Author: Jesse Thomas

Desert Noises
Mountain Sea
Northplatte Records
Street: 10.18.11
Desert Noises = Joshua James + Fleet Foxes + Band of Horses
If I had to pick one local album to share with a friend from out of state, Mountain Sea would probably be it. To me, it represents the real quality folk-inspired rock n’roll that comes from Utah. Its sound is big enough to fill wide-open spaces and its feeling is intimate enough for a good pair of headphones. The vocals throughout are strong and are reminiscent of Fleet Foxes in style and harmony. Both the vocals and instruments turn out a lot of energy that is hard to not get excited about. It also helps that many of the songs are so catchy. I had “Oak Tree” and “Bible Study” stuck in my head for weeks after listening for the first time. Most songs are very beat driven with great drumwork, but the band also knows how to slow it down and does it quite nicely on “Smoke Breathing Monsters” and “Tell Me You Love Me.” Mountain Sea is quite a great album from the home-grown, Utah Valley boys of Desert Noises.


Over the past 18 months, Desert Noises have put over 84,000 miles on their trusty tour van, which will take them to SXSW this March. Photo: Jaclyn Campanaro

Desert Noises are a band that were born to perform. While some local bands are content with an occasional show at Kilby or Velour, these guys have been traveling from one corner of the country to another, loading and unloading their mini-van for shows they booked themselves. Just look at their Tumblr and see how riddled it is with tour announcements, updates from the road and “dates added.”

The four-piece plays folk-inspired indie rock with enough rhythm, reverb and harmony to fill vast, open spaces. After some changes in the past, the band’s current lineup is Kyle Henderson (vocals/guitar), Tyler Osmond (bass), Patrick Boyer (guitar) and Brennan Allen (drums).  All four are bonafide Utah Valley boys who came together after playing in separate bands for some time. They released an EP (2009) and their excellent first album, Mountain Sea (2011), on Northplatte Records.

For all four members, growing up around the Provo music scene has been the biggest motivator to become musicians themselves. “You could easily go to any show down here and you’ll find someone that will inspire you,” Osmond says, “or you would see something that would just blow your mind—there’s so many good musicians around here.” All throughout high school, they would hit up the venues for shows over the weekend. Allen ponders the scene’s influence: “All of [the venues] were really good stomping grounds, good places to be almost raised by live music. It probably has something to do with why we love touring so much and playing live shows—we’ve always been around that,” he says.

Desert Noises have made touring their Number One priority for a long time now. Until their most recent tour, they had been booking all of their own shows, too. Their first tour came as a risk, says Allen: “We quit our jobs, moved out of our houses, took out a loan, got a van and went.” Because they didn’t know anyone in the cities they played, they were forced to meet and hang out with new people, which has made subsequent tours much easier to book because most venues want them back, and they have friends to reconnect with at each stop. Since that first tour, they haven’t slowed down. Just in the past year and a half, they have put 84,000 miles on their Chevy Venture. They calculated it out: That’s more than three times around the earth’s equator. The van actually brought them to notoriety. Henderson says, “It is what we were known for. It’s your typical Mormon-mom car.” They traveled with the maybe-a-little-too-cozy arrangement of five guys plus all of their gear in the van, without a trailer. To some relief, they recently were able to upgrade to a new, 11-seater van.

Last November, the band released a raw, three-song mini-EP called I Won’t See You. In describing how the recording came together, Henderson says, “I don’t think it was necessarily supposed to happen. We recorded some demos and liked them, and it was something to represent the four of us because nothing we had written together had ever come out.” They hand-packaged and stamped the recordings as a 7” themselves, seeing it as a souvenir for fans to take something home after seeing their show. It was released on the band’s newly created record label, Kid Canvas Records, and the title track, “I Won’t See You,” was featured on MTV Hive. The beautifully rough, rock n’ roll sound of the EP is a taste of what is to come from a new record. The band says that they have enough songs written for a new album, but are waiting for the right time.

The big news of late is that the band got an invite to play at SXSW this March. SXSW takes over Austin, Texas each spring and is one of the nation’s largest music festivals. Brennan looks forward to the event. “It sounds like it’s going to be pretty wild from what everybody tells us. Just busy—busy playing shows. We’ll be probably playing, like, 10 shows in three days,” he says. They are excited to be playing so much there, but are probably more excited to meet up with friends they have met out on the road who will also be playing there. “Tons of different bands that we have met on the road are going to be there. So it’s like a giant gathering place of bands that we know, and, hopefully, we’ll run into them and meet some of their friends,” says Henderson.

To the band, the opportunity to play at SXSW, which takes place March 12-17, is much appreciated and exciting, but they are also almost nonchalant about it. After all, it comes in the middle of yet another of their tours. Henderson shrugs it off—“It’s just one of the stops,” he says.

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Kate Chandler and Scott Manning are helping to build a community through bikes at the Provo Bicycle Collective. Photo: Talyn Sherer

You live in Provo and can’t afford to buy a new bike or pay for repairs at a shop. Maybe you want to learn how to take care of your bike or ride along the streets safely. Maybe you’re considering moving down past the point of the mountain and want to make sure you’ll be taken care of as a cyclist. If you fall into any of these scenarios, allow me to introduce you to a new friend: The Provo Bicycle Collective. Founded in November 2011, the collective is open Thursday through Saturday and staffed by volunteers who lend a helping hand to cyclists in need of the facility and its tools, asking only for a $5 donation per hour. SLUG sat down with two of the Collective board members and founders, Scott Manning and Kate Chandler, to find out what it is all about.  

