Thursday, July 16, 2009

MP3: Druggist is Heading Out West

Druggist promoDruggist is heading out west. Scroll down for a free mp3 download.

Druggist is the San Antonio songwriting duo of Zach Dunlap and Blake Cormier. They've been a team since 2005, when Dunlap returned from traveling in Asia. In four years as a band, Druggist has self-released three albums in addition to embarking on four national tours. Their sound is large, sweeping, and intricate -- a style of sincere and grandiose pop-rock that doesn't get its due anymore in the mainstream, for whatever reason. This is the kind of band that could find an audience with Okkervil River fans, but I wouldn't call them Paste or Pitchfork standard indie-rock fare. There's some REM and some Springsteen in what they're doing, too. I feel like Druggist's most recent album, The Pile On, would appeal to the people who made alternative rock radio big in the '90s, and later abandoned it when stations like Austin's 101X became havens for post-grunge Nirvana-Lite bands and the Fall Out Boys of the world. I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Druggist isn't ready for trendy indie-rock prime time, but their sound is mature and varied enough to win fans from a diverse array of musical niches.

Unfortunately, for us Texans, Druggist is leaving the Lone-Star-sipping state for the allures of California's Bay Area. I doubt it's 100 degrees and paralyzingly humid there right now like it is in central Texas. I recently conducted a quick Q&A with Cormier (vocals/piano/guitar) about the move and about their tunes. And be sure to catch Druggist for the last time in San Antonio this Saturday at The Ten Eleven Bar.

What prompted the move out west, and why did y'all choose San Francisco specifically?

Blake: I was actually born in San Francisco, and it's always been a city I've felt connected to. When we went on our fourth tour, we spent a week on the West Coast, and San Francisco was like this breath of fresh air. We played on the third story of a club where people had to weave through a couple hundred folks at the bar, go up a couple dark flights of stairs, and pay ten bucks to see a band from Texas they'd never heard of. The room got packed with people rocking out to our music; it was a great feeling. We spent another day hanging around the city and I think Zach began to get sucked in by it, too. After we released The Pile On it started feeling like we'd come to the consensus that we'd grown as much as we could here.

On your album you have songs titled "San Francisco" and "Our Way Out West". Did you have this move planned when you recorded the album last year, or did it just become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Blake: It has definitely become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The song "San Francisco" came about after the last tour, when we were back home and I was recalling the way it feels to be on the road for a few weeks -- driving all day, playing all night, getting up the next day, and doing it again, just you and your close friends. I knew from the beginning that I wanted Marcus Rubio to come up with a violin part for that song, in the vein of "Drivin' on Nine" from the Breeders' second record. "Our Way Out West" had maybe a verse and a half written before the tour, then the rest of it fell into place during the excitement of getting back into the studio.

Listen to "Our Way Out West" below and/or download here.



What's the hardest part about leaving?

Blake: Definitely leaving our family and the people we love. We're very close with our families. Also, we love San Antonio. Certain areas of town, like River Road and King William are very close to our hearts with their parks and mom-and-pop places.

I feel like people in Austin don't really know much about the music scene in San Antonio (or if there even is one). I know about punk and metal coming from SA, but is there much support for your style of indie pop-rock?

Blake: Firstly, I wanna say that we find ourselves picking and choosing here as far as venues go. The city is very spread out, so location can be an issue. There is no real centralized artistic-minded population here -- no Drag or Sixth Street to speak of. Some venues have great sound, nice people, and will let you set up shows exactly how you want, but they're nowhere near any sort of "strip" or downtown area. Others are centrally located, but prefer to feature DJs over bands for various reasons. During our stops in Austin, it's been extremely clear that (relatively) no one up there has any idea about San Antonio music beyond the "metal" or "punk" genres. We've written venues, even very small ones, about doing shows and gotten responses like, "Sure, you can have Thursday night if you can bring in 150 people." It does seem like a lot of promoters in particular just don't really care to hear from you if you're from here. I've had the same experience booking the tours we've done. One guy in Minneapolis will be a dick like that and then another guy will go, "Wow, I listened to your tunes and I'd love to have you guys."

How did you come up with the name Druggist?

Blake: The name Druggist, possibly obviously, came from a period when I was taking a lot of pharmaceuticals and thought a concept record would be in order. The idea was pretty stupid, and thankfully this great pop band was created instead. Dodged a bullet on that one, huh?

Watch Druggist live for the last time in San Antonio before they head out west, this Saturday at The Ten Eleven Bar. Visit the band on MySpace.

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