With a name like Quitter, you’d think this five-piece band might have zero work ethic
Ambition is a good thing.
And the prospects for Quitter, a five-member Sacramento band, are definitely looking up. Yes, it’s the now-familiar story line of a local band signing with a nationally distributed label, but Quitter hasn’t quite graduated to that plush tour bus just yet. It’s still touring the western part of the country in a van, the shortcomings of which became apparent last March, when the transmission went out in New Mexico on the way to play the annual South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. After taking out loans to get the van out of the shop, Quitter arrived in Austin the day after its scheduled show. Fortunately, it picked up a show at a sushi joint.
Quitter is signed to Velvet Hammer Music, the label arm of the Los Angeles-based company that manages Deftones (Gratitude, featuring erstwhile local singer Jonah Matranga, also is signed to the label), but the band released its album Sender.Receiver—named as best local CD at this year’s Sammies—last November on its own Headphone Music imprint. That CD followed on the heels of two five-song, home-recorded EPs, according to one of the band’s two guitarists, Robbie Percell. “The concept behind that was just to get music out there,” he explained. “There’s no point in playing shows if you’re not leaving any music with people.”
The band has been playing together for four years now, practicing most nights when it isn’t playing. Its two guitarists, Robert “Floss” Cheek and Percell, live a few blocks apart in Midtown. Bassist Tim McCord—brother of well-known local drummer Matt—lives in Roseville, singer D. Scott Sault lives in Roseville, and drummer Aram Deradoorian currently lives in Elk Grove. Cheek had been a guitar tech for local band Simon Says, and he quit that gig because he was writing songs and figured it was time he got his own band. He came back to Sacramento and hooked up with Sault, who had fronted another local band called Leisure.
When writing songs, Quitter’s various members all contribute ideas, and the finished product is typically the result of a collective process, according to Percell. “Floss may bring in a riff that sparks a verse, a chorus or a bridge,” he said, “and we all jam on it, and everyone puts in their own ideas. Or someone might come in with a complete song.”
Musically, Quitter plays a sophisticated style of rock that tends toward multilayered epiphanies, with swirling textures crafted from interlocking guitar parts and keyboards, which Cheek, Percell and McCord all contribute. There’s no getting around Sault’s voice, which has more than a bit of Bono Hewson in it, but the band’s instrumental prowess combines U2’s textural facility with everything from the abraded guitar-driven attack of Fugazi to the more liquid, bucolic approach of My Morning Jacket. The band’s closest peers, locally, might be the bands Frank Jordan and Call Me Ishmael.
“We all have the staple classic bands that we’re interested in and we all listen to,” Percell said, “but we all come from very different backgrounds, musically and culturally.”
If there’s a problem with the self-produced Sender.Receiver, it’s that the band’s musical smarts were too far out in front of what it was capable of achieving, technically, back in 2003 when that CD was recorded. Some of the album’s tracks, which aspire to the kind of textural complexity that can be found on U2’s landmark 1991 album Achtung Baby, bog down in that particular type of sonic murkiness that stems from trying to build a Bentley on a Volkswagen budget. It’s a limitation of which Percell is humbly aware. “Our shortfall is that we know the gear that we purchased,” he explained, “where somebody else may have access to tons of things that they know like the back of their hand, where we tend to crutch ourselves with the things that we know and try and expand upon that. But we only have so much time and money to test out ideas.”
Fortunately, the next time Quitter goes into the studio, it should have the right parts to build the perfect machine.