The buzzwords associated with a life of music could be coded and molded into one hell of a crossword puzzle — tour, recording, mixer, Marshall, pick-guard, Waffle House, label, merch, etc. Unfortunately, it would be wildly entertaining for only a tiny few, while the rest of us would be fast asleep before we ever figured out how a TU-2 Chromatic Tuner could have any bearing on an average day. In the flip-flopped world of chasing musical dreams, it's very much the destination and not, as we've so often been told, the journey that matters — people only want to know how you got there after you get there.
So, in interviewing local bands like Only Everything (Chris Mouch, vocals/rhythm guitar; Dan Strasser, bass/vocals; Joe Sierra, drums; Jim Klosterman, lead guitar/vocals), I brace for the boring. It could have gone that way. In fact, I was pretty sure it would when I asked about their name which, not surprisingly, results in that typical fallback line, "Um, we pretty much love all music — you can't pin down our sound."
However, a short dig revealed that this outfit has had its share of less than humdrum experiences, such as the following:
It was summertime on the road and so far things were going great. OE was headed to New York City after a brief stint in Los Angeles, which had garnered new management and the realization that they "weren't meant to be a West Coast band." They'd racked up impressive tabs in a bar called The Bar. They'd stayed in a hotel that had grass growing in the pool and bloodstains on the wall. They'd cooked goetta on a hotplate.
If all this doesn't just scream glamour for a tight bunch of LaSalle alums, then what does? Suddenly, their newfound euphoria faced disaster when Cara, a Caravan with over 300,000 miles on her, broke down near the border between New York and Pennsylvania.
"It was 90 degrees out. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong," remembers Strasser. The boys were running late for their appearance. It was blistering and they were soggy. Desperation swirled and the notion of home grew sunnier. Then someone suggested using guitar strings to wire the battery to the radiator. Voilà! With a cool rush of momentum, they were back on the road, joking as they neared what they would later describe as three amazing sets alongside the Dave Matthews Band.
I imagine what made these shows "amazing" was the same thing that struck me. They're tight. Really tight. While some bands seem blissfully unaware that the audience can actually see them, none of that apathy is visible at an OE show. The band's nine-year history is wholly evident from the floor.
They beat the "West Side cover band" curse and recorded a full-length disc (1997's Break the Monotony) during their first two years together. Their unanimous love of Jam Rock inspired them to record a second original effort, The White House Sessions, launching a new age for the band. With the jammier direction came a more Zen-like perspective — they shed the aggressive quest for Rock stardom in favor of celebrating serendipity and fun. "Black Jack" is a crowd pleaser that positively reeks of Southern Rock boogie, while "Psalm for Reason" paints the party blue, with resonating vocal harmonies that squeeze undeniable hope from an otherwise melancholy tune. It's somewhat packaged, for sure; at points during a live set, it's no wonder that OE frequents the Main Street venues where mostly unoriginal music still reigns.
The band's very "together" sound, an almost surreal synchronization, is a point of pride, because they know that it is a product of a deeply ingrained self-criticism. Support for the group takes a backseat to knowing your role, knowing it well and delivering it consistently. And the band recognizes the fruits of this labor in the only thing they see as important: providing a soundtrack to the people who come in large numbers to drink, dance and have a good time.
In their closeness exists only faint traces of the awkward chiding often found with their contemporaries, which is probably why Chris Mouch's proclamation that if their band was a movie, it would be Say Anything, is met with contemplative nods rather than "psh" faces.
"Well, we just feel like if you want to be heard, no matter what you're feeling, you need to push that emotion out and enjoy the ride," Mouch says. "Say anything, do anything. You can never be afraid."
For more on ONLY EVERYTHING, go to onlyeverything.com.