Totalizer: Total bros

In some ways I feel like I’ve written about Totalizer already. This band that stands on a point between metal, hardcore, and “straight up rock” is made up of members of Tearamanapart, Leatherhorn, Rookery, Black Eyes and Neckties, Cheetah Speed, and more. What started as an under-cover jam between Ryan Clapper (guitar) and Kyle Roe (drums) four years ago has evolved into a full band as other projects fell by the wayside or disbanded.

After playing with several other guitarists, bassists, and singers, and under various names, the project was shelved until a lull in Roe and Clapper’s other projects presented an opportunity. Ryan Greer of Black Eyes and Neckties and Rookery was enlisted on second guitar and Roe’s housemate, Chris Howard, on bass. Nick Dillon was the fourth vocalist to try out for the band, though it wasn’t apparent to him during his audition.

“Nick was singing Phil Collins at karaoke at the Cabin [Tavern], drunk and really into it,” said Roe, “and sparks just flew.”

“At the time I was just living alone,” added Dillon.

“Yeah, and so it was like ‘Lets give Nick something to do,’” chuckled Roe.

Dillon and Roe went through the same program at WWU, at the same time, and knew a lot of the same people, but didn’t meet until they both started working at Everyday Music. On the other hand, Clapper and Greer had been playing music together for 12 or 13 years. Roe went to the same high school as Clapper and the two played in the band Cheetah Speed with Nika Lee (Baltic Cousins) and Shawn Stahlberger (The Russians, Baltic Cousins, Tearamanapart, Devilry). Totalizer lost and gained a member in the last month, with bassist Chris Howard moving to Kauai, Hawaii, and was recently replaced by Andrew Beer of Girl Guts. Beer, as it turns out, was one of their first “and only” fans, and has gone to many of their shows.

Totalizer’s members cite Drive Like Jehu as a primary influence but they edge into a heavier, early 90’s hardcore style. Their niche sound means they often get paired with hardcore or metal bands, but they feel that they are not exclusively conforming to either genre. As chief riff writer of the band, Clapper uses Totalizer as an outlet for more “straight up rock” guitar playing in contrast to the tens of metal bands he’s been in.

“I played with Black Eyes for a little while and it was like ‘this is really fun’,” said Clapper referring to the difference in style of Black Eyes and Neck Ties as opposed to bands like Leatherhorn.

Writing usually involves Clapper (and now Greer; the music-generative team known within the band as “the Ryans”) coming up with the parts for a song and letting the rest of the band fill in the sound. Once the songs hit the practice space it becomes a more egalitarian process as the ideas are strained of the abstract structures imbued by their bedroom birthplaces. With two writers at the helm, Totalizer don’t seem to be short of ideas.

“When you play guitar you just want to pick it up and play something new or weird, something you haven’t heard before,” said Greer, “It’s not like you’re playing other people’s songs or covers or anything; I don’t think I even know anyone else’s songs all the way through.”

The band has some recordings on BandCamp but they are planning to rerecord the songs for a full-length this summer, partly because the recordings were used as a reference in the first place. In fact, the band wasn’t really sure how they sounded until they listened to the tracks, which they recorded with Peter Hilleary. The band is hoping to use the new recordings, and new merch, as a reason to start playing out of town within a few months.

If this article hasn’t felt enough like a list of other bands to you yet, they insisted on mentioning bands that they want to see get back together, just so they can play with them: Future City Fear, Lands Farther East, Isopol, Braille Tapes, Racetrack, U.S.S. Horsewhip, the Seizures, Axes of Evil, and the Marianas Anchor. I say yes to all of this.