What comes next is powerful. It's dark. It's New Orleans. It's every bit what you'd expect to see if Rock were an actual rock -- flipped over, it would reveal pill bugs, mud and earthworms. Or, in this case, vampires, mental hospitals and kisses in funeral parlors.
Days later in a practice space, and with the force of the full band behind him, the sheepish, circumspect songster is gone. In his place is Dan Mecher, a showman born to lead a Rock band.
His is a recognizable face in the local music scene. Last summer, after nearly 10 years fronting the cover-band-turned-subject-of-label-consideration act, Denial, Mecher started to feel stagnant. He began writing songs he knew would launch him in a different direction. Unfettered by the watchful eye of music industry representatives, these songs took on a life of their own and quickly commanded attention from other songwriters such as Cari Clara's Eric Diedrichs, who in turn suggested his brother Mark for the project.
Mark Diedrichs, lead guitarist for the Turnbull ACs, was the first in what would become a band of veterans. Currently, Matt Retherford (of Dr. Jones and Wojo) provides percussion while Chris Rebholz (of Spindle) mans the bass. (Denial is still officially together, though the band members are all currently exploring outside interests)
This stuff is rapid-fire but without sacrificing a bit of its integral catchiness. In any given song, the first verse could be melodic, a marriage of vocal pitch and guitars, but then suddenly the chorus kicks with a volley of gunshots. I could have sworn at times that Mecher was mistakenly singing the wrong lyrics, because they seemed to fly out in direct contradiction to the feeling created by the instruments. (He says it's not intentional.) Whatever the band's formula, there isn't a song an audience member would just as soon "skip."
The writing is inspired by artists like Elvis Costello, Alkaline Trio, Bright Eyes and My Chemical Romance, but the members also express admiration for local bands such as The Sundresses. In terms of the way their music is received, the band members agree on a fundamental confidence in their songs.
"I want this music to inspire people, much like I was inspired by it when I heard it first," Diedrichs says. "If we're playing before a bunch of artists, I want to them to walk away feeling inspired to create."
Asked what drives him to write with such world-weary grace and masochistic fervor -- reflected in lyrics like "It's sad but true, my son/ We kill the ones we love/ Your mother loved me way too much" Mecher says he is merely imagining love and torture from another perspective. "None of my songs are autobiographical, by any means. I want them to be more cinematic, like a story or a picture." In his humility, what he doesn't tell me is that his captivating way with words is what songwriting should be and too often is not.
While enthusiastic about the songs and the path they've already begun to take, the Turnbull ACs remain sensitive about assigning labels or directions to this project.
"Right now, I'm just happy to be doing something a little different," Mecher says. "There's no pressure on us to please record labels or to sell a million copies of something, which are factors that have influenced my writing in the past. I don't want to write like that anymore. I don't want there to be a strategy involved."
THE TURNBULL ACs (myspace.com/turnbullacs) will make their official full-band debut this summer. Dan Mecher presents a free acoustic Turnbull set at Donna's Diner in Covington Thursday.