by Rodney Lotter
Over the last year or two, a new crop of younger Bellingham bands have popped onto the scene (usually via house shows and Tubb’s) and have made a lot of noise in the scene as a process. These bands include Eagle Teeth, Chucky Wonder, Otto, Gypsters and Noise Toys, among others.
While all of these bands have stayed busy, it is hard to argue that Noise Toys have been the most prolific live band in the group, and perhaps even the most gigged band in Bellingham in total. A cursory glance at their Facebook page shows they have played at least seven shows in town in month of January.
Yet, with all the gigging, their recording output has been pretty slim. Up until last month, all they had was three songs on a split e.p. with Otto, but that has all changed with their newest offering Extended Play, a six-song EP released in late-January.
River Fleischner, the band’s guitarist and sometimes singer, said Noise Toys took about six months to record at the home studio of Ian Reed, a member of Gypsters. The other members of Noise Toys include Skylar Russell, guitar player and singer, Matt Cooper on drums and Joe Vacca on bass.
“Our first EP, we just kind of put it out as fast as we can, so just we had something online to help book shows and stuff,” Fleischner said. “With our new recording, we decided to be more methodical and painstaking about it. We would sit there for hours listening to the recordings, taking notes, to make sure we got it right.”
Fleischner said the goal for the new release was to capture the ‘perfect live show” during the recording sessions: “We have always been more of a live band, rather than a recording band,” Fleischner said. “So, we wanted to really capture the authenticity an energy of our live show, but also have better sound quality and make sure every instrument can be heard.”
He said the Extended Play release is so much better than the first release because the band has played so many live shows since then. Through the live shows, the band has constantly re-crafted their songs, gotten to know each other better in the musical sense, have been playing with better equipment (which, during recording, included the same brand of microphone that Taylor Swift used while recording.)
Trying to track down how many shows the band has played in the one-and-a-half years they’ve been together is an exercise in futility (I stopped counting by the time I reached late-August 2013 on their Facebook page, with a rough estimate of around 40 shows, which include houses, pretty much every live venue in Bellingham and shows in Spokane, Seattle and Bellevue.) When asked if oversaturation is a thing the band is worried about, Fleischner pretty much said yes…and no.
“I have been thinking about laying back a little bit, as far as playing live goes,” he said. “It’s just we have such a blast playing live. We never get tired of it, and by the crowd reactions and attendance it seems like other’s aren’t tired of it yet either. It’s just an amazing experience. Every time we are on a stage, it is seriously like our dreams are being actualized.”
As far as dreams go, Fleischner has no qualms about saying that Noise Toys wants to be a big band, and they want music to be their full-time profession. He said it would be a lie to say they don’t want to pursue music as their livelihood.
“We want to go everywhere with [Noise Toys,]” he said. “We want to be able to go into the fridge in the morning, and have milk and food inside of it, and be able to pay our rent on time and not have to worry about it, and we want to make that money with our music. I mean, personally, I’m not really good at much else. I don’t think I could ever work at an office and do the whole nine-to-five thing. It’s a fun thing to obsess over.”
Most bands will say they are just in it “for fun,” which is absolutely true for Noise Toys, but they aren’t afraid to admit to higher ambitions. At the time of the interview, the band had just come back from playing some shows in Spokane (where Cooper is from, the rest of the band is from Prescott, Arizona,) where they made some connections for future shows. For the band, it is all about making a connection- whether with the audience, with the scene as a whole or with bands, both local and touring.
“We’ve let so many bands crash at our place while coming through town, and we have have stayed at other bands’ places while we’ve been on the road,” Fleischner said. “We’ve made friends all over the country, and we have only scratched the surface it feels like. We’re so lucky to be in Bellingham, because it is the crossroads for a lot of great exposure and with enough work, you can get shows and support, and gain the experience you need to go to the next level.”
The whole reason Fleischner, Vacca and Russell moved to Bellingham from Prescott was to start a new chapter. Vacca and Fleischner both had been to Bellingham before and thought it was the “cat’s pajamas,” and the perfect place to pursue music.
“It has been such a communal experience,” he said. “We feel totally accepted here, but still just enough out-of-place to not get too comfortable. Living and playing in Bellingham has really been serendipitous.”