Don’t smell the glove
Hard-rocking Tenfold doesn’t need a vertically challenged Stonehenge plinth to succeed
There’s an age-old belief that anything a person does, good or bad, comes back on them tenfold. That’s a philosophy to which local band Tenfold subscribes, putting 10 times the gusto into everything it does, from rehearsals to recordings—especially live performances. Tenfold knows you only get back what you put in.
Two years ago, Tenfold rose from the ashes of two popular Sacramento bands, Kaya and Trunk. The simultaneous breakup of both fatefully set the stage for vocalist Justin Butler, drummer Will Brunk, guitarist Pag, bassist Doug Calvert and guitarist Cortland Butler to create something new.
Tenfold signed with local indie label 720 Records and, under the guidance of manager Eric Rushing, quickly made headway. The band launched into a strict rehearsal schedule, practicing every night. Early last year it entered the studio to record its first EP, choosing six crowd-pleasing songs—including the catchy “Nothing” and the darkly melodic “This Life.”
As each local show topped the previous one in intensity, the crowds grew larger. Tenfold began traveling throughout California and Nevada playing numerous venues, spending a lot of time together on the road.
“When we’re not practicing or playing, we all hang out together,” Brunk says.
Two years later, Tenfold has weathered the standard personnel changes that bedevil many new bands. In its case, Butler and Calvert left. Again, fate intervened.
“We placed an ad in the News & Review for a bassist, but no one called,” guitarist Pag says, laughing. “We said, ‘I guess we’re not as popular as we thought!’ It turns out that they printed the number wrong.”
Around the same time, Bay Area band Zero Theory broke up, and its bassist, Eddie Meehan, joined Tenfold.
In February, Tenfold released its second CD EP, Un Animo, and its CD-release show at Scratch 8 completely sold out—with many disappointed fans turned away at the door.
“Un Animo means ‘with one hope, one mind’ in Spanish and Latin,” Butler explains.
The new disc kicks off with Butler’s unmistakable vocals on “Mimic,” backed by the band’s driving sound, which isn’t coming from the typical “I hate myself and want to die” school of hard rock. On the other hand, you definitely wouldn’t call Tenfold a pop band, and it doesn’t use fancy samples or trippy sound loops to layer its sonic attack.
Onstage, Tenfold doesn’t use any elaborate backdrops, expensive lighting rigs or ghastly smoke machines to evoke an image. Such props only work when used in moderation to enhance atmosphere, or in complete and unbridled excess to celebrate the glory of rock ’n’ roll decadence. Many bands use them to compensate for lack of talent or creativity and, of course, to distract the crowd from catching on.
Tenfold’s music, with its loud guitars, angry drums and booming bass, does give voice to anger and frustration, and Butler lets loose the occasional scream or growl when words alone aren’t enough to appropriately capture that. But his lyrics are cleverly strung together with melodic and essentially catchy tunes. (Veteran singer-songwriters know that sometimes it’s not what you sing, but instead how you sing it that separates a good song from a truly great one.) Lyrics such as “Shed and peel my skin / Start it all over now / And what is left in me?” from the song “Brand New Me” are catchy enough on their own, but it’s the tune that ultimately sticks in your head.
“We describe it as melodic hard rock,” Brunk says.
And that’s exactly what it is. Not metal, not pop. Just the stuff that hits are made of.