Spiritfall’s path

For this Chico-based band, the medium is part of the message

Spiritfall plays in San Jose at the Gas Lighter Theatre on March 23, the Estrellita Ballroom in Galt on March 24 (benefit for the now-closed Bojangles night club) and will be in Chico on April 6 at the Epicenter for the annual Nowhere X Nowhere Music and Multi-Media Festival.

Want to make it in the music world? You can do what most bands do, which is to start by gigging in local bars and clubs, then slog through a bunch of regional tours, hoping to attract a record exec interested in your music. Or you can do it the Spiritfall way.

Spiritfall is a four-piece Chico-based rock/metal band that’s trying an up-to-the-moment approach. First off, the group has a manager, the silver-haired and somewhat rotund Bill Spencer, who just happens to be the father of guitarist Christian Spencer. Second, it has a driving work ethic and a willingness to invest, both money and time, in making the band a success. And, third, like a number of artists today, it is using the Internet as much or more than touring to build a fan base.

The band’s sound combines an ‘80s-like metal approach with the ‘90s rock philosophy of fewer guitar solos, more chunking rhythms and an updated distortion sound. By packaging it on the Internet, band members say, their fans are able to access their music from anywhere in the world at little or no cost to them or the band.

This is nothing new, of course. The LA-based girl/guy duo Fisher received roughly 2,000,000 hits on its site (the duo just got signed by Farmclub.com/Interscope). Locally, synthesizer/keyboardist Tom Aragon, during back-to-back months in late 2000, was among the top 10 downloaded artists on MP3.com. There are legions of other Internet success stories. Spiritfall is just the latest example of achievement through the power of the Internet.

“The Internet has been our biggest venue,” says Christian Spencer. “We’ve embraced the entire Web community. It’s cool to get e-mail from Norway or Brazil. We’ve touched more kids through the Internet than we ever could have in any one show.”

Not that performances haven’t helped. Last year the band toured regionally with Papa Roach for four days as part of that group’s first-ever national tour. That, combined with their Web presence (www.spiritfallband.com), has generated the all-important interest from not one but several major record labels.

“I can’t say who they are at this point,” admits Bill Spencer. “It wouldn’t be fair to any of them, and besides they would probably think that I was trying to create a bidding war. But several of them are definitely interested.”

Because of this industry interest in the band, Bill Spencer and the four musicians decided to seek out the best recording studio possible to record the group’s music. The search led them all the way to the historic heart of country music, Nashville, Tenn.

“I came out here earlier this year to check out studios,” says Bill Spencer. “The atmosphere and the technology that the country music industry offers is far more advanced than what’s available on the West Coast, even in Los Angeles. The area is home to over 200 major studios. I checked out 20 different studios and chose this one.”

That studio is the famed Quad Studio on legendary Grant Street. Spencer says that you can walk right outside of Quad and face seven major studios across the street, all of them custom-erected within rustic and renovated historical Tennessee neighborhood homes and fringed with beautiful foliage. Things are just more comfortable in Nashville, he says about the area and the studio, which came complete with scenic backyard deck setting and full barbecue capabilities.

Spiritfall is recording an as-yet-untitled, five-song demo follow-up to its debut, six-song 1999 demo, My Reason, in the very same studio where Elvis Presley recorded his first Nashville recordings. Amy Grant and Charlie Daniels have recorded in the room, as well, as did Neil Young when he recorded Harvest. Studio technicians even claim that Elvis’ ghost occasionally roams the halls breaking ghostly things and wreaking sonic havoc, says Spencer, although he claims not to have known that when he chose the studio.

Spiritfall also enlisted the production help of in-house sound engineer Clark Hagan, whose credits include the neo-metal band Tantric (on Madonna’s label Maverick), Nashville’s Shun (touring with Spiritfall as the other half of the All Under Heaven Tour), famed country artist Ray Stevens and, more important, platinum-selling Days of the New and country/rock-a-billy/blues legend Chet Atkins. Spiritfall is being treated like royalty, and, says Spencer, the boys have responded well.

“I really can’t get over the fact that I’m in the same room that Elvis was,” quips vocalist Anthony Stone. “I can’t say that I saw his ghost or anything"—he chuckles—"but maybe I got a little extra oomph on my vocal tracks. The recordings came out great.”

Plans are not set for the five newly recorded tunes, save a couple of new Internet downloadables or for promotional CDs they’ll pass out to industry big-wigs when the All Under Heaven Tour brings them to Hollywood on March 19-21, where they will perform for a variety of the execs and hopefully wow them with their chops. But add the five new songs with the previous six from My Reason, and Spiritfall should be prime for a debut full-length release soon.