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Father Superior

Husband, father, coffee shop owner, armchair pitching coach, and, perhaps, one day, public official—these are the roles filled by songwriter Colin Gawel ever since the once nonstop machine of Watershed decided to take a well-deserved hiatus. Since then, he has made an emotional fortune in domesticity. Yet, as busy as the family life may be, [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Husband, father, coffee shop owner, armchair pitching coach, and, perhaps, one day, public official—these are the roles filled by songwriter Colin Gawel ever since the once nonstop machine of Watershed decided to take a well-deserved hiatus. Since then, he has made an emotional fortune in domesticity.

Yet, as busy as the family life may be, Gawel hasn’t given up on his eternal quest for rock stardom. He’s spent three decades cultivating that persona, but for the last six years he’s done it mostly alone, writing songs when he can and assembling bands made up of friends gathered along the way. Those results appear on this month’s release of Superior: The Best of Colin Gawel.

The album isn’t so much a “greatest hits” package, as much as it is a collection of snapshots from various sessions, single releases, and digital EPs. A good half of Superior was recorded alongside the Lonely Bones, a crack staff of musicians Gawel formed in the void of Watershed, while the other half features a variety of notable players who were in the “right place at the right time.” The hooks and melodies one would expect on a Watershed album remain, but there’s certainly been a mellowing out for the songwriter, and Superior boasts what Gawel contends is a rootsier, more reflective side of himself.

Still, that doesn’t mean Gawel has given up on any of those dreams—he’s just channeled his creative efforts into myriad other “pet” projects, be it the Buckeye-themed punk of the Dead Schembechlers, who just released the mocking “Harbaugh to Hell” (“Michigan hates it more than Ohio loves it”), his popular culture blog Pencilstorm.com discusses Reds baseball and Kiss with equal aplomb, or his Cheap Trick cover band, Why Isn’t Cheap Trick in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?, the publicity for which may or may not have influenced the Rockford, Illinois power-pop legends recent HOF nomination. It’s really all in day’s work for Gawel.

The tales from the ’90s in Columbus are always a topic of contention or introspection. From your perspective, was it as magical as it is remembered? I was aware that there were a lot of great bands playing all the time. I was in the moment. When we were coming up there was the RC Mob and the Toll, and they were from two different camps. But those bands eventually went away and in came the Haynes Boys, Scrawl, and New Bomb Turks—there was Willie Phoenix and of course, Gaunt. I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of other bands. For us, it was just every weekend there were good bands playing. You’d go to Stache’s and there would always be a good show from a local band. Like Greenhorn. F**k,  Greenhorn was awesome.

Well, where do you think that Watershed fit in that mythology? We weren’t as good at that time. We were a little young and a little green. We weren’t punk enough to be punk, jam enough to be a jam band, or frat enough to be frat. We never had a readymade crowd. We would just take any gigs we could get and promote our own thing. We tried to play out of town. We had our own insular unit. So I kind of don’t know where we fit? But one thing is that we would actively see everybody, all the time. For better or for worse, you would see those guys out at the bars. We made a conscious effort not to confine ourselves into one little niche.

…our talk veers into a lengthy timeline of Watershed through the band’s mistakes and triumphs. There was the quick deal with Epic Records in 1995, the resurgence with their 2002 album, The More It Hurts, The More It Works, and the recent success of guitarist Joe Oestreich’s book about that journey, Hitless Wonder.

Watershed indeed survived those days, so what prompted the release of this “best of” your solo songs, the Superior album? There was one day when Joe decided to move out of town and get a real job. I understood. I would have preferred to keep the band together, but I knew that was not reality. Around that time Mike Landolt moved to town and that was a blessing. He was legit and he did a lot of front-of-the-house work for the Goo Goo Dolls and the Replacements, so he was talented. He started moving his gear here from L.A. and eventually found a studio. We started doing songs together, but put them out as singles, as they came. This was 2009, and you have to think about how you are going to put out a record. There’s no reason to think about how you’re going to put out a full record when you can do an EP today. We did “Words We Say” and the Chemotherapy EP and I realized that these were things I could never do with Watershed. No one was out to get rich from this. After a while though, we saw there was enough there to do a full record.

