Carving desert canyons
Scale the Summit brings heavy instrumental progression to Dayton
By Gary Spencer
There are two words in the popular musical lexicon that are bound to divide or unite audiences, and those two words are often “progressive” and “instrumental.” And if you throw the term “heavy metal” into the mix, things get even more skewed. However, Houston, Texas quartet Scale the Summit embrace all such subgenre terminology and put it all on their collective heads. Over the course of its near ten years of existence, Scale the Summit has never seen the need to have vocals interfere in its mix of metal, prog rock and instrumental that has given the group a loyal following of those who love and enjoy all of the above. Scale the Summit creates a brew of intoxicatingly heavy-yet-melodic tunes that twine and bend over their song structures, creating adventurous journey after musical journey beyond the course of a single song. I recently got to chat with guitarist and founding member Chris Letchford about the band, its modus operandi, and here’s what he had to say…
Tell me about the origins of the band.
We formed in Los Angeles in 2005 when I and our other guitarist Travis LeVrier attended Musicians Institute. We met our bass player and drummer there, was sort of our goal with attending a music college, to find the guys we needed. There were no guarantees with that, but it definitely worked out! -Chris Letchford
Why did Scale the Summit decide to be an instrumental only group?
We didn’t really have a reason for being an instrumental band. After we finished our first song, we decided that it sounded full without vocals and just went with it. We never tried a singer, just wasn’t in anyone’s interests. It’s also more of a challenge to write a good song, that is one not boring due to the lack of the common consumers’ needs (vocals), but at the same time not letting it get too technical to where it’s overkill and you lose the “song” form, but not easy enough to make us as players bored. It’s really tough to achieve the proper amount of both song form and technicality. -CL
I hear a lot of jazz influence in your music. Are you guys into jazz? If so, who are some of your favorite jazz artists and why?
Definitely! Bireli Lagrene would be my top pick for jazz, more specifically Gypsy jazz. They guy is a phenomenal guitar player. I was lucky enough to be able to catch his first and only appearance in the states playing a show at our music college in L.A. about seven years ago. One of the best live guitar performances I have ever seen. His project he did with jazz drummer Dennis Chambers, titled Front Page Front Page, pretty sure released in 2001, is one of my favorite jazz albums. -CL
Do you consider Scale the Summit a prog band, a metal band or both?
Band categorizing is tough as it’s usually up to the listener’s opinion on what he thinks it sounds like. I personally would say we are “progressive,” but more in terms of the words meaning: forever changing. People have so many different subgenres that classifying us as one thing is impossible. I definitely don’t consider us metal though, because without the screaming, we aren’t really “metal.” -CL
I know that your band is on the Prosthetic Records label. Their stable is mainly cobbled of metal and hardcore bands. How does the Scale the Summit fit into what Prosthetic has to offer?
That’s the best part of it; we don’t fit at all. It helps us stand out from the other bands on the label as the odd ball, which I think is better for us, gets us more attention. -CL
Tell me about your live show. How does it differ from your studio recordings?
We’re a band of perfection and you just can’t capture the heavy/huge sound of a live show. Our music is best witnessed live than on recording. We play everything note for note and even have a couple of improv solo sections to spice up the live show, but from what we have heard from fans, live show reviews in the past, our live show is by far better than our albums, you just can’t get that energy on the record like you can live. -CL
What would you consider to be the highlights of Scale the Summit’s career thus far?
For sure, when we tour with Dream Theater in 2009. Being picked by Mike Portnoy to take part in their 2009 Progressive Nation tour was a huge honor and one of the biggest achievements we have received. It’s going to be hard to top it. -CL
Any chance you’d ever consider adding vocals to your sound?
Never, we are just about finished writing our 4th studio album and I think it would be a little misleading and not the greatest decision to start drastically changing the image and sound of our band after already somewhat establishing a great fan base. -CL
Scale the Summit is scheduled to perform this coming Saturday at The Spitfire Club, 3662 West National Road in Vandalia. Trioscapes, IDiedTrying and Shadows in the Hourglass are also on the bill. Admission is $10 for attendees 21 and up and the show begins at 9 pm. For more information, visit www.scalethesummit.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@daytoncitypaper.com