Despite writing the riff-laden epic "Waste of Time," the heavy rockers of Pittsburgh's Carousel aren't sitting around on the couch eating Cheetos.
Only one year after releasing its debut vinyl EP, the quartet embarks on a European tour next week. First, the members celebrate their national album release on Friday via the newly installed PA system at Lawrenceville punk dive Belvedere's.
All four Carousel members can list previous bands with local releases (Magic Wolf, Pikadori, Vale & Year, The Mary Celeste and more), but only drummer Jake Leger's other extant band, the Karl Hendricks Trio (signed to Merge, the label that launched Arcade Fire and She & Him) comes even close to the frenzy of activity the band could experience after inking with formidable New York City-based indie Tee Pee Records.
"[The signing] began with buzz surrounding the 12-inch we put out in November," recalls guitarist/frontman Dave Wheeler. "Local rock enthusiast Dan Allen heard the record at [Polish Hill record store] Mind Cure, then caught our show at Gooski's. He got in touch with Dave Martin at Matador Records, who then contacted Dave Sweetapple [of stoner-rockers Witch with Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis], who works at Tee Pee, which bought 30 copies of our EP to distribute. So when we got back in the studio for the full-length, Jake reconnected with Sweetapple."
"I only sent him three sound files," adds Mr. Leger, "but he sounded really encouraged."
"I had a long phone conversation with [Sweetapple] while I was at the Pirates' opening day," concludes Mr. Wheeler. "They wanted to put the record out, and it just needed a little tweaking."
The finished product, recorded on the North Side by Matt Schor (of local bands Icon Gallery, Test Patterns, Ultimatics, etc.) is called "Jeweler's Daughter," joining an impressive Tee Pee roster of about 50 bands: the cream of doomy heaviness including High on Fire, Nebula, Graveyard, Priestess, Earthless and Morgantown, W.Va.'s own Karma to Burn.
With a smartly accessible website and worldwide distribution (including by Sony-owned The Orchard), Tee Pee offered Carousel the opportunity to become known in the hard-rock scene quicker than most labels could.
"It gives us a window to be heard," says Mr. Wheeler. "We won't have any excuses. We've gotten into this position through hard work and strokes of good fortune, but it's really up to us now, to make it happen ourselves by touring and continuing to record."
That's also fortunate for Pittsburgh, because Carousel's genre hasn't been seen much here since the '70s. "An old band we sound similar to was Diamond Reo," says Mr. Leger, "with Warren King, and Norm Nardini playing bass. I can't think of many other regular hard-rock bands from here."
The cover sticker on "Jeweler's Daughter" cites "ringing echoes of Thin Lizzy, Mountain and Diamond Head," a consequence of the twin-guitar attack of Mr. Wheeler and Chris "Twiz" Tritschler, anchored by the bluesy, boogie-rock rhythm section of Mr. Leger and bassist Jim Wilson.
The leadoff title track (depicted by the tattoos, bangles and rings on cover model Tilly Hawk of local punk band Zeitgeist) starts the proceedings with a blast of WDVE-style classic rock. "In fact, it's supposed to be the first song on a compilation CD for Classic Rock magazine," adds Mr. Wheeler.
"On My Way" has a driving groove similar to Motorhead, and "Waste" slouches in the stoner direction, while "Nightfall" dampens the tempo and pours on balladesque atmosphere ("there's a fire/I can see the flame/in the distance/through the pouring rain"). "In my mind, it sounds like the Scorpions' 'In Trance' album, where they have a lot of slower songs," says Mr. Wheeler.
The record concludes with the mini-suite of "Contrition" ("Stairway"-ish acoustic intro) and "Penance," Mr. Leger's cowbell rocking like Foghat.
"I pushed for that," says Mr. Leger, "because I like the Sabbath and Zeppelin albums that have acoustic parts to break things up. [That contrast] is on modern rock albums, too, like Baroness."
The members of Carousel will see what Europeans think when they support Iowa psych heroes Radio Moscow for three weeks through Germany, Austria, Holland and Belgium, ending up at the Up in Smoke festival in Pratteln, Switzerland, on a bill with doom legends Pentagram.
"Friends of mine who toured Europe tell me it's unlike anything in America, so I'm anxious to experience it," says Mr. Tritschler. "Here, you're viewed as someone who needs to grow up and get a job, but over there, you're treated like a real artist."
"The main point is just to have a show every day and be a working musician," adds Mr. Wheeler. "I'm interested to see what the reaction will be when we put our music out there."
While joking how they "look like everyone else on Tee Pee" because of their long hair, the guys aren't youngsters -- they're all well over 30, with Mr. Tritschler pushing 37. "I like to think that 40 is the new 30," says Mr. Leger. "Athletes are making it longer in the NFL because of advances in medicine. With musicians, it's a bit different."
Such as the tendency to play in other bands: Mr. Wilson and Mr. Wheeler lead Outside/Inside ("it's like a blues band, but the way Creem or Jimi Hendrix would do it") who just issued a split 12-inch with locals Old Head, while Mr. Tritschler is in female-fronted metallers Lady Beast ("we just did a Midwest tour") and Mr. Leger remains with Hendricks, whose most recent gig was at the Electrical Audio barbecue in Chicago.
Pittsburgh hipsters often recognize Mr. Wheeler as their friendly bartender on the second floor of the Bloomfield venue Brillobox. "People come up to me and say, 'I saw your band.' It does make it easy to book a show there -- I can just text the owner," Mr. Wheeler says with a smile.
Some aspects of being in a signed band are surreal to him, however. "I talk to our [European] promoter and the publicist. I keep track of the product -- how many units I should get for the tour," he adds, and then it's back down to Earth. "I've still got to get up and check IDs all night at a bar."
Manny Theiner is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer.