Preview: Local heavy rockers Carousel give debut vinyl a whirl
Jake Leger, left, David Wheeler, Jim Wilson and Chris "Twiz" Tritschler make the rounds in their band Carousel.
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There's sci-fi symbolism in local heavy-rock quartet Carousel: The band's name stands for the device that terminates the young citizens in the futuristic movie "Logan's Run" once they reach the ripe age of 30.
How appropriate, then, that three of Carousel's four members are in their mid-30s, regarding the band as their finest and maybe final attempt to make a mark on rock history. "[In the film], they have these [lights] on their palms that blink different colors as they get older," explains guitarist and frontman Dave Wheeler. "I think about the idea of us having a limited time to do this -- there's a certain urgency to this band."
It's not the first ride on the musical merry-go-round for any Carousel members, who release their debut 12-inch vinyl EP Friday. Mr. Wheeler and drummer Jake Leger were previously members of noise-rock trio Magic Wolf, while second guitarist Chris Tritschler (often called "Twiz," a nickname he's had since his third-grade teacher couldn't pronounce his last name) was in stoner-metal band Come to Dust. Mr. Leger is also the drummer for local indie-rock icons Karl Hendricks Trio and played in punk and emocore bands Pikadori and 53rd State.
But the concept of Carousel sprang from Mr. Wheeler's fertile mind. "I'd always wanted to do a two-guitar band with harmonized lines, not like Iron Maiden, but more like Wishbone Ash or Thin Lizzy. I started writing these [Carousel] songs toward the end of Magic Wolf. We had only one guitar player so it wasn't compatible, and when we broke up, I had a hard time finding people to play with."
After Mr. Wheeler witnessed Mr. Leger's solid drumming for the Trio and then recruited Mr. Tritschler, almost two years elapsed until Carousel's debut show at Gooski's. The missing ingredient had been bassist Jim Wilson, who'd been in a litany of indie-rock groups with memorable releases (Harangue, Tusk Lord, Vale & Year, The Mary Celeste) and clocked in as the sole member under 30. Mr. Wheeler, who works door and tends bar at Bloomfield hipster haven Brillobox, discovered Mr. Wilson's true passion one night. "Jim DJ'ed at the Brillo, playing old '60s garage rock." He played a 45 the Rolling Stones had included with their vinyl reissue of 'Exile on Main Street.' Then I saw him at one of those record fairs at [Lawrenceville ultradive] Belvedere's and asked him to come and play."
"All those other bands were just something to do," adds Mr. Wilson, "but I was waiting to start a decent rock band, so I said, 'Finally this is something I'm into.' "
In a world where the term "rock" can signify so many meaningless subgenres of mall dreck, it's important to specify what Carousel represents. "There are other bands out there doing somewhat similar things," explains Mr. Wheeler. "In Pittsburgh, there's Molasses Barge ... and [Tritschler's other band] Lady Beast, who lean a bit more toward metal. [Internationally] you might think of Graveyard, The Sword or Witchcraft."
"But the motivation wasn't to be part of some movement. I just wanted to make the music I've liked since I was a little kid -- playing rock 'n' roll in a more [heroic] style, not Stonesy, but more like Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath and Diamond Head. The original idea was born of Grand Funk Railroad and Mountain, '60s kind of stuff, but the way Jake drives the rhythm section makes the band more aggressive, adds more velocity and flamboyance, so we're [rooted more in the '70s]."
"It's hard for me, as a drummer in the back, to get noticed," offers Mr. Leger, "but Dave and I are the ones most trying to get attention in the band. Dave has both a lot of guitar chops and vocal ability, which is rare and impressive."
Carousel's epic-rock approach is clearly on display on the 12-minute track "Tears of Stone," occupying one entire side of its debut.
"People really like that song," says Mr. Wheeler. "The idea was to have a slow dirge-like verse and a freakout in the middle with a couple dynamic changes. It's really not a complicated prog song -- it's just long."
The three-song vinyl ("recorded so we'd have something to take out of town with us") will be quickly followed by a full-length Carousel album to be recorded in February. "[The EP] captures our early incarnation," says Mr. Wheeler. "We stand behind it, and it's good, but the songs we've written in the past six months have been a bit more concise, less like we're searching for our sound and more like we've struck upon it."
The overall plan now is to get on the road no matter what.
"My goal is to do this as soon as possible," Mr. Wheeler says "I don't want to look back when I'm over 40 and say that I wish I'd put more energy into it."
First Published November 29, 2012 12:00 am