Locals Only: : Labor and Rebirth

Down a record deal and a lead singer, guitarist Brett Scharf has brought Spindle back from the dead



Singer Tim Anderson snakes down a windy road, leading the way to Spindle's practice space. Crawling up a gravel drive, we reach a curious red barn atop a rolling hill. The backdrop could be a landscape painting. We make a circle, sitting Indian style. This quiet scene is far from Spindle's tumultuous history, a drama worthy of Survivor and far from Loveland, Anderson's home.

NKU music major Brett Scharf started the original Spindle in 1999. Then fronted by showy Grant Arnow, Spindle's four-year tour landed them a "big break" with Triple Crown Records. Hard part: Scharf and Arnow didn't agree any more than kittens and crocodiles would.

"I tried to stick it out," Scharf says. "There was a lot of ego clashing.

He wanted to take over."

Emotions erupted into ugly battles: the band was broke, and Scharf refused to play more shows without the label's backing. Arnow wanted gigs, regardless. Tension was as thick and hard as petrified wood.

The situation worsened. Triple Crown threatened to strip the record from Spindle and hand it to Arnow. Eventually, the band fired Arnow, and Triple Crown dropped Spindle mere weeks before their debut release and national tour. (Arnow now fronts the SoCal band Takota.)

The other members disbanded, leaving Scharf alone. Scharf dusted himself off and bought his way out of the contract, thus owning the Spindle name and record, but lacking a band. Suddenly solo, he wrote songs and pressed on, finding new musicians.

Seemingly beyond the loss, Scharf answers questions cheerfully and openly. He explains, "Now we get along. No egos. We want to be a band like The Red Hot Chili Peppers. People know Anthony Kiedis, but they know Flea as well."

Anderson agrees. "That's why we did a straight-line photo shot. No one is in front."

Anderson was actually the original Spindle singer before Arnow. He now admits, "I knew they were gonna hit it big. I felt like I was holding them back so I left. It was hard." Anderson, who sang in the local band Stain, eventually changed his mind and called Scharf, asking for his job back.

Chris Caudill (bass) and Scharf met as teenagers. From Cold Spring, Ky., with striking eyebrows, Caudill describes his musical beginnings as "low brow" — one day, he came home from skateboarding, picked up his brother's bass, started learning Misfits songs and kept playing. Caudill's ear brings a different mix; he's a fan of Social Distortion, Berlin and The Cure.

The trio discovered Dennis Van Asselt, a tall, likeable drummer from Holland who answered their ad with a thick accent. He came to the U.S. only three years ago.

"We couldn't understand a damn thing he said on the phone," Scharf says.

Van Asselt comes from a musical family. "The dog was the only one not playing instruments," he says. Drumming at 8, he was in marching band until he heard Pearl Jam's Ten. He laughs. "I heard that and was like, 'What the fuck have I been doing?' "

This past spring, the new Spindle traveled to Studio Chicago to record Rebirth, punching out 10 songs in eight days. Scharf describes the self-produced sound as a mix of Alkaline Trio, Brand New and Pearl Jam.

"Radio-friendly with a shot of Tabasco," Van Asselt adds.

Scharf and Anderson, with catchy, trained voices, are a good match. On "Pandora's Box," Scharf sings lead, and he belts it out as strong as any frontman. But rocky transitions and abstract lyrics hurt the intensity that could flourish. Production gaps block some attention-grabbing individual talent, but they've only worked together since January. There's more here. Like gourmet dough waiting on a rolling pin.

Quiet Caudill speaks up. "There's a clique in Cincinnati's music scene that's disapproving of Spindle continuing, but this is a totally different band."

With good feedback from possible management, looking ahead, they wholly believe in this record. They speak of solid commitment, equality, breakups, sucking it up and becoming new.

Seems that sometimes, true sound comes alive, maturing, leaving musicians behind. In the end, at any practice space, whoever's left playing becomes the band, no matter the name.

SPINDLE (spindle-band.com) performs Thursday at The Mad Frog, Saturday at the Strasse Haus and Sunday at Sudsy Malone's.

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