City Hall: Band of brothers

by Brent Cole

Every few years, a super group forms in Bellingham out of loved and respected bands (Death for Cutie, for example). Bands whose members are instantly recognizable in the music scene and have creditability, fans and, usually, talent. Ladies and gentleman, presenting City Hall.
The idea of a super group is one the three members – Luke Hogfoss (The Palisades), Casey Dunau (Soccermom) and Jake Barrow (Vervex) – would never even think about. City Hall is just three guys, three great songwriters, who came together to explore pop music.
The origins of City Hall began while the three were students at Western and worked on Tech Crew. They were all playing music at the time in their respective bands, and quickly became friends.
“Casey and I got along pretty well, we had pretty similar interests in artists. We admired each other’s music we made with Palisades and Soccermom,” Hogfoss said.
As Dunau’s and Hogfoss’s bands dissolved over last summer, they sought each other out and began practicing in October. Jake joined up for one practice, but he had a trip to France already scheduled, so the two woodshedded with Jake officially joining around the New Year. “I came back from the trip and hit the ground running,” stated Barrow.
With three songwriters in the band, the trio have worked hard to find their footing creating music. Each member brings in their own skeletons of a song, then they develop the music as a band, figuring out who is singing where, exchanging parts and striving to find the music that will sound the best as City Hall.
“We are figuring out how we can make our styles match because we admired each other’s style so much,” Dunai said, adding, “We’ve never had to stretch ourselves creatively – we’re being honest with our own writing and each other’s writing. We really wanted it to be an honest collaboration instead of a compromise. We share an intense desire for pop sensibility, not have it be so high-brow that no one gets what is happening.”
Barrow added, “We talked about our influences and styles (early on). But we all respected each other’s musicianship, which is why we wanted to start the band. I feel a brothership with them. We have different influences, but we have a good time when we’re hanging out with each other.”
For both Hogfoss and Dunau, City Hall is a project that allows them to learn from their past mistakes and work in a band with an idea of how they want to move forward, both stylistically and as an entity. They’ve already recorded seven songs, some, if not all, of which will be released on a demo coming out in May and have begun playing as much as possible. “We want to play so much people get sick of us,” Dunau said with a laugh.
Musically, City Hall is focusing on the pop song – stripped down instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums with Hogfoss utilizing one effects pedal) reminiscent of Pacific Northwest icons such as Nirvana, Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie. Luke also cites Canadian icons as an example of their sound. “Sloan is totally what we’re going for – stripped down pop music.”