When Travis Brockett moved to Reno, he turned to the internet to find other musicians with whom to play. Now—two years later—he laughs about what he calls the ridiculous post he placed on Craiglist, “seeking musical fusion.”
Ridiculous or not, Brockett’s wording paints a fairly accurate picture of the band that eventually came of it.
Fossils is the product of more than a year of experimentation by Brockett and fellow musicians Randy Linscheid, Nik Tillman and Amearist Phillips. During that time, the four bandmates jammed together off and on, trying out different sounds and switching between instruments to fill in the gaps.
It’s been a little more than two months now since the band settled into its current configuration—Brockett on lead guitar, Linscheid on rhythm guitar, Tillman on bass and Phillips on drums.
While Fossils’ lineup may be settled, the band’s sound remains in flux. It’s a chameleon mix of rock ’n’ roll subgenres—one for which Brockett provides an entertaining synopsis.
“You’re in a dive bar, and the jukebox is playing,” he said. “You’re walking through, and you think the Allman Brothers are on, but you’re not really sure. At one point the acid hits really hard, and it’s just an awesome, really intricate jam. And then somebody kicks the jukebox, and you think the White Stripes turned on for a little bit, but you’re not really sure. And then it all just kind of fades out into some Earth Wind & Fire jam.”
When Fossils took the stage at the Elbow Room Bar, 2002 Victorian Ave., Sparks, on Jan. 13, the bandmates’ set demonstrated their varied musical influences. With Linscheid, Tillman and Brockett taking turns on lead vocals, the effect was something like rock ’n’ roll time travel. Linscheid’s soulful, clear voice flowed readily over ’90s-alternative-and-funk-inspired originals. Brockett’s vocals—at once sweet and rough—lent a folky vibe to harder, more contemporary rock covers. And Tillman’s wailing style with its occasional edge of vibrato and vocal fry played particularly well with a punkish rendition of “Love Potion No. 9.”
The bandmates were without a soundman during much of their Elbow Room Bar performance but still managed to showcase their instrumental aptitudes (despite incessant—and unwarranted—complaining from the bartender and some of the seemingly more regular patrons about the volume of the music).
Phillips’ joyfully animated drumming conveyed the fluctuating heartbeat of the band’s set with a fluency acquired from his time at San Francisco’s Conservatory of Music. And Tillman added extra flavor by switching off between a standard, four-string and a custom, fretless five-string bass. His occasional use of a whammy pedal tuned up several octaves served as effective punctuation to the band’s mix of styles.
With several shows under their belts, the bandmates are hoping to head into the studio to record some time in the near future. They’re not yet sure if they’ll produce a demo, an EP or a full-length album. But one thing they do know is that—at least at this point—they’ve got no intention of narrowing in on a single subgenre of rock.
“That’s pretty much why I love playing with these guys more than anybody—because it’s so diverse,” Phillips said. “It’s just so different.”