song, he punctuated his applause by triumphantly shouting, "one more!" This slayed us, as they had only been onstage for about 15 minutes at that point and gave no indication that they were nearing the end of their set.
Aside from its hilariousness, this moment also drove home one of the bigger takeaways from our day in Eugene. Whether you're coordinating a four-man high-five, booking a show on the same day as the biggest local event of the year, or enthusiastically appealing for an encore, timing really is everything.
"It needs some corrections, but it is powerful...the power of the press."
Within the past 24 hours, we woke up in Eugene, drove back up to Portland, played a show, and drove almost all the way to Sacramento. That sentence took me the better part of 20 minutes to write down. Maybe because I haven't really slept, but it's so nice outside! There are palm trees and citrus fruits!
Ella St. Social Club in Portland was a cool venue. As we pulled up, a vagrant sat on the steps of the building, reading a paper. Miles walked around the block to investigate and see if anyone was there yet. They were not. We were early. The man with the paper remarked, "it needs some corrections, but it is powerful...the power of the press." Stunned, Miles tentatively agreed with the man and carried on. It was Driver High-Fiver time.
We executed the move more deftly this time, although there was still room for improvement. Perhaps when we get to SacTown, our collective cramped, sleep-deprived state will result in the most dynamic fireball of a high five imaginable. It's a lofty goal, but we are an ambitious band.
Back to PDX, we killed a few hours browsing at Powell's Books and wrestling with Starbucks' spotty wi-fi before the show. We had a very nice time playing, sold a few CDs, and we were on our way. Tonight's show looks promising, as we somehow managed to get booked at Harlow's, one of the nicer clubs in Sacramento, from what I understand. Here's hoping for dynamic fireballs all the way down.
"I got the deaths . . . a bad case of them." OR "If you're a breakdancer, it's not a problem." AND "Friends don't let friends clap on one and three."
That overnight drive was quite the thing. To recover, we lazed about in a park for most of Monday afternoon. Harlow's has a nice, big stage with fantastic sound and made use of a serious lighting rig, all of which helped us power through the quiet night, playing our most energetic set of the tour so far.
An older gent who frequents and photographs local shows was in attendance. He spoke with us for a while, flooring us with his endless well of general knowledge. He knew exactly how many miles it was to LA, he knew the speed restrictions of our U-Haul trailer (both recommended and realistic), he knew about recent liquor legislation in Seattle. There should be more people like this guy in the world. Friendly and inquisitive and sharp: that's the way to be. One awesome remark that he made, regarding the venue's clean and well-maintained stage: "If you're a breakdancer, it's not a problem." It's true too. You could do backspins for days up there.
Settling in to watch the songwriting brothers who comprise one half of the band Honyock--their rhythm section was unavailable for the show--we were still feeling the effects of the previous night's long haul. Miles leaned in and intoned, "I got the deaths . . . a bad case of them." Fortunately, the duo onstage awed us with a mostly acoustic set that showed considerable talent well beyond their years. Those guys should be going places.
We were very happy to have a place to stay in town that night, and the next morning found us fully recharged, excited to get to Los Angeles. That stretch of I-5 (as with most stretches of I-5) is host to a whole lot of nothing for nearly eight hours. At the other end, we got to shower(!!!), eat vegan Thai food, catch up with dear friends, and play a show. This was our most efficient setup and teardown yet! Good day. (Also, a bumper sticker outside of our friend's apartment implored, "friends don't let friends clap on one and three." We enjoyed it.)
We talked about playing a song on our friend's rooftop and getting some video with Jason's fancy new camera before departing for Fresno. We're cresting the halfway point of the tour, and morale is strong.
"I used to rock out on the weekends; now, I rock out every day of the week!"
The last few days of the tour were too jam-packed to document in real time (i.e. we were having too much fun), so this entry is being composed back at home, after the fact. Looking back on our week away, the emotional trajectory of the tour formed a nice, neat arc. The initial optimism and excitement, the blind momentum, the youthful bravado had begun to dip by the time we found ourselves on the deserted streets of Fresno, California. Consecutive nights in front of single-digit crowds will absolutely take a toll, but we kept our chins up and powered through. San Francisco on Thursday would mark the turning point.
That morning, we saw a Blue Cross/Blue Shield commercial featuring an aging musician: "I used to rock out on the weekends; now, I rock out every day of the week!" It felt like a comically apt summary of what we were doing--cheeseball ad copy aside--and in that moment, we envied the sense of vitality the old man had about it. How could we have known that a good-sized, receptive audience would await us at an Irish pub in SF's North Beach neighborhood? It was a welcome surprise to say the least. We'd been starving for an immediate response like that, and it felt tremendous to have strangers dancing and going crazy in front of the stage.
We didn't get on the road until after 2 am, which would make the 12-hour drive to Portland a somewhat brutal undertaking. Sleep was sparse at best, but we managed to get to our gracious hosts' house in time to power nap, shower, and grab some of PDX's renowned street food before load-in at Backspace.
Suitably refreshed, we played another solid set to a beautiful group of people. A few of them even approached us before and after, saying that they'd heard or read about us previously! What?! So many new feelings! Buoyed by the good vibes, we capped off the night with some karaoke shenanigans (you really must hear Tim belt out his signature number, a majestically obscene Adam Sandler track from the early/mid 90s) and spent most of the next day soaking up Portland's many splendors. We also shot a third live acoustic video before heading home.
We couldn't have arranged for a better way to close out the tour. Surrounded by friends, celebrating the release of our new EP, playing alongside a pair of absolute gems in The Hoot Hoots and Caught In Motion, it was a very rewarding culmination of lots of work and freeway driving.
So, we started out with unflappable enthusiasm, let it flag a bit in the middle, and then finished strong. All in all, we had a great time playing music every night, meeting a lot of really awesome people and becoming better friends with each other in the process. Successful tour! Wait--we spent how much on gas? Oh. OK. Well, we still enjoyed the trip immensely and definitely plan to get out there again as soon as we can!
Thanks for reading these notes; hopefully they have some bits that are interesting or funny.