Featured Music: Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Lunar Landing

Titan Moon sets its moody alt-rocket ship down in Cowtown for a while.


Good fortune wears myriad disguises. Just ask the guys in Titan Moon, a couple of Wisconsin natives who’ve followed a circuitous path to the Fort and hope to make Cowtown their springboard to mega-success.

Early last year, Tyler Forbes-Casey (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and his bandmate, Nathan Schneidewent (vocals, guitar, bass), were en route to Cuernavaca, Mexico, when their car broke down outside Monterrey, a couple of hours south of the border. Luckily, they had their musical equipment in the car, so for a few weeks, while awaiting repairs, the two started playing gigs in local clubs.

Enter: Enrique A. Gonzalez-Diaz, a well-connected Mexican producer who spent a dozen years in New York City and now owns a studio in Monterrey. The record man heard the duo performing and was impressed by their potential. When Titan Moon received an offer to place a video on the Mexican tv show Telehit, Gonzalez-Diaz produced a song for the duo. Soon after, he offered to become their manager. To Forbes-Casey and Schneidewent, who’d already spent several years slugging it out in locations as disparate as Nashville, Atlanta, Lubbock, and Los Angeles, it sounded like an offer they couldn’t refuse.

The song from the video, “You Go Away,” appears as the last track on the debut Titan Moon e.p., Postcard Republic, the bulk of which was recorded at Gonzalez-Diaz’ studio over five weeks last May. The disc is a stunner, filled with remarkable moments like the Latin-tinged “Sheya” and the ballad “Said Not To Call,” an ode to unrequited longing on a par with Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” or Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain.” More to the point, the Titan Moon guys promise, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Currently, Gonzalez-Diaz is in New York, having Titan Moon’s first full-length mixed and mastered by Emily Lazar (who’s done the duty on the last two David Bowie albums) at the same studio the Strokes used to record their last album, and securing the services of a high-powered entertainment lawyer. In January, the band — whose current line-up includes drummer Trey Ware, bassist Zack Selton, and keyboardist Joe Burton — will head to New York to play a showcase for a number of labels that have expressed interest, in the hopes of garnering a major label deal.

While Gonzalez-Diaz handles the business end of things, Forbes-Casey and Schneidewent — who form the core of the band in the same way as Steely Dan’s Fagen and Becker — have focused on trying to translate their studio efforts into a tight live show. So far, they’ve played only four local gigs: one at the Moon, one at the Aardvark, and two at the Saffire Lounge. A few weeks ago at the Saffire, Titan Moon’s multi-layered music — reminiscent of sophisto musos Coldplay and Portishead — was spacey, incandescent, and, unlike the handiwork of many other Metroplex bands, unashamedly pop, loaded with beguiling hooks and intriguing dynamic shifts. The musicians, who’ve been rehearsing together two or three times a week for three months now, formed a powerful, cohesive unit. Their polished, professional sound and Forbes-Casey’s dramatic stage presence cry out for a bigger venue. They next take the stage at the Aardvark on Dec. 12.

Forbes-Casey and Schneidewent have been playing together for 16 years, since they were stand-out 11-year-old trumpet players in the Milwaukee Symphony’s youth orchestra. Both of them, according to Schneidewent, “despised rock until we were 14.” Inspired by the film Amadeus, the two naturals started writing symphonic music. An early peak experience came when the young Schneidewent conducted an 80-piece orchestra, including a harpist, while Forbes-Casey played a grand piano. The opera singer who appears on the track “Postcard” is an homage to their early classical roots.

At 14, Forbes-Casey discovered the Beatles and decided that “maybe it wasn’t bad to play guitar.” After a late-night phone call to Schneidewent — who says “things in this band always begin with a phone call late at night” — the two began learning guitar and playing “horrible Beatle covers.” R.E.M.’s Out of Time was another formative influence, as the budding musicians immersed themselves in rock. By age 17, they’d written their first “good songs,” including some of the material that appears on Postcard Republic.

During the six frustrating months the duo spent trying to break into the L.A. scene, they faced the ignominy of having to pay to play in legendary Sunset Strip dives like the Viper Room and the Whisky a Go-Go. The A&R executive who had signed singer-songwriter Pete Yorn called after hearing Titan Moon’s demo, wanting to arrange a meeting. “Then she went on vacation and just forgot about us,” said Forbes-Casey. When he tried calling the exec to follow up, he was told, “‘We don’t like stalkers.’”

Family matters brought Schneidewent and Forbes-Casey to Fort Worth a few months ago. Schneidewent and his longtime friend and bandmate are laboring at mundane McJobs while waiting to make that next move.

For the last year and a half, the duo has focused on recording, playing every instrument but drums. Schneidewent and Forbes-Casey were determined to keep control of their musical direction; after some negative experiences with players who wanted to have some say in the sound’s direction, the two driving forces behind Titan Moon decided to wait until they had a record deal and enough money to hire a band. When Gonzalez-Diaz encouraged them to find a band and play some shows, Forbes-Casey spent a couple of weeks at Guitar Center hunting for musicians. Ware, Selton, and Burton had never played together before he called them. Walking into the project, they were handed a 15-song demo and told to learn their parts. Forbes-Casey and Schneidewent were so pleased with the results that the three will remain on board if the elusive deal materializes — albeit as contract players, not full members.

In the past, Schneidewent’s taken other musical gigs to make money, but now he’s firmly committed to staying the course with Titan Moon. The band name, he says, comes from the 16th moon of Saturn, which rotates in the opposite direction from the other 15. It’s a good metaphor for his band, which swims against the tide of local music while waiting for a chance to shine.

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