Bassist Tully Devine, guitarist Trenton White and drummer Solan Jensen started playing together last year and quickly decided that the best way to start their musical sojourn would be to cover an album in its entirety.
It didn't take long to choose Radiohead's "OK Computer." White has been a big fan of the British group for years, and Devine had been listening to the album steadily for the last year and a half.
"It's been pretty intense to play this stuff," White said. "It's more structured and orchestral than jam-based, which is really where Tully comes from. I come from a more structured background, and Solan is more of a hiphop jazz guy, but he's all over the boards."
"Mostly it's just about us studying different music and trying to become better musicians," he said. "The biggest thing is adding some vocabulary to the three of us, so we can have more to work from when we write our own stuff."
Green Plastic, as the three are calling themselves, recruited Van Roper to play some of the other guitar parts. The band will play three concerts: 9 p.m. Friday, May 20, and 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, May 26-27, at the Hangar Ballroom. Urbana Desert will open the first two shows.
Radiohead was already a popular band after its first two albums, 1993's "Pablo Honey" and 1995"s "The Bends," but "OK Computer" came out in 1997 and was astonishingly more complex and layered. It was hailed as one of the best albums of the 1990s and the group had suddenly achieved superstar cult status. Their next few albums, "Amnesiac," "Kid A" and "Hail to the Thief," pushed their songwriting infinitely further, but relied more on complex digital sequencing.
"('OK Computer') really affected me deeply," Devine said. "It's one of the only albums where I listened to the vocals and the melodies before I listened to the bass line. Usually if you ask me what the words are to a song, I don't know. This one is different. The melodies and the songwriting are amazing."
"It pretty much clicked immediately that we were going to do 'OK Computer,'" White said. "It was either that or 'Hail To The Thief,' and 'Hail' is more complicated because it's a lot more complicated with computer-based stuff. You can't do it live unless you have a lead guitar player and someone else to do the sequencing."
White knew most of the album from covering part of it while playing in bands down in Oregon. But the group bought the tablature books to write down notes and figure out some additional chord changes. White bought a Boss digital delay pedal to duplicate some of the echoplex guitar effects that Radiohead uses throughout the album.
"I've learned a lot about how they write their music, and it's in turn helped us figure out how to approach different songwriting possibilities," White said. "Thom (Yorke) comes in with a song and an idea, and mostly he writes from the lyrics, or he just comes up with a little riff. The rest of the guys will create from that. They always say it's just him that writes, but it's not true. They wouldn't be nearly as good a band without the rest of the guys."
The hardest part for White is singing all of Yorke's parts. He's sung in choirs before, and also performed in "Godspell" with the Juneau Little Theater before moving to Oregon for a few years. Roper, a nurse practitioner at the Front Street Clinic, has played in bands in Atlanta and Portland. Jensen was in a few bands in Seattle. Devine previously played in the Juneau band Dag Nabbitt.
Korry Keeker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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