by J.D. Reager
This Saturday night, the relatively new Memphis alt-rock group, Gasoline Grace, will celebrate the release of its debut full-length CD, Hearts on Fire, with a show at Murphy's.
The band — a trio comprised of longtime local music scene veterans Melanie Isaksen (bass, vocals), Robert Allen Parker (guitar, vocals), and Angela Horton (drums) — came together after a chance meeting at the Delta Girls Rock Camp in 2008, which Horton helps organize and where all three serve as volunteer counselors.
“After moving back to Memphis to be closer to my family, I wasn't really interested in going out and playing music right away,” says Isaksen, who returned to the area in 2004 after several years of living and working in Chicago.
“I also have a personal desire to use