Spirit Master

It’s impossible to talk about Spirit Master without using the word “passion” over and over. Originally a two-piece consisting of Mack and Pastor McCaff switching between drums, bass and vocals, Spirit Master have evolved from said passion into a collective of musicians with an expanse of musical influence, who truly just want to play rock n’ roll.

Mack and McCaff met while Mack was in high school, with a seven-year age difference between them. “I’ve always looked up to McCaff,” Mack says of his longtime friend and bandmate. “He’s my hero.” After the breakup of their first band, Mathematics Etc., McCaff and Mack performed two shows as Spirit Master before their Number One fan and mutual friend, guitarist Timmy Jame, joined.

Jame, who also plays in The Devil Whale, divides his time between both bands when not teaching guitar lessons. Having only seen Spirit Master once (“stoned as God”, according to Mack), Jame was the only person not scared of the band, referring to the duo as the “perfect stoner band.”

The trio then added Jame’s former Band of Annuals bandmate, pedal steel guitarist Brent Cool—not out of necessity for a fourth member, but out of the natural evolution the band has taken over the past two years, adding the right elements to the band at the right time.

It is also impossible to talk about Spirit Master without talking about the LDS church, as most of the members of the band have Mormon roots, and two of the members have served LDS missions.  The band uses the image of a martini glass, whose stem continues past its base to form an inverted cross, on their record, Demo Album EP, and at live shows.

“There’s no way I would be as into music if it weren’t for the Church being so musical—whether it’s singing in church or the pioneers singing across the plains, there’s always music in your head,” says the ethnically Mormon-identified Mack of his extensive Mormon history and upbringing. “I am Mormon, through and through, though I don’t believe in any God any human has ever talked about.”

Being raised Mormon certainly hasn’t hindered Mack—in fact, it has fueled Mack’s intense passion for expressing himself through music, though he says his dad hates rock n’ roll. Jame says his family has always been supportive of his musical career and that his dad lives vicariously through him, bragging about his son’s talent.

Mack says that so many Mormon bands do everything in their power to give off the appearance of not being Mormon, when they should just own it. “Being Mormon could either mean you are the CEO of JetBlue or you’re a kid who wants to trip balls and play music with your friends,” he says.

Like most musicians who genuinely love playing music for the sake of playing music, Spirit Master do not identify themselves as any particular genre—borrowing elements from legends of rock n’ roll, blues, country and rockabilly musicians such as King Crimson, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran. Jame refers to playing music as a powerful, freeing force that unites all kinds of people.

“I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13—that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,” he says. If rock n’ roll were a universally recognized religion, Spirit Master would be the second coming of the Messiah.

Again, the word “passion” comes to mind when talking about rock n’ roll with these guys: Mack and Jame say that rock n’ roll is the only thing they truly believe in and that it has exponentially changed humanity in such a short amount of time, and will continue to do so, though Mack says, “A lot of people are addicted to bad music, much like being addicted to McDonalds.”

Spirit Master’s first big break, opening for The Flaming Lips in fall 2011, was an extremely enlightening experience for the band, and it proved the power of simply asking for something. After cleaning 3,000 batteries for laser pointers for the audience to play with during the Lips’ performance at Saltair, Spirit Master have developed a relationship with Lips frontman Wayne Coyne.

The incredible reception by the audience and the joy surrounding Spirit Master’s performance made Jame’s mouth hurt from smiling. Master recorded a short documentary about this enlightening experience that can be found on the band’s Facebook page.

The band hasn’t gained any national recognition yet, but are eager to tour. Jame says, “Ideas are in place—there are other ways of being productive besides touring.” In lieu of being on tour already, the band fulfills their need to perform through constant practicing. Additionally, Spirit Master plan to release their second album, Concept Album EP, before applying to SXSW in early spring. Expect loud, unpredictable musical tangents that you can get lost in, and come witness the resurrection of true rock n’ roll.

Albino Father

Albino Father originally spawned from the head of Matt Hoenes as a solo project made up of simple, multi-track recordings on his home computer, annually recording covers of Christmas songs he would give as cheap gifts for the holidays. Originally released exclusively on the Internet, Hoenes’ solo project officially became a band this summer, incorporating longtime friends and former bandmates: guitarist BJ Gordon, drummer Kris Green and Color Animal’s Andrew Shaw on bass.

