Small town bands have seldom looked so promising. Planted and grown in Billings, Montana, 1090 Club manages not only to shine against the crowd of “main scene” bands, but also effortlessly take a lead. The band answered Driven Far Off’s questions with thoughtful–and funny!–responses on their flourishing lives in the industry.
Check out the band’s recommended song, “ITSON”, by streaming it right here.
– Please state your name and your roll in the band.
Sean: I play guitar, and sing.
Mike: I play piano and sing.
Steve: drums and vocals.
– What is the history behind 1090 Club?
Sean: 1090 Club started as a pet project for a local band compilation, and originally was never intended as a working band… I wrote a song and got together some friends to help me play it. Upon request, we started playing regionally, and as it goes, people really started to like the 1090 club sound. Over the years we have toured the US countless times, and fine-tuned it to the sound we have now. While in the midst of touring, we did some send outs to labels, and Sidecho liked what they heard. We played a few shows in So-Cal that they came to, and now we’re here. This is our second record for them.
Megan: The band started with Sean and Mike about eight years ago after they both moved back to Billings from living in Portland. They were writing a song for a local compilation that Sean was putting out. I met them at the restaurant Sean owned, they found out I played violin a while later and asked if I would try playing with them. Steve played one of the first songs written but he didn’t become a member until a few years later and after we had gone through numerous member changes. In the beginning of 2005 we started writing our first record. The four of us, plus some different bass players played on the record, which we recorded at Sean’s studio and had mixed by Steve Fisk. We started working on the second record shortly after the first came out. With this record we decided to record as a four-piece and we worked with Steve Fisk again, having him record and mix it for us. We recorded it in February of last year and all of us are really excited for it to be released.
Mike: Sean and I had been friends for a while and were messing around with a song for an upcoming comp. Megan started working at Sean’s restaurant and we all started jamming together. We thought, violin? That’d be crazy. So we tried it and it worked so well. We went through a few line-up changes, having a revolving bass player at every turn. Our drummer quit to get married and we needed a new one. We all knew Steve from the music scene and from different circles of friends. He was playing in a series metal band, but we thought he’d be into trying some music with us. We all jammed one time and it was set. His hard ass style fits so well. He beats the shit out of the drums. We played with a few more bass players and realized we didn’t need one. Dropped it and added more singing and here we are today.
Steve: I was the last addition to the band. So I’m sure there was a point in time when they sucked but I wouldn’t know. But really I recorded a song with them about a year before I joined the band. The song is called “little known fact” which is funny to me cause no one remembers the name, but the song ended up on a split disk with the brother egg, and I’ve been rocking with them ever since.
– From where did the name 1090 Club originate?
Sean: Always the question… Ha! 1090 Club is kind of name that has just stuck with us. Our very first drummer came up with it about 6 years ago, and we’ve had it ever since. It’s another term for a mullet, but that doesn’t necessarily translate with our music, so we downplay that a bit.
Megan: I started playing with the band after they had the name so I’m not totally sure why it was called that but it’s a synonym for the mullet hairstyle (10% front, 90% back)
Mike: The name comes from a hairstyle the mullet. It is 10% in the front, 90% in the back. It seems to be multiplying here in Montana. It started as a bit of a joke name, because it is huge here in small towns, but then things got rolling and we had a lot of notoriety with that name so we really couldn’t change it. We like it though. It ends up taking on a lot of different meanings as well. We start to notice that there are many things with the same 1090 in them. Road signs and stuff like that.
Steve: A joke… I really wish I had something clever to say here. But our name is just a lame joke. However I have sworn to keep it a secret. I hope the others stay true to their oath. Or else they get the hose again.
– How does having the band’s roots in Montana help it flourish and have a beneficial impact on the individual members?
Sean: I think living in Montana has allowed us to write music that is truly ours, without any outside “scene” influence. With there being so few bands here you can really grow into your own thing without worry of unsetting the status quo…
Megan: I think living in Billings has a positive impact for me to write music because I’m not constantly bombarded by it. I cherish all the stuff I listen to because I’ve had to personally seek it out or I’ll hear about band from my friends. We do have a descent, supportive music scene here but the chance that you get to see touring bands is less frequent. Because of this, I think people appreciate shows and get really excited for them.