The shop is located in a row of industrial garages in a Westside neighborhood, and is usually full of complete bikes and parts crowding the space with just barely enough room for you to get your bike over to the workspace. Getting to this point—having a garage filled with bikes—was a big challenge. “It was super DIY,” says Manning. He, Chandler and their friend, Zac Whitmore, pooled together some money to cover rent and gather the necessary supplies. With some generous bike and parts donations from the SLC Collective and Boise Bicycle Project, their funds and people willing to sell tools and equipment for cheap, things came together to make the Collective a reality. The Provo and Salt Lake Collectives have worked together by giving referrals to each other and sharing parts. They have also worked with local bike shops, sending customers to them for new tubes and tires, as well as some looking for older parts. 
Supporting the community is the overarching goal that the duo seems to have for the Collective, which earned them a LocalMotive Award from Local First Provo in the Fall of 2012 for their promotion of “localism” in the city. Manning says, “Bikes give us this whole idea that we can build this community of things we like with artists, musicians and local businesses, and make it better.” Manning and Chandler are a part of the tight-knit group of the Provo cultural scene’s movers, alongside owners of hip, local businesses and musical venues. They’re also pretty tight with the police and the city’s bike-friendly mayor, John Curtis. “We can literally do anything here,” he says. 
Chandler agrees with the sentiment. “We’re on a mission to make Provo weird,” she says, laughing. They both see the great potential of the area, with so many college students who want to be social and active. They consider it a success any time they can get kids off campus and into the heart of the city to hang out. Manning adds, saying, “Provo is a melting pot with two colleges in the area, and, culturally, it’s changed a ton in the last four years … In the past, there have been these two kinds of people living here [LDS and non-LDS] who really didn’t like each other, but we have found a very common ground with bicycles.” They see that bikes are helping make their more community-oriented vision of Provo become a reality. 
The Collective also sponsors group rides, including a weekly Monday night ride, all year long.  After a quick safety pep talk, groups of up to 65 hit the streets for a nighttime cruise. They sometimes get local restaurants to give a small discount for the bikers and, in turn, they bring the whole group over to get some eats. Manning says, “We like to leave an imprint on people, that this is what bikes are doing. People are riding them, and we are supporting this business because they support us.” Other rides have been organized with specific themes such as bike safety or a ride of silence, held recently in honor of Douglas Crow, who was struck and killed while riding his bike earlier this year. 
Beyond group rides, the Collective has hosted other events such as a winter biking workshop and a bike safety class, and also provides free bike valet service at the local farmers market. Manning and Chandler are most proud of organizing Fusion Fest last August. The event was similar to Crucial Fest in SLC, aiming to highlight Provo’s hardcore scene while mixing the shows with local bands representing other genres. They plan on making it happen next year, too. 
Throughout the nation, urban biking is on the rise, and the folks at the Collective hope to keep Provo ahead of the curve. Provo was recently named a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists—the third city in Utah to receive the distinction. The Collective will certainly be a force to keep up the momentum. Right now, they are hoping to push for more bike racks downtown and bike lanes on University Avenue (the main thoroughfare of town). They also aim to teach more people how to ride in a city safely and confidently.  The future of biking in Provo is bright, thanks in large part to the Collective. 
The Provo Bicycle Collective is located at 49 N. 1100 W. #2, in Provo. Monday night group rides meet at 9 p.m., at 400 N. 400 E. Stay in touch with them on their website,, or through Facebook.

Totem and Taboo
The Instruments We Used
Street: 09.01
Totem and Taboo = The Suicycles + Coheed and Cambria
From the ashes of The Suicycles, we are given Totem and Taboo. Former frontman of the “dirty electronica-rock”-branded Suicycles, Camden Chamberlain, along with others in the band, have teamed up with some newcomers to deliver a new sound that is certainly dark and proggy. The instrumentals come off clean and calculated, and delicate, dual-female harmonizing vocals often give a pleasing contrast to the dark riffs and basslines. The lyrics are also dark and often self-deprecating, if you’re into that. One of the most noticeable strengths of the album is the consistency of the songs—they seem to all play a part in the greater whole. The short, seven-song length leaves us to wonder how soon we will be hearing more from the group. But, if The Suicycles’ frequent blitz attack with new tracks gives any indication, it shouldn’t be long.


Jake Burch
Street: 06.27
Jake Burch = Bright Eyes + Rocky Votolato
The local scene has been graced by the presence of the eclectic folk band L’anarchiste. Now the band’s influence is growing as one of its members, Jake Burch, has gone solo. He offers jazz-influenced folk in his debut, War. I want to like the album, but it just rubs me the wrong way a few times. Almost every song highlights a new instrument and different vocal style. While this in itself isn’t bad, it added to the overall disconnect of War. While there are a couple good singles (“Ghosts” and “Meet Me by the Lake”), the album has a hard time staying together, and for that, left me dissatisfied. Despite my lukewarm impressions, know that it’s free for download at Burch’s bandcamp. If you’re an SLC scene junkie, it’s worth a listen.


JP Haynie
The Sand
Street: 07.16
JP Haynie = Low + Mount Eerie
Jordan Haynie created this album with purpose. He wanted to make a soundtrack for the drive from Utah to California, so he played what he calls “desert music.” He wanted to give people deeper access to his creativity, so he included a 24-page book with drawing and recording notes. But I would guess that his primary purpose was self-expression. The album drips of his nostalgia and yearning for home and solitude. These are complemented nicely by the minimalist, lo-fi aesthetic and a Mexican ranchera style. And the recording is truly lo-fi, as it was done on an eight-track recorder. Haynie’s vocals sound strikingly similar to Doug Martsch of Built to Spill, which means his lyrics are about as hard to get out of your head as Martsch’s. The Sand is a winner in the book of local lo-fi.