Albino Father band
Matt Hoenes, guitarist BJ Gordon, drummer Kris Green and Color Animal’s Andrew Shaw. Photo: Gavan Nelson.

Nearly a decade ago, Hoenes and Green began writing music together in Hoenes’ basement. Gordon and Hoenes were introduced through Green, and the three went on to form the instrumental group, Dark White—which Gordon describes as, “big, epic and bad.” Hoenes has been writing and recording songs alone under the name Albino Father for the past 10 years, and began performing Albino Father’s songs as a solo acoustic act six years ago, displaying his adaptability as a songwriter.

Hoenes describes one of his first solo shows opening for Shaw’s previous band, The Adonis, at Burt’s, as “terrifying.” Hoenes says he has since overcome his fear of performing live and has played Albino Father’s songs with Green, former bassist Laurie Geving and Gordon for the past few years.

Gordon, Green and Hoenes, who were born and raised in Salt Lake, met proud Nebraskan Shaw through mutual friends six years ago. Upon the exit of Geving, Shaw (having been a part of the local music scene since moving to Salt Lake in ’03), drew on years of experience performing live and a broad musical taste to comfortably settle in as Albino Father’s new bassist. Green says, “The reason I became a drummer is because I like fucking hitting shit.”

He states that he brings the “loud” to the band, whereas Gordon brings the “pretty.” Until this summer, Hoenes was the sole composer of all of Albino Father’s songs, and throughout the past few years, has been teaching Green and Gordon the songs and performing them live as a full band. Gordon says of their early performances as Albino Father that they didn’t really care what Hoenes was teaching them to play—they would play whatever they wanted onstage, and as loud as possible.

“I’m not much of a lyricist. I’m not much of a songwriter. I’m not much of a musician, either,” Hoenes says jokingly of his songwriting ability, with song topics including cats, YouTube comments, drugs and creeps doing creepy things. “Most of them are a hodgepodge of different ideas. There are themes, but [the songs] don’t make any sense.” Hoenes’ current releases, AGE and Blanket, differ incredibly in style, though they were recorded just months apart.

AGE, released Sept. 2011 and named after the most frequently used chords on that album, A-G-E, borrows a mid-’60s British mod, psychedelic and American blues sound reminiscent of The Who circa My Generation. The versatility in song structure allows for modest, clear and well-placed guitar solos that are carried by simple, programmed drums, all glued together by a warm, bluesy bass tone.

Hoenes’s reverb-heavy, spoken vocals are at times comparable to Stephen Malkmus from Pavement, and mix well with the energy packed behind the programmed drums—one can only imagine they must explode with Green killing his drum kit live. Blanket, released just six months earlier, weighs in heavy on tone and lyrical content. The opening track, “Devil You Are” pays homage to a Jack White influence in both dark lyrics and guitar tone while being carried by a late-’80s, shoegaze dance beat.

A humble and eclectic group of musicians who bring a diverse musical background to the table, Albino Father avoid confining themselves to just one musical genre. “I think someone told us we were psychedelic, so we just started saying that,” says Gordon. Green defines them as “playing what they enjoy,” stating that, “If there are other bands that are doing the same thing, give us their names.”

Shaw recalls, after moving to Salt Lake, how pleased he was by the diversity in the local music scene. “In Nebraska, you’re either a punk band or a cover band. I’m neither of those things. I had no place there,” he says, referencing his first experience in Salt Lake being a Black Sabbath cover band opening for a solo-female acoustic act. Albino Father want to play shows with bands of all genres, and hope to keep the live experience of Salt Lake’s music scene diverse. Gordon says half-jokingly, “Do you guys want to play reggae night?”

Albino Father are starting to record together for the first time as a band, with Hoenes handing over some of the songwriting to the rest of the group. Hoenes says, “Now I come to the band with the skeleton of the song and they add the organs.” They have a tentative release date set for their first album together for spring 2013, which they joke will most likely turn into fall 2013.

Having only toured as Dark White to the far-off and exotic land of Murray City, Hoenes says he would love to tour the West Coast with Albino Father in the coming year. Expect a lot of loudness and some variation of a mumbled “fuck you” or other insults from the slightly off-center Hoenes, and definitely check out this humble, loud and hard-working band.