… or will Sacramento explode?
How one-time locally based quartet Lazybones left town and then reinvented itself as Audio Out Send
The voice is soft and carries with it the slightest sound of breath. Below that, the slow pad of an electric piano fills in the empty spots. “What does it do for you and what does it mean for me?” the voice sings. “Is it the thing to do or am I imagining things?” The piano runs through a simple melody. It is the kind of music one might hear at an after-hours club on a deserted space station, the kind of sound that David Bowie cultivates in “Space Oddity,” simultaneously rooted in the fundamentals of melody yet still just beyond the edges of the known world.
The voice is that of Benjamin McCann Jennings, and the band is called Audio Out Send.
Local music fans might remember Audio Out Send’s members from their previous incarnation, back when they performed at area venues under the name Lazybones. But the band now known as Audio Out Send is much more than simply the same old ingredients with new packaging. Instead, the band essentially has reinvented itself, creating a dense, spacey sound that nonetheless is clearly rooted in melody-based traditions.
The story of what would become Audio Out Send is one of motion. Starting as students at the University of California, Davis, in 1994, the band moved to Oakland in 1999, hoping that living in the Bay Area might help its musical ambition. “We lived in Oakland for a year,” said Max Diez, the band’s drummer and spokesman. “Eventually, we moved back to Sacramento because we thought the music scene was more cohesive or something.”
Unfortunately, Sacramento’s music scene at that time wasn’t as receptive as the band’s members thought it might be to Lazybones’ hard, psychedelic sound. “It seemed like the scene there was really oriented toward pop music at the time,” Diez said. Indeed, the big wave of local psychedelic space-rock bands—which includes Low Flying Owls, Call Me Ishmael, the Proles and others—had yet to make an impact as a musical force in Sacramento, leaving Lazybones in a musical climate that was slow to embrace it.
The band decided to return to Oakland in late 2002 and try its luck closer to the Bay Area. That move proved to be instrumental in the band’s evolution. With the departure of its bass player, who chose to remain in Sacramento, the band felt that it had an opportunity to reinvent itself. The name was changed to Audio Out Send, and the band’s loud, psychedelic sound was replaced by a more controlled, quieter approach, with texture-oriented arrangements.
“We were heavily influenced by The Soft Bulletin,” said Diez, referring to the Flaming Lips’ 1999 masterpiece, “but Ben does all the initial songwriting, and he’s very influenced by Neil Young and Death Cab for Cutie. And we’re all really into and influenced by Wilco in general.”
Both Wilco and Death Cab seem particularly important in terms of the band’s sonic identity and represent the two poles that make Audio Out Send’s sound particularly impressive. On the one hand, Wilco—especially as represented by that band’s 2002 release, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—is certainly present in the sonic texturing that Audio Out Send displays on its full-length 2003 CD …Or Does It Explode?, namely in terms of the performances of keyboardist Zach Moser and the sampling and guitar work of Jeremy Detamore. And the tension between soft, plaintive moments and explosive, rock-oriented ones, in the drumming of Diez, clearly shows an allegiance to Death Cab for Cutie’s brand of indie rock. These two facets in combination—texture and dynamics—help Audio Out Send shape its sonic presentation into a fascinating pastiche of accessible indie-rock melodies and complex musical soundscapes. It is, in a word, beautiful.
And it feels like Audio Out Send is finally ready for Sacramento; the question is whether Sacramento is ready for Audio Out Send. We might just find out this week when the band brings its new sound to the stage at Old Ironsides on Friday.