Friday, December 10, 2010
SEPARATION: The Absentee Era (2006 to 2010)
SONG - Every/Sum Body
The post-Powerhouse momentum ceased abruptly when the boys went their separate ways at the end of the summer of 2006. Mason left James Madison High School to study at James Madison University. Jay left the country to grow a beard and ride dirt bikes in Paraguay. And Paul was kicked out of his parents' house and forced to live with Russians in a Falls Church slum called MIR II.
Tasked with planning their annual holiday performance drummerless, Paul and Mason had to reconsider their live show on account of Jay's subequatorial sabbatical. Mason, who had been experimenting with Garageband, sequenced backing drum parts for that show. The performance itself also featured a computer-voiced narrator, FDR-esque fireside chat props, and was presented more like a television holiday special than a traditional rock show. Though unpolished, awkward, and poorly received, the show found the Catscan exploring new concepts and taking bigger risks than they had in years.
This step outside the comfort zone paid off when they polished the concept through the Future EP and subsequent "Future Shows" in 2007. Catscan recorded a concept EP of songs written about the year 3000, produced digitally with almost no live instrumentation. It was released on their website for free download and sold physically at the release show. For this performance, and subsequent Future Shows, they re-re-recruited Eric Randall, who had since become interested in electronic dance music. Randall's DJing, along with hip outfits and lighting, brought more of a club feel to these shows. Having pre-recorded backing music forced the band to do more to keep the crowd entertained, including choreographed dance moves, intricate futuristic costumes, and elaborate props.
With Jay's return in the summer of 2007, Catscan began work on a new project. They planned to release a soundtrack album to a zombie movie which they were also writing, both based loosely on The Beatles' Help!. It would be called Kelp!.
As their next Christmas show approached, Mason and Paul found themselves Jayless once again. Though they were content with the experiment that was the Future Shows, Catscan decided to take another big risk by doing the exact opposite. Instead of scaling down to a two-man all electric show, they brought on an additional seven musicians to do an entirely acoustic performance. Four euphoniums, three singers, two guitarists, one percussionist, and an ape played to a surprisingly large audience.
Meanwhile, progress on the Kelp! project slowed to a crawl. Although many songs were written as well as an entire storyboard and part of a script, the project ultimately grew too large in scope for Catscan to handle, and was re-imagined as a half-documentary, half-horror comedy in the style of another Beatles' movie, Let It Be. The title, Get It Free, would also coincide with the launch of their new website which would offer their entire discography online for free. Though Catscan filmed hours of mostly boring footage for the movie, this project too was ultimately scrapped.
The band reconvened briefly in 2009 to record a radio special for WVCW, VCU's college radio station in Richmond. This recording never aired. However, DJ Gonzi and cohorts did play a few Catscan songs and, in keeping with tradition, perpetuated the promotion of misinformation about the band and its members.
At the end of the summer of 2009, Mason&Paul finished up a collaborative transatlantic EP with Richy&Georgie called The War in Arach. The songs were built from samples traded back and forth across the pond, and had a completely different feel than the Future EP and any previous Catscan album due to the bizarre contributions of their british counterparts.
Catscan played one final show as a trio in December of 2009 for the Catscan Solutions, Inc. Mandatory Holiday-Themed Office Party which featured a few new songs and an auto-tuned Christmas karaoke session.
In 2010, there were no shows and no new recordings released. Mason and Paul spent most of the year organizing and archiving all of their work to date: their long history as a band, their extensive discography, their many live performances, their greatest accomplishments, as well as their massive failures. Catscan sat down and chronicled all of it into the very words you are reading. The Absentee Era ends with this sentence. This one, not that last one.