Mike: I believe we are isolated from having to be a part of some scene and live up to its standards. Having to “play the game” is tiring so we benefit from having the freedom from that and the ability to concentrate more on music than wearing the right pants or hairstyle. Montana has taught us to be self-sufficient and to take on great tasks. If you want something here you must work 10 times as hard because most of the time you have to create it out of thin air. Many people are very driven here and that work ethic has influenced all of us throughout our lives. The solace Montana provides can’t be explained. I have lived all over the place. From giant city to tiniest town and there is no place better than Montana. It has the power to renew your energy in all ways.
Steve: Wow…. I guess being far from the bustle of big cities keeps me from wandering off. “I’m prone to that” but we have a fairly central location for home base and a pretty low cost of living.
– You guys are due to release your first album, Natural Selection, at the end of March, throughout which you worked with legendary producer Steve Fisk (Nirvana, Soundgarden). Has the level of professionalism during the recording of Natural Selection impacted or changed your music at all?
Sean: Definitely. Steve is great… he is the type of producer that gets the best take of you being yourself… he’s not into changing things just for the sake of doing it, or for the sake of the mainstream radio etc… Steve liked the songs when we sent demos to him. As far as recording, we did 3 days at Avast! in Seattle (Legendary Studio), and then the rest at Steve’s home studio. That was really our pace there. We’ve done a lot of house recordings before so it was comfortable.
Megan: Our first record was recorded over the course of a whole year at Sean’s studio so we had a lot of time to experiment with our sound. With the second, we got everything well practiced and planned out before we went to track because we only had two weeks to record. After the first record we had more of an idea of how were worked together as a whole and what kind of sound we wanted so it was easier to be prepared for the second. I think it’s really cool that we’ve gotten to experience recording in two very different settings? I’ve definitely learned a lot and Steve was very fun and laid-back and open to different ideas. It was nice being able to experiment on the first but I think our songs on the second flow better.
Mike: Well, if we are talking about from the last record to this one, yes the level has changed quite a bit, yet stayed very relaxed. We recorded the first record in Sean’s house over the course of 2 years. It was very relaxed and productive. While recording with Fisk we had to really have our shit together BEFORE we walked into the studio so we spent tons of time in pre-production with rehearsals and learning parts. Although he was laid back and the feel of the time with him was mellow, he required a lot out of us and we worked 11-15 hour days straight. He wanted the best he could get from us. It was nice to have someone outside of the band there to kick us into gear. He offered us many great ideas and ways to think about the recording process. He really was an amazing guy. He really became our friend through this.
The more serious aspect of trying to really “step-up” our new record hopefully comes across as more mature as well. It influenced the music in a much darker way than I thought it would. I originally wanted to call the record, “this was supposed to be happier.” As a joke. But it kind of captures what happened. What we set out to do and what we ended up with was two different things, yet exactly the way we wanted it.
Steve: Of course, but how, I couldn’t say. We had the vast majority of the natural selection written before we went to Seattle, however Steve Fisk is an infectious character and I’m sure the fun we all had together will show it’s self to the listener.
– What song from Natural Selection would you recommend new listeners of 1090 Club listen to first?
Sean: I would recommend ITSON (the first track on the album) and Happiness. I think these 2 songs kind of sum up what we’re all about as a band. Lots of vocals, some intricate interwoven instrument lines and upbeat tempos… We have different types of songs, but it’s a good intro.
Megan: I seem to change which song I like all the time. I think ITSON and Happiness seem to encompass the basic sound of the band. So those are the ones I’d probably recommend but I really like Hearts as of late.
Mike: ITSON, Off my Mind. Happiness. They seem to capture what we’re about in a general way that can lead to the weirder stuff.
Steve: Oh boy… I think “happiness” effectively shows the many shades of the 1090.
– How is Natural Selection unique from the hundreds of other albums of the same genre?
