Featured Music: Wednesday, May 18, 2005
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The Hourly Radio’s intricate fretwork calls to mind the poppier sides of U2 and The Cure.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Clock Rock

Turning big guitars into walls of sound, The Hourly Radio arrives at a signature style.

By JIMMY FOWLER

Given the ubiquity of c.d. players and satellite radios on today’s highways, the automobile really ought to replace the shower as the classic crucible for dreams of singing success: More of us exercise our undeveloped vocal muscles on the road than probably anywhere else. Aaron Closson, lead singer and guitarist of The Hourly Radio, took that route.
The 25-year-old recalled: “It’s a five-hour drive through the desert” from Lubbock, where he was attending Texas Tech University as recently as three years ago, to his parents’ house here. “By the time I got to where I was going, I was hoarse. I learned to carry a tune singing on those car trips.”
Those workouts gave Closson the courage to do something he’d wanted to try for years: sing in a band. He’d never warbled in the school choir as a kid, didn’t take the mic during jam sessions with music-minded friends when he was a teenager. He had, in fact, never received any validation as a singer before he answered a 2003 newspaper ad placed by guitarist Ryan Short, who was looking for musicians to assemble a band. Closson and Short hooked up to chat about their ambitions and strum a couple of tunes. Short was impressed that the nervous Closson — whose voice was “shaking” as he played and sang — had picked a song by ’90s Brit-cult faves The Verve, one of his big influences.
From that very casual audition emerged The Hourly Radio, one of the most press-feted young outfits on the scene. They’ve made impressively fast use of the word-of-mouth that their shows have been generating for months now. It culminated earlier this year as a rowdy, ready crowd gathered at Dallas’ Gypsy Tea Room for the band’s sold-out c.d. release gig. Deathray Davies and Black Tie Dynasty shared the bill, but much of the attention fell upon THR and tunes from their debut e.p., Lure of the Underground. With Tim Jansen on bass and Adam Vanderkolk on drums, Closson and Short exchanged lead guitar duties and generally let the big, evocative, delay-drenched sounds sell the songs. The gallant but personal, precisely delineated finger work inevitably draws comparisons to the poppier sides of U2 and The Cure, but Closson is spot-on when he cites a particular trajectory: Start with The Verve’s A Northern Soul and work backward through The Smiths and Joy Division.
The band’s approach to the layered-guitar technique is carefully controlled and cerebral. While hailing an Hourly Radio performance, one local writer was prompted to call Closson’s voice “intense” and “flawless” even as she referred to the singer’s “static attachment to the microphone.” The band discovered during its early, more awkward performances that it couldn’t afford to be distracted from playing for the sake of carrying on like rock stars. One night, an inexperienced Closson tried a looser style and, in the process, forgot many of the words to songs he’d written himself. He started to sing phonetically but quickly discovered that the audience “wasn’t buying” his “pseudo-lyrics.”
“We’re not the kind of band that jumps around onstage to get the point across,” he said. “We bring our own theater lamps to shows and dim the houselights. We’ve got a guy [who controls effects from] the lighting board. We prefer a mood that’s sympathetic to the music.”
Given that The Hourly Radio has so fiercely carved its outline from the epic guitar mold, it’s surprising to hear Closson say that he and Short consider the electric guitar to be something of, in Closson’s words, “a necessary evil.” They would rather downplay its significance, opting for textures and atmospherics over wankery. Closson likes when people listen to Lure of the Underground and can’t immediately identify if they’re hearing guitars or keyboards. What counts is the gooseflesh-y quality that Closson, straining for an appropriate description, calls “transcendent.”
The Hourly Radio is currently setting its clock for a busy 12-month schedule. They’re preparing to record and release a second e.p. on an enhanced disc that will include the video for “Fear of Standing Upright,” a tune from Lure of the Underground. The clip, which is being edited, was shot in and around the band’s old rehearsal space. They’ve also got a New York date booked that will include some industry types in the audience, following up on a short set at this past SXSW. The Hourly Radio musos are aware that they’re still essentially neophytes, particularly as a live band: Venues around North Texas, Austin, and Houston can expect to see a lot more of the band. Betraying no hint of vanity, Closson attributes much of the group’s early popularity to something other than innate musical genius.
Short “is a master of self-promotion,” Closson said. “He knows how to use the phone and e-mail.” In the meantime, he said, “The more we write, the better we get. There are a lot of bands with guitarists out there, but I hope people can hear our subtle differences.” l


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