Finding form: Career gets "Structures" to tape, and finally turns in its gripping debut full-length

The ambitious project sees physical release on February 9 at CL Space.

click to enlarge LIKE IT'S YOUR JOB: Career killing it live at the late, great New World Brewery. - Anthony Martino
Anthony Martino
LIKE IT'S YOUR JOB: Career killing it live at the late, great New World Brewery.

Ryan Fouche doesn’t much like Jack Kerouac. During a live performance on last week’s episode of WMNF 88.5 FM’s late-night indie show Grand National Championships, Fouche referred to the revered American author as a “dipstick,” ad-libbing the modified lyric in case some FCC schlub wanted to find a reason to levy a fine on the community radio station. Fouche didn’t get a chance to explain why Kerouac — who died in St. Petersburg at the age of 47 — chaps his ass, but he wasn’t casual about it.

And local music fans won’t be indifferent about the record Fouche and his band, Tampa-based post-rock band Career, are finally releasing on vinyl this Friday at CL Space (Creative Loafing’s events venue in Ybor).

Career's Ryan Fouche breaks down his influences, love/hate with Kerouac and more before Ybor City release show

“Structures” clocks in at just 28 minutes, but it’s the kind of work that leaves a hole in your chest upon first listen before filling that cavity with questions and then piles and piles of dizzying, disorienting sound. The piece — which finds Career “exploring themes of isolation, race/class structures, and hope in a post-recession landscape” — reminds listeners that the best pieces of music aren’t the ones that necessarily try to solve internal conflicts, but the ones that stir the pot instead, leaving us grappling with the art that just slithered its way inside our earholes.

“Oh my god,” was the reaction Grand National Championships host Alastair St. Hill uttered into the mic after Career’s on-air performance of “Structures” and a few new tunes. A moment of stunned silence followed before St. Hill — who’s been highlighting local bands on the program for almost 15 years now — finally came back. “That was something else altogether.”

“Among the most powerful artists I’ve had on the show. I actually had a tough time giving [Career] a useful monitor mix in their headphones because they’re so damned loud,” St. Hill told CL in comments after the show. He’s impressed by the vastness of Career’s performance, and the band’s commitment to rhythms, which skitter, stop and then roll like a violent riptide throughout the piece.

“That precision shows their technical abilities. They don’t shred ridiculous solos, but lock into relentless, lopsided grooves so wholeheartedly that they burrow into your bones.”

The skeleton of “Structures” has been lurking around Sulphur Springs for the better part of two years now. Career first composed the piece when it was tapped to perform at “The Music Box: Tampa Bay,” a sound-and-art installation that temporarily resided on the banks of the Hillsborough River in 2016. Career was just one of a handful of locals to play pieces created specifically for the interactive installation. Wheelbarrows, a bass guitar crafted out of a shovel and other non-traditional instruments were utilized in Career’s performance.

The band — which was born out of Ink & Sweat, an old Tampa punk outfit featuring Fouche plus Career guitarist Sulynn Hago, bassist Matt Ostraco and drummer Leo Suarez — whittled away at “Structures” in the eight months after those springtime shows. On air, Fouche told St. Hill that taking his time to pick at “Structures” helped him refine a fuck-the-world, angry approach to storytelling and turn it into something more narrative-driven.

“‘Structures’ is more of a narrative about somebody living in kind of a run-down home, this isn’t where he’s supposed to be,” Fouche said, adding that it’s easier to pull back and make the things that he hates more subtle when he writes for the narrative.

“It’s like, ‘I disagree with all of these things,’ but let’s show it rather than yell it at the top of our lungs.”

Fouche still manages to yell quite a lot on “Structures” and even uses a megaphone when performing the piece live, but even if he were silent, Fouche’s Career bandmates would still have plenty to sound off about. The piece opens with the hum of cicadas recorded by Jon Hunt, who contributes lots of droning noise and guitar on the record.

The hand of Sulynn Hago also sits heavily on the fabric of “Structures,” which was recorded and mixed by Dan Byers in the reverb-rich, nearly century-old Springs Theatre just a four-minute walk away from Mann-Wagnon Park where the piece was first performed.

“It’s a theatre from the 1930s so I believe they really designed the room to carry sound naturally since PA equipment back then was nothing like we expect today,” Derek Stephan told CL. He plays drums in another Bay area band, Vacancy, and is the “second Stephan in charge” there. He added that the walls at Springs are stripped down to the brick, which, combined with high ceilings and the room’s sheer volume, can make for a unique sound.

“It’s really a perfect room for recording drums because of this natural reverb. We don’t actually have a board. We use all vintage preamps that act as our board and are channeled into protools. So we get the vintage tones but the editing capabilities of brand new technology,” Stephan, 33, explained

click to enlarge SULYNN SHREDS: Sometimes its improvised, other times its a days-long process, for Career guitarist Sulynn Hago. - Anthony Martino
Anthony Martino
SULYNN SHREDS: Sometimes its improvised, other times its a days-long process, for Career guitarist Sulynn Hago.

Hago — a longtime Tampa guitarist who also plays in Canadian hardcore band Propagandhi — says that composing for Career requires an element of fearlessness. Every song includes elements of improvisation that will never be played the same twice, but some of the parts forced her to spend days at home working out a specific accompaniment. It’s a focused process that doesn’t end until Hago is completely satisfied with every note and embellishment, none of which interferes with Fouche’s vocal.

And that’s paramount.

More than 600 words make up the lyrics for “Structures,” but Fouche wrings every last ounce out of each of them as the piece’s four movements unfold. Overgrown kudzu, swarms of black flies, stagnant pools where mosquitoes breed, blown-out bass, baritone license plates and the sound of raindrops ringing and chiming on tin roofs are just a few tones Fouche uses on his lyrical canvas. A few spins with the record are enough to add a new tint to the colors of the growing cities we call home, and facetime with the liner notes should be taken in chunks, as if you were reading the Tao Te Ching or Thoreau’s Walden.

Fouche told St. Hill that the band is already working on a follow-up that tracks the character in “Structures” as he moves away from the things that left him feeling anxious and constrained.

The idea of a sequel is definitely exciting, but we’re still trying to free ourselves from the grip of the original.

Read about Friday's openers, Sean Hamilton and Permanent Makeup, and then get info on the show via See a Q&A with Ryan Fouche and listen to "Structures" here.

Career Vinyl Release 
w/Permanent Makeup/Sean Hamilton 
Fri. Feb. 9, 9 p.m. $10 ($20 for entry and copy of vinyl). 
CL Space, 1911 N. 13th St. Suite W200, Ybor City. 

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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