"This is the first interview I've ever done," says Madras Lounge vocalist/guitarist Aaron Madrigal near the end of our chat. There was little shock in this announcement.
When I met him on Fountain Square last week to get a copy of the band's debut CD, Redshifted, he asked if CityBeat was planning to review the disc. When I told him it would be a full feature, he guilelessly looked me in the eye and said, "I don't even know what that means."
Ah, the innocence of first bands. Now that Madrigal's interview cherry is popped, it's a safe bet that the wider release of Redshifted will quickly transform the frontman into an interview pro.
Madrigal claims influences like Smashing Pumpkins and Incubus, but they emerge sounding like early Rush and Frank Marino/Mahogany Rush (and another avowed influence, Captain Beyond) when filtered through the collective efforts of Madrigal and his mind-bendingly fluid rhythm section of bassist Eric Keyes and drummer Zach Yingling.
Madrigal shifted from acoustic solo singer/songwriter to first-time bandleader three years ago with the initial formation of Madras Lounge. After a series of personnel changes, Madrigal found Keyes and Yingling (veterans of Close to Home and Zero Ten) in 2005.
"This rhythm section is perfect for what I want," says Madrigal of Keyes and Yingling. "They know exactly what to play and when to play it and how to play it. That's what made us gel so well. We could all tell that we had something cool to contribute, we just didn't know what at the time. After playing together for a little while and developing the sound, we really found our groove."
Having written and played in a self-described John Mayer-like style, Madrigal had no master vision for Madras Lounge, just a simple sonic goal: "I really didn't have a sound in mind, I wanted to have other people around and I wanted to really Rock," says Madrigal.
While Madras Lounge is playing the local circuit as often as possible, they're also venturing into regional markets like Columbus, Louisville and Lexington, enabled by a van that runs on vegetable oil.
"We could be bar stars in Cincinnati, which would be fun for a little while, but the ultimate goal is to do it on an international level," says Madrigal.
Madras Lounge recently added guitarist Nate Yazell. At first reluctant to align with a band, Yazell was convinced to join Madras Lounge after hearing a rough mix of Redshifted.
"He's played two shows with us," says Madrigal. "To recreate what we did on the album, we needed another guitar player."
Madras Lounge began work on Redshifted early last year but set it aside after the departure of guitarist Eric Cronstein and resumed work last fall. The finished product was ultimately mixed by Cronstein in exchange for the band's dogsitting duties -- they boarded Cronstein's pooch during his move to Cleveland for studio work.
"(The dog) did a lot of damage. Steam cleaning wouldn't even get it out," jokes Madrigal. "But we got a free CD out of it."
Madrigal says the band has enough songs to work up a couple more releases, hopefully by the end of the year.
"We could put a double disc out, but that could be a big faux pas," he says. "The music gods would strike us down immediately if we did that."
For more on MADRAS LOUNGE, go to myspace.com/madraslounge.