Sean: What genre are you taking about? Ha 🙂 we get so many different comparisons, I think we have a lot of options as far as fans. Hopefully they will all take a listen at something a little different out there. The music biz is filled with so many carbon copy bands (same hair, same clothes, same everything) that it reminds me of the dark ages of the 1980s butt metal scene… there were thousands of Poisions and Motley Crews, and none were good… People are looking for something new…desperately..right now. And we as a band seem to translate to a bunch of folks out there. We were compared to Irish/Scottish music the other day, in a good way. None of us really listen to anything like that, but people seem to relate on a different level with us.
Megan: I’d like to think that the instrumentation is sort-of unique. All four of us sing lead parts, we don’t have a bass player, and although there are other bands with string instruments, I think that a lot of times they’re not used as lead instruments like the violin is in our band.
Mike: We have a different orchestration, and really aren’t tryin to capture the newest trend in music. You can’t put your finger on what we are, and we love that. We have just happened upon this great opportunity that people actually want to hear our silly songs.
Steve: I don’t even know where we fit as far as genre goes.
– What mood do you hope the album evokes from its listeners?
Sean: I think the record can evoke a bunch of different emotions. It all depends on the listener and how they read certain things. It’s a record about the interaction between humans, good or bad. Everyone sometime in their life has good and bad times.
Megan: I personally like music that has a sort-of dark edge to it. Something that you want to listen to in headphones so you can hear all the intricacies, but I also like music that is kind-of upbeat and I feel our record has some of all of these qualities.
Mike: I hope it is kind of a dark joy. I want them to be calmed, but a little uneasy feeling.
– How does it feel to have previously shared the stage with bands like Bright Eyes and Minus the Bear? Does it arouse any emotions of intimidation or reverence?
Sean: It’s a really great honor to of played with such great artists. Both Bright Eyes and Minus the Bear are great people too. They are all inspirational for me, not intimidation… It really makes you want to work even harder, and appreciate every fan you have out there. Those guys are all at the top of the game, and some of the nicest I’ve met.
Megan: Playing with bands like that totally blows my mind. We played with Minus the Bear way before they were super huge so they didn’t have that big of a production but I still loved their band so it was really exciting playing with them. Bright Eyes, on the other hand, was in a pretty large venue and it was one of the bigger shows we’ve played so I was definitely nervous. One of my favorite parts of being in a band is meeting people so it’s really cool when you get to meet artists that you have tons of respect for.
Mike: Both really, Minus the Bear are smaller so they were not as intimidating to meet. Bright Eyes was a little different. Meeting Conner from Bright Eyes was intense. I had some misconceptions about it all; I mean, “Hi, you’ve sold how many records? And you’re playing with us?” But it was so much easier and more relaxed than I could have imagined. I can truly say Conner is one of the nicest dudes I’ve met in this industry in a long time. Omaha and Montana have a lot in common. We tend to really get a long with people from there. It was also amazing to watch first hand the band Bright Eyes doing their thing as professionals. Getting to see the “behind the scenes” transformation from a bunch of dudes hanging out into Bright Eyes was pretty amazing. To be a part of that show gave us a glimpse of the next level we’d like to achieve.
Steve: The majority of big bands that we have gotten to play with have been some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I don’t feel intimidated by them at all.
– Where does the band (individually or collectively) draw its inspiration from?
Sean: Wow, that’s a tough one. We all have been trained musicians at some point in our lives, and our music collection is really vast and all over the place. So, that being said, there are numerous factors in ourselves, as well as between members. We’re music lovers, what can I say…
Megan: For me personally, I draw inspiration from all the bands I listen to. The anniversary was one of the first indie-type records I listened to, and Cursive’s Ugly Organ changed how I viewed string instruments in music. Just all the things you listen to and think… I wish I could write something that awesome.
Mike: All sorts of things, Books, Philosophy, Nature, Other music. I am really into ancient writings right now. Mystery school stuff. Hidden messages in the paintings of Michelangelo.