If you had to define what separates these songs from what you would do on a Watershed record, how would you do that? Garageband is a crazy thing. I’m always motivated to some degree, but there’s only so much creative time in the day. What I try to do, is, in moments, is always put an idea down. I sing it on my phone. Basically I’ll assemble things, and every once in a while it will just come. “Superior” was a song like that. Whereas the line in “Chemotherapy” I’ve had for 10 years and one day I just had to push it and finish it. I try to write about where I’m at now. It doesn’t matter where you write that, as long as you write about that moment, it makes it valid forever. Some of them hit a little too close to home, so they wouldn’t end up on a Watershed record.

You also recently wrote a lot of songs for the latest Erica Blinn album. Is that something you’d like to do for other musicians? If I were smart I would do it more, but it’s just not genuine to me. Erica is genuine—she’s the real deal. I’m really proud of that record. She’s a natural… I felt good about the album and was happy to help, but I’m not here to manage careers. I liked the idea of helping get that going.

What has kept you here all of these years? What is it about Columbus music that keeps you involved? Well I’m definitely not up on the latest bands, but for me it has always been such a great scene. There are so many places to play now that it’s shocking. Who’s going to all of these shows? We are a creative city. From a rock viewpoint,  it’s the geography of Columbus that creates the sound. We are basically north, but just enough West Virginia to make it edgy and uncommercial. Columbus is never going to be Husker Du and we are never going to be Widespread Panic.

Colin Gawel will celebrate the release of Superior December 23 at Woodlands Tavern (1200 W Third Ave). For more, visit music.colingawel.com.

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Local rocker Angela Perley shines on solo debut

Mike Thomas

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This article was originally published in the September 2019 issue of (614) Magazine.

Folk, alt-country, or indie rock—however you choose to categorize her sound, Angela Perley remains a pillar of the Columbus music community—and highly in-demand as a national touring act, to boot.

(614) caught up with Perley to discuss her new album, life on the road, and what it takes to make it as a musician in the Capital City.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

(614): YOUR NEW RELEASE, 4:30, IS YOUR FIRST AS A SOLO ACT. WHAT LED TO THIS CHANGE?

AP: Since 2009 until last year, I had the Howlin’ Moons. It’s always been myself, Chris Connor on lead guitar, and then we had bassist Billy Zehnal in the band up until last year. We’ve had a rotating extended family of drummers. Billy’s not in the band anymore, and we were also on Vital Companies, which is a studio/label in Columbus that did our previous albums.

https://open.spotify.com/album/04pKByd2ygDHXdvl1TcdWP?si=6njCmRpfR5GRWe5kLNghVw

So this one—it’s a solo one, it’s my first independent release. There’s no label involved, I own the masters to the songs. It’s hard to keep a band together, so Chris, who’s been in the band since the beginning, and I, we’re kind of the only members, and we have an extended family of really great and talented people who have other projects they’re in. It just works a lot better with what I want to do.

YOU USED KICKSTARTER TO HELP FUND THE ALBUM. WHAT WAS THE CROWDFUNDING EXPERIENCE LIKE?

Before, with Vital, they had a studio and video production, and they took care of all of our recording in-house. We didn’t realize how expensive everything was. We had paid for studio time [for 4:30] through show money, but to look at all of the other expenses of making a record happen and trying to get it out there, it’s pretty intense! There have been a lot of independent artists that we know that will do Kickstarters, and I’ve never done anything like it before, so I was really nervous doing it. But it was a success, and I actually just finished sending out all of the preorder vinyl that people ordered.

YOUR SOUND IS OFTEN DESCRIBED AS ANYTHING FROM AMERICANA, TO ALT-COUNTRY, TO PSYCHEDELIC ROCK. WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING WITHIN THOSE TRADITIONS IN 2019?

You kind of have to make your own path, because although there is a resurgence of rock ‘n’ roll, everything’s been done before. It has those roots, but we’re not breaking the mold or anything. You just have to be true to yourself and to the music, and just go from there. Everyone’s voice is important as an artist, so that’s important to remember.

YOU’RE ON THE ROAD TOURING QUITE A BIT. DO YOU STILL KEEP TRACK OF WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE COLUMBUS MUSIC SCENE?

