At one point in his career, Christian McAlhaney was standing in front of Rick Rubin, who was considering signing McAlhaney’s Seattle-based rock band, Acceptance. The famed producer passed on the group.
“We dodged a bullet,” McAlhaney said last week during an interview at the Symphonic Distribution headquarters in downtown Tampa.
IF YOU GO
Loose Talk w/Man The Hunter/Jack Jagger
Fri. Oct. 18, 9 p.m. $10.
Hooch and Hive, 1001 W. Cass St., Tampa.
Rubin signed a friend’s band, Noise Ratchet, instead. Noise Rachet’s album never came out, and two of its members went on to help form Delta Spirit. Sixteen years later, McAlhaney and Deon Rexroat — members of reunited alt-rock band Anberlin — make up a St. Petersburg rock and roll band, Loose Talk, which finds itself in the line of fire once again as it prepares to independently release an EP and open for Anberlin at the House of Blues in December. A Friday night headlining show in Tampa gives locals a preview of what could be the start of a promising journey for the duo.
Read highlights below, but listen to the entire conversation via Cigar City Radio below.
How do you manage energy levels for live sets like the ones you’ll do at House of Blues and Hooch and Hive?
Rexroat: The energy grows with the more people you're in front of, so that makes the Anberlin support shows exciting, but we’re just as excited to headline our own gig because we haven’t done a strictly Loose Talk headlining show in over a year. Our first show was at the Local 662 when it was still open. I grew up going to small spaces in Winter Haven and played some of my earliest shows at places like The Refuge in St. Pete.
The new single, “Iron Heel,” could easily fill up a House of Blues style club. What are the origins for that one?
McAlhaney: The roots to most Loose Talk songs are in the Washington state coastline. I would go there for Acceptance, I wrote there for Anberlin. I probably wrote the riff four or five years ago, and over time, Deon and I put a melody on there, and then worked in words. The hot topic for us at the time was American politics, and it still is. It’s something we still talk about. That song is an outrage at what we’ve been watching for the past few years.
Do you remember what was going on specifically?
Rexroat: The same thing that’s still going on. We're not overtly political people, artistically, but sometimes if the mood strikes you just go with it.
The song is one of those that’s deceptively simple. It hides how hard it was to make — when did you know it was done?
Rexroat: I was on the fence at the time, I felt it was out of place, musically, in the context of everything else we were writing, but as it developed, I was like, “This is going to a good spot.” I have a very detached way of looking at anything I'm a part of creating, and I forget that it is what we’re creating. Like, “Oh, it doesn't sound like us… but we wrote it — screw it.” But that song found its style and vibe.
Is there a Loose Talk sound?
McAlhaney: It’s a new project, so you define your sound by what you write, obviously. We knew our influences, and we knew what we wanted other people to hear, but those have been changing. A lot of our songs are tuned down pretty low, so there's a lot of stoner-rock, but we weren't trying to be a stoner-rock band. We're not trying to be a blues band. We just want to be a rock and roll band.
You talked about Rick Rubin not signing you earlier, and it makes me think about ownership of music. You’ve lived 16 years of music — what’s your view of ownership, and all that stuff, as you embark on this new journey as an independent artist?
McAlhaney: It's changed so much from the early days of Acceptance. Back then our goal was to just play locally, the only reason we started talking to labels was because a friend of ours saw his band Vendetta Red signed to a label. I don't know that the goal is necessarily getting on label now because now you don’t have to. To me being completely independent has always been an ideal, but how you go about it has been the biggest question mark.
Rexroat: I was lucky in that I grew up in DIY. Because of a class I took in high school, I knew how to work Adobe Illustrator and designed all my bands' CDs and shirts. I was obsessed with album design, I studied everything bands like Minor Threat did. We did everything ourselves, and now with Loose Talk I get to tap into that again. But at the same time I'm not afraid to get help from anybody, especially if they know more than I do. We live in an age where everything is “disruptive,” and everybody's trying to reinvent the wheel, but sometimes you can just give the car a better ride by putting nicer tires on it. You don't have to be completely new and innovative. You can become a student of best practices and learn from other peoples’ success.
What’s something you really want people to understand about Loose Talk?
Rexroat: We didn’t want the band to be perceived as Anberlin with a different singer, and that drove the direction for a little bit. I want people to understand that right now we’re just trying to write the best songs we can; we want the songs to define this band.
McAlhaney: In the past, we didn’t have the time or money to actively pursue being a band, some people thought this was a hobby. This is an active band, we’re playing shows, putting out new music. We’re doing this; we are open and available.