Sam at Eleven Celebrate Release of Debut Album ‘The Year We Won’
By Kyle Melton
It can often be a struggle for emerging local bands to find their niche and build a sizable following. In the case of the defunct alt-punk quartet HQAX [pronounced ‘hoax’], external confusion regarding their name and internal confusion over the direction of their music led to their disbanding in late 2008. Three of the band’s members – Jeff Rudolf [lead vocal/guitar], Adam Bryant [bass/vocals] and Brad Gilbert [drums] – however, felt there was still work to be done and reconvened as Sam at Eleven in 2010. The band will celebrate the release of their debut album, The Year We Won, with a show at Blind Bob’s on Saturday, March 19.
While Sam at Eleven is a newer name amongst the din of bands here in Dayton, the band members’ previous experience in HQAX, taught them a number of lessons about operating as an original band in Dayton. When HQAX disbanded in late 2008, however, the respective members felt the band had run its course.
“When we started off in 2003, the songwriting was really simple, pop-punk songs,” said Rudolf. “They were good songs, we thought, and I still think that. At the end of HQAX, we took it too seriously. We started writing songs to get people to like them instead of writing songs just because we like the way it sounds, not really caring what anybody else thinks.”
“It was a conflict about what the band is, about what people think of when they see your band and what they think of you and what we have to offer and try to match it up,” Bryant explained. “It was a really bad thing, because we couldn’t figure out what this was, what was the thing that we’re trying to fit into. We were never able to find it.”
After their final show in November 2008 at Oregon Express, the members of HQAX went their separate ways for a time, with Bryant working for a short time under the Dinosaur Eggplant moniker. In early 2010, Rudolf and Gilbert began jamming in earnest and quickly realized it might be time to work on a new project.
“I’d been writing a couple of songs and Brad would come over, because he’s over all the time, and we’d jam on the songs a little bit,” Rudolf explained. “We’d do it for like 10 minutes and then go get drunk. Finally, I just e-mailed the guys and said let’s start practicing again, get together and see what happens.”
Now operating as a trio, Sam at Eleven quickly took shape as the songwriting contributions from Bryant and Rudolf provided thematic counterpoints. While Rudolf’s songs explore real-world issues [dealing with unruly pets and late-night television reruns], Bryant’s imagination runs wild as he fabricates tales of falling in love with an exotic woman from a different culture on the song, “In Kabul.” Throughout their debut disc, The Year We Won, Sam at Eleven deliver exceptionally polished alt/indie pop fueled by a driving rhythm section, inventive guitar work, and soaring harmonies. As recorded by Bobby Leonard at Paper Tiger Studios in Columbus, the band present themselves as a confident and polished outfit.
“I think the approach and the feel we have, I like a lot better,” Bryant admitted. “I like the new [record] a lot better. It’s not as sloppy. I think we were a little more relaxed. We worked really hard to perfect it as much as we could on this one.”
While Sam at Eleven serves as a departure from their work in HQAX , their comfort level with the new configuration and commitment to crafting quality songs serves as the basis for the band’s future..
“We feel really about our music, people are really gonna like this,” Rudolf concluded. “Hopefully they think ‘That was a really cool song.’”
Sam at Eleven will celebrate the release of The Year We Won with a performance on Saturday, March 18 at Blind Bob’s. Also on the bill are Jasper the Colossal and Orange Willard. Doors open at 9 pm. Admission is $5 for 21 & up. For more information, visit www.samateleven.com.
Reach DCP Music Editor Kyle Melton at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his blog at www.thebuddhaden.net.