Tray tables up

Joseph Airport takes flight with new album, first live show

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Top [l-r]: Jereme Sanborn and Matthew Cutter;  Bottom [l-r]: Pen Penry and Bazooka Joe Patterson of Joseph Airport

Love’em or hate ’em, Daytonian rock gods Guided By Voices have inspired hundreds, or possibly thousands, of bands all over the world to do what they did long before they were famous: drink beer and then brainstorm and create their own music merely for their own amusement; and if anyone else liked it, then that was even better. That was pretty much the way multi-city-based quartet Joseph Airport was born and how they’ve been creating music way below the radar for the handful of years of their existence. In fact, according to Joseph Airport lyricist and vocalist Matthew Cutter, the band members’ mutual love of GBV was the basis for how they all met.

“We’d all gone to Dayton for Heedfest, the annual Guided By Voices fan party,” Cutter explained. “That’s where we met. So, in that tangential way, without GBV there would be no Joseph Airport.”

After meeting at Heedfest, the core quartet of Cutter, Jereme Sanborn, Ben Penry and Joe Patterson began sending each other ideas and skeletons of songs to be improved upon. Soon enough, Joseph Airport had a gigantic collection of songs from which to choose.

“Jereme started sending me song titles and instrumentals – just song sketches with one or two instruments, and I’d write lyrics for those,” Cutter explained. “Then Ben and Joe got involved, adding overdubs to the song sketches Jereme and I did. We put together a 101-song eponymous debut, figuring we’d do the most audacious thing we could imagine.”

That original concept soon went by the wayside as Guided By Voices mastermind and friend Robert Pollard got introduced to the music of Joseph Airport and changed the original itinerary the band had first envisioned.

“We know Bob (Pollard) from our trips to Dayton,” Cutter said. “When he asked to hear our songs, I think it was just to be polite. We made him a CD. I didn’t expect to hear anything from him about our music, but a week later he called, telling me how much he liked the songs and ideas he had about sequencing, packaging – all those aspects of rock ‘n’ roll he’s mastered. With that boost, we felt confident about pressing the record on vinyl.”

With Pollard’s input, Joseph Airport had their 101-song album chopped down to a more digestible 25 (very short) songs, which Pollard hand-picked and sequenced. Not only that, Pollard even offered to issue the band’s album on his own Rockathon Records imprint and gave them a piece of his collage art to use as the album cover. To Cutter, his input, time and generosity with regard to Joseph Airport’s debut, Better and Stronger was invaluable.

“Bob liked it enough to put it on his label – it’s a staggering honor,” Cutter said. “Bob’s selection of songs blew me away. His sequencing elevated the material. Before, it sounded good. Now, it takes the listener on a journey.”

As for the music itself, Joseph Airport’s Better and Stronger definitely smacks of early-to-mid 1990s Guided By Voices – extremely short songs, obscured melodies, stream-of-consciousness lyrics and an occasional penchant for arty, post-punk and/or prog-rock aesthetics and song structures. But mere GBV copyists Joseph Airport is not – the songs on Better and Stronger have an unassuming, laid back groove to them not typical of GBV classic albums like Alien Lanes or Under the Bushes, Under the Stars, and the band’s unabashed use of keyboards and utilization of modern song sharing and recording technology probably would have never worked for Pollard and company’s chemistry back in the day. Yet, Joseph Airport make it work.

“We visit each other fairly often,” Cutter said. “We generate a lot of material during those visits. Jereme and Ben create lots of instrumentals, as many as 70 to 80 for an album. I compile song titles and use them to write lyrics. I go to Detroit some weekends to record vocals, and all the files go to Penry and he adds all sorts of instrumentation, overdubs, whatever feels right. I don’t think there’s even one song on the debut where we were all present for the recording.”

Despite all that, Joseph Airport is intent on finally making a debut – not just as a congregation of musicians on record, but live as well. Friday’s show will be Joseph Airport’s first live show, but it may be a bit different than what you might hear on their records.

“The Joseph Airport live show will be like Stronger and Better on steroids,” Sanborn said. “This is in fact our first show, and the record release party for Stronger and Better. The guys have learned a bunch of tunes from that record, as well as a few tracks from future Joseph Airport releases and couple of pretty killer covers. We are fired up to be debuting as a live band in the birthplace of aviation.”

Joseph Airport will be perform Friday, Sept. 5 at South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Ave. Also on the bill are Smug Brothers and Me & Mountains. Admission is $5 for all ages. Doors open at 9 p.m. For more information, please visit josephairport.bandcamp.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at Gary Spencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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