by EA Poorman
Photo by Drew Allegre
Jason Davis is what you’d call a jack of all trades. He runs local recording studio Off The Cuff Sound in Fort Wayne, as well as giving music lessons at said music studio. He also does all kinds of repairs on instruments. From setting up a Fender Tele to rebuilding a classic Leslie speaker to getting a less-than stellar Fender Champ running like a top once again, Davis does it all. He also does all the maintenance work on his vintage tape machines, can put new rotors and brakes on his touring van, and I’m sure he can make a mean cup of coffee as well.
Oh, and he’s also one of the preeminent studio gurus in the area. He’s sat behind the faders for many of Fort Wayne and beyond’s best musicians. Davis records all to tape, so there’s no “We’ll fix it in post-production” tomfoolery in Pro Tools with him. There’s a rawness and energy on the records he produces and engineers. Ask any number of local guys and gals who have put tone to tape with Davis(Heaven’s Gateway Drugs, Legendary Trainhoppers, Dwane Ferren, D-Rays, Water Witches, Andrea Atwood, James and the Drifters, The Snarks for starters) and they’ll tell you he’s the guy. The dude.
Another band that records at Off The Cuff is Jason’s own band, Streetlamps For Spotlights. I talked to Jason back in 2014 when he released the first SfS long player called Sound and Color. He had talked about preferring to release Streetlamps music as 45s, so when it was all said and done there would be this amazing collection of singles to collect in a boxset. Sound and Color ended the singles streak, but maybe not the dream of a boxset.
Four years later Jason Davis, bassist Jay Hackbush, and drummer Ryan Holquist(his final record with SfS) have put together their most solid collection of tunes called Millenium Summer. It’s a 6-song EP that will be out just in time(August 10th) for you to fill the rest of your summer with some seriously jangly and catchy rock and roll.
SfS have always towed the line between catchy pop hooks and jagged early 90s indie/alternative rock. They pull from that generation of indie rock that was influenced by post-punk of the late 70s and made their own version of it where KISS and Led Zeppelin records coalesced with Wire and The Feelies albums. Millenium Summer is the culmination of years of writing and recording, honing in on that essential Streetlamps for Spotlights sound. As the final recording with longtime drummer Ryan Holquist, Summer also holds a bit of a bittersweet note. The band has never sounded better. It’s a fitting goodbye to Holquist.
Opening track “Long Distance” barrels out of the speakers. Jangly guitar works its way into your ear as the rhythm section builds a solid foundation for Davis to deliver a Tom Verlaine-like vocal delivery. There are lots of Television vibes going on here, and that’s a very good thing. “On and On” is an absolute blast. This is one of those tracks that really goes to define the Streetlamps “sound”. This is the proto-Streetlamps musical trip; big guitars, driving drums, busy bass, and Davis’ sleepy vocals that seem to have been woken up by an alternative rock freight train. Then halfway thru the song, vocals are delivered thru a Leslie speaker and things get a little ethereal. That’s the beauty of a Jason Davis production. Nothing is typical or average. SfS always deliver in a unique, tasteful way.
Title track “Millenium Summer” has a more subdued vibe that turns into something melancholy and dreamy halfway thru with an instrumental outro that could be OK Computer-era Radiohead or even Teenage Fanclub in a moment of reflection. “I’ll Bet” continues the space-y, reflective vibe to stunning effect. “Anything At All” is a beautiful, atmospheric track led by acoustic guitar, Davis’ voice, and some tasteful noise thrown in for good measure. This track leans more towards the pop leanings of Davis’ excellent solo LP Flatline Movements from a few years back. Of course Streetlamps For Spotlights aren’t going to end this EP on a reflective note. “Illustrious Vultures” is a shot of angular riffs and attitude. The band brings that Fender jangle full force to close out what may be one of the best local releases of the year.
The band keeps things relatively sparse instrument-wise. SfS comes across as a three-piece rock and roll band playing live in the studio. It’s a raw, in-your-face display of sonics, but with some tasteful reverb and echo thrown in to add a bit of atmosphere for good measure. I mean, if you’ve got a studio full of pianos, organs, echo chambers, glockenspiels, and I’m sure a plethora of other fun gadgets the urge is to throw it all on. Fortunately, Jason Davis is sort of a pro at this kind of thing. He knows subtlety goes a long way to make for one hell of a listen.
Millenium Summer is the EP you’ve been waiting for. It’s Streetlamps For Spotlights at their absolute best. No holds barred rock and roll with a heaping touch of class.
Check out Streetlamps for Spotlights on August 10th for their album release shows. First is at NNN Records at 7pm(all ages and free.) Then head over to the Brass Rail at 10pm. They’ll be playing with March On, Comrade and Left Lane Cruiser. $5 cover at the door.
Preorder Millenium Summer here.