Following eight months of online riff-swapping, the scattered Midwesterners of Able Baker Fox rehearsed only once before recording their upcoming debut, Voices, in less than a week at the studio of engineer/producer Ed Rose (Coalesce, The Get Up Kids, Reggie and the Full Effect). Merging old tour buddies and collaborators from melodic post-hardcore groups Small Brown Bike and The Casket Lottery, its members say a combination of history and distance made the record “effortless.”
“These songs seriously just wrote themselves—we really didn’t have to put too much time into it,” said guitarist and vocalist Nathan Ellis (Jackie Carol, The Casket Lottery), who lives in Kansas City and conceived Able Baker Fox over the phone in May 2006 with Mike Reed (LaSalle, Small Brown Bike), a resident of Michigan. Rounding up Mike’s former bandmates Jeff Gensterblum and sibling Ben Reed, the foursome’s sole criterion was to avoid sounding like any of their other projects.
“It turned out to be a guitar-rock record,” said Ellis, insisting the project draws heavily from ‘90s influences. “The [other bands] are all song-focused, and these are all about the gain knob.” Ellis and Reed said the file-driven, song-sharing process involved a more democratic exchange of ideas and openness to change, which is sometimes absent during weekly, in-person sessions where someone has to fill a leadership roll.
“When you’re writing a part and you’re sending it off without having any preconceived ideas, it’s always a pleasant surprise,” said Ellis, adding that the album reflects this unexpectedness. It’s a pressureless flexibility desired by burned-out bands that call it quits—like Small Brown Bike.
“I think practice can be one of the most stressful parts of being in a band,” said Reed. “It’s the spot where you really push each other’s buttons. The four of you stand there, and somebody has to take the reigns and be in charge, musically. On the computer, you’re in charge all the time. When we got together at practice, it was like everybody had already made the songs theirs.”