Steve: Collectively. It seems we write in pairs. Several of the songs on N.S. started with Mikey and I jamming some drum and keys at the start of practice and they went from there. Others are songs that we all individually brought to the table and “1090ed” them as a group like “conversations”
– What is your process for writing lyrics and how long does it take you? Where do you feel the emotion comes from within you?Sean: Really depends on the song for me. Mike does a lot of the lyric writing. I’ll usually have an idea and go to him and we make a little more sense of it. A lot of times it’s words that I ended up singing while writing it, and they stick to the end…
Mike: I write about 90% of the lyrics. My process changes from month to month. For a while I could only write sitting at my desk surround with very little light and lots of loud music. Other times inspiration just strikes and I have to jot down whatever lines or words have appeared in my brain. This happens a lot while I drive. I came up with almost all of happiness while on a road trip by myself. I also have been a writer for a while and so this affords me a vast collection of tiny notes, one-liners, strange words, and rhymes to harvest from if I get stuck. At times I will be reading through old notebooks and find that one line that will work with what I am trying to do.
I really can’t say where it comes from. But it is in some essence easy to be struck with the feeling or moment you want to portray. When I space out and open up to the thoughts running through my head. The light is lit, the muse just speaks if you take the time to listen. It is constantly happening to me. I keep notes upon notes with me at all times. The hardest part is the capturing that “A-ha!” moment and wrestling it into actual words on a page.
Some of the songs have almost written themselves lyrically. The music will sometimes just click something on in my brain and the words just flow. This is how don’t tell me and hearts came to be. Occasionally they process is fast. But most of the time I am crafting, editing, changing, re-writing, and re-organizing lyrics until the very last minute of production and recording. So it takes some time.
Most of the songs are directed to a general “you”, not really about anyone specific. But there are a few songs such as Things Inside, Happiness, and Conversations that are about specific people. Past relationships of course, and other interactions. Mostly things that grew out of anger with others, but turned into something better than that.
I set out to write a happier record lyrically than the one I ended up with. I still feel even thought he darker imagery there is still hope in the words, at least that’s what I want to portray.
Steve: Most of my lyrics come from experiences with people and are usually cut directly from conversations I’ve had with them. Or they are what I would like to say to those peeps. This can take a long time to put together a song.
– Many bands take a stance against becoming “sell outs” and changing their music to hit “mainstream”. How do you feel about this issue? Would you ever consider altering your music if it were to launch you to that “mainstream” fame?
Sean: I would never change my music just for the sake of fans. That being said, I would never refuse anyone the chance to listen to 1090 Club. That’s the most important thing here.. The fans.
Megan: I never thought when joining the band we would even get this far. I hoped it became something, but I’ve never been too interested in fame. I play in the band because I like what we write, so altering that doesn’t really seem like an option.
Mike: I would love to make a living from my music at whatever level I can. I laugh at any band that has a label deal or a song on any media that talks about “not having sold out.” Umm..How’d you get here then?
Most bands I know don’t think of it as selling out or not selling out. They think of it as making a living at what they love. Who doesn’t want to do that? I think the terminology to “sell out” is part of the problem. It gives those who don’t understand that music is a business the wrong idea about why they may have that CD in their hand. I have more problems being called a “sell-out” by a fucking 15 year old that works at taco bell and is dressed up in the newest trendy clothing line sucking down his coke and smoking his cigarette. Yeah, right, I’m the “sell-out.” I do what I love for a living and I’m the sell out?” That’s fucking great.
Steve: To a certain extent, and anyone who says otherwise is lying to their self. But there are fundamental things about my music that I could never change; however if someone would like to tell me what drumbeat could make me a millionaire. I would gladly fit it into a song. I got kids to feed and bills to pay… I’m broke!!!
– How do you plan to stand out in the current music scene?
Sean: We’re hoping that our music stands on its own. I believe people are looking for a change in the current listening environment. I believe 1090 can stand out among a lot of bands right now…Thanks for the interview. This helps a lot as well!
Megan: I think we have a somewhat unique sound especially compared to a lot of the music that’s popular at the moment. I think lots of people are looking for something new and I hope that our record will stand out because of it.
Mike: Our orchestration and isolation tends to help us be different and sounding different from most all other bands. Once you have seen us live, it is hard to forget the 1090 Club.
Steve: With our hands on our hips and our pants at our ankles!!
these guys sound like an interesting bunch. i’m diggin’ that track that’s playing right now.
bike crash says
great interview, great material, incredible music…cant wait to see more from you guys