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November 1, 2011 | 8:12 p.m. CST
Video produced by Daniel Edmonds
Behind an abandoned nail salon on Business Loop 70, the four-man local band We Live in Public rehearses in a storage unit with no address. They stand in a semicircle and face drummer Zach Denison. A 12-pack of Busch Light sweats in the hallway; guitars stand on posts and wait for their song. The band’s practice space is a 10-by-10 storage unit within the building.
“We rehearse in a cube,” says Denison.
Inside the box-like practice space, a painting of the Ninja Turtles created by Denison’s father hangs above his drum set. Used carpets and unfolded egg cartons coat the walls to absorb sound, and Kurt Cobain’s weary face peers out from a magazine clipping that is taped to the wall.
The quartet morphed from two separate side projects when band members and guitarists Jaeson Day and Matt Olson wanted to create a full-band demo to book better shows. Old friends of Day and Olson, Denison and bass player Devin Burrow joined the duo in November 2010, and the newly formed band began recording in January.
Their sound is anti-genre. An array of influences ignites a musical accuracy that is reminiscent of ’70s and ’90s rock. Each member channels his unique inspirations that range from the Dave Matthews Band to Robert Johnson to the Beatles.
“It’s rock,” Denison says. “But it’s like blues-folk-jazz-pop-rock.”
Burrow, Day and Olson are the lead singers for the songs they’ve written. The band builds songs off of intimate folk-like four-part harmonies during their 10-hour per week practices. But if they could practice more often, they would.
They each report to their day job and dedicate the after hours to their music. Day and Olson work at the VA Mortgage Center, Burrow at the regional outpost of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Denison at IHOP on Conley Road. Playing music before and after work is not only elemental to the band’s progress, it’s essential to their personal sanity. As Day says, the only time he’s not crazy is when he’s playing music.
“We realize that we determine our own destiny and we become what we do,” Denison says. “So we try to be music by playing music as much as possible.”