Columbus is definitely growing, and moving toward doing things independently. I’ve seen a lot of bands touring, which is good. It’s an affordable place to tour out of, and there’s a community here for sure. Whenever I have a chance, we go out to the shows. We love The Cordial Sins, and we’re having them as our special guests for our album release. The High Definitions, Souther—there are just so many good bands.

When I go to other cities and I realize that there’s not really much of a scene going on, it is kind of cool to see that in Columbus, people are very aware and supportive of musicians. Even the businesses around here, everyone’s trying to work with musicians in some way. There are so many gigs, be it at breweries, at restaurants, or little festivals that pop up. There’s work for musicians here. And some other cities, there’s really not.

IN THE PAST, YOU’VE PLAYED SOMETHING LIKE 150 SHOWS A YEAR. ARE YOU KEEPING UP THE SAME PACE THESE DAYS?

I’m glad that we played that many shows at that time. We were playing anywhere and everywhere, and a lot of that was pressure financially. If that’s the way you’re making a living, you’ve got to take every gig. We’ve spread out the shows since, especially since we have been doing it for this long. We’re kind of gearing more towards quality shows. I will say, playing that many shows—I needed that. We needed the experience, and just the repetition. Every venue is different, every environment, every crowd. You cut your teeth and it makes you stronger.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO LOCAL ARTISTS HOPING TO MAKE A CAREER IN MUSIC?

It’s tough, because for each person it’s so different. Getting out there and working hard, playing as many shows as possible—that's all really great experience. But also focus on the music itself. If you’re going to make a music video or a recording, take your time—don’t half-ass it. Wait until you know what you’re doing. Although, you kind of have to learn from your mistakes, too.

Catch Angela Perley with special guests The Cordial Sins on September 6 at Skully’s Music-Diner for the release show of her new album, titled 4:30.

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(614) Sessions

614 Sessions: Doc Robinson

Mike Thomas

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4QdxpbrZgg&feature=youtu.be

Doc Robinson, the collaboration of Columbus music stalwarts Jon Elliott and Nick D’Andrea, joined us for this session in the 614 offices to share their unique brand of "Backyard BBQ Breakup music."

While here, the duo played stripped-down acoustic versions of their songs "Wilderness" and "Wild Beauty."

To hear more from Doc Robinson, follow them on your streaming platform of choice, or visit https://www.docrobinsonofficial.com/

Be sure to catch the group at Woodlands Tavern on Saturday, September 21, when they'll be joined by Hebdo, Parker Louis, Honey and Blue and many more for their Family Jamboree.

Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/artist/5O0efDEpkqEmWbXD2zpkjz

Apple Music:
https://music.apple.com/us/artist/doc-robinson/1116027164
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Producer: Mike Thomas
Videographers: Adam Fakult, Mitch Hooper, Mike Thomas
Audio Mixing/Mastering: Jared Huntley
Video Editing: Mike Thomas
Contact: [email protected]
Website: 614now.com

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(614) Sessions

(614) Sessions: The Turbos

Mike Thomas

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ThYK1D0000

The Turbos’ high-octane heroics have earned the group a fierce following in the Columbus rock scene and beyond. Combining shredding guitar virtuosity with soaring, anthemic vocals, co-frontmen Alex D. and Lucas Esterline lead the group in a sound that combines the best of the old and the new. Rounded out by the multi-talented Cameron Reck on bass and mononymous local music veteran Jahrie behind the kit, the Turbos are leading the charge for a new generation of rockers.

For the first of what we hope will be many in a new music series we're calling The (614) Sessions, The Turbos joined us in our offices for a stripped-down acoustic set. Despite leaving the electrics at home, the power of their performance was still enough to garner multiple noise complaints (sorry, neighbors).

For show dates and more, be sure to follow The Turbos on Facebook. Big thanks to the group for sharing their music as our first-ever guests in this new endeavor!

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Producer: Mike Thomas
Videographers: Mike Thomas, Adam Fakult, Mitch Hooper
Audio Mixing/Mastering: Jared Huntley Video
Editing: Mitch Hooper
Contact: [email protected]

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