Featured Music: Wednesday, August 1, 2002
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Soviet Space returns with a new full-length c.d. and some ‘lofty’ aspirations.


For a relatively new band, Soviet Space hasn’t wasted a lot of time.

Their story starts with Noah Garcia and Jordan Richardson, a pair of childhood chums who played guitar and drums in a high school ska/punk band called the Immigrants. At TCU, they formed Soviet Space with guitarist John Southard and bassist/keyboardist Jim Keith in the spring of 2000, and released an EP, Go Faster (Stay Yellow) that December. In 2001, they released a second EP, Live At the Aardvark, appeared at the New Music Festival in Dallas, and were named Fort Worth Weekly’s Best New Artist; they continued honing their live attack through competition on the ESPN/ASA Sports and Music Festival battle-of-the-bands circuit, as well as through local and regional gigs.

Now the band is preparing to release its first full-length c.d., Whenever is Wonderful, produced by Casey Diiorio of Valve, a band with whom Soviet Space has shared many stages. In fact, Richardson has just returned from playing dates with Valve in Oklahoma, Kansas City, and Chicago, filling in for the band’s departing drummer. This Friday at the Aardvark, where Soviet Space is holding a c.d. release party, he’ll perform with both bands.

In comparison with the band’s earlier recordings, Garcia said, the Whenever sessions provided “more time so we could try out more ideas and be creative, but without overkill.” For Southard, recording the album was “a lot more complex than I expected. I thought we were going to walk in and play our instruments live.” Garcia agreed: “Recording the c.d. kind of refined us as a band. We’re still a young band, but going in the studio and playing your part on one section of a song for a whole day made us a lot tighter. I think the shows we played right after we finished were the most important, because that’s when we really found our sound.”

Watching Soviet Space rehearse at First Street Audio on Bluebonnet Circle last week, I found it impossible not to be impressed by their versatility. Lead vocals are shared among Southard, Keith, and Garcia. The two guitarists split rhythm and lead chores, Garcia using lots of open-voiced chords and doing the majority of single-note lead playing, with Southard favoring barre chords and octave-run solos. Southard also switches to bass when Keith moves to keyboards, as during the song “All Star Falling.” All the band members contribute to the songwriting process. Typically, Southard said, the genesis for a Soviet Space song comes when “someone is at home one night in their room, playing an acoustic guitar. Then at practice they’ll bring that idea to the group and everyone puts their two cents in.”

Although the new disc is being released independently, the Space boys aren’t shy about their intent to garner attention from bigger industry players — and they have the goods to do it. More than just a group of garden-variety pop-punkers, these guys combine post-punk energy with a keen sense of melody and sound dynamics. Whenever benefits from classy, arty arrangements as redolent of Radiohead at its pre-Kid A best as they are of emo greats like the Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World. And then there are the textures and colors added by Keith’s keyboards.

“Without wanting to sound cocky,” said Richardson, “we’re all pretty good musicians, and we know about music. We’ve each had some kind of lessons somewhere along the line, so we all have a basic idea of how music should work ... not necessarily has to, but just principles that help in songwriting. We like interesting types of music, and a lot of different types of music. Jazz, modern rock, punk rock.”

For the new album, the band chose to re-record two songs that originally appeared on Go Faster (Stay Yellow) — “Evidence for Running Away” and “All Star Falling.” “We liked them,” Southard said, “and we just thought we could make them sound a lot better than what they were.”

Southard believes the community of bands in Dallas and Fort Worth is “one of the biggest in the nation, as far as talent. You go down to Austin, and everyone wants to come up and play in Dallas and Fort Worth.” Added Richardson: “And there’s not just one musical community here, there’s a few.”

The goal, according to Southard, “is to eventually live comfortably playing music, because the best and easiest job in the world is to make money playing the guitar, playing the drums. We all have backup plans, but hopefully we won’t have to use them.” Said Garcia: “If anybody offers us money to play music, we’ll do it.”

A more immediate goal, however, appears to be pretty obtainable. “I would kill for a tour bus,” Garcia said. “I saw the Foo Fighters in Oklahoma, and I saw them come out of the hotel and get into their bus, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to do this, man!’ ” Perks aside, Garcia said, “I like to play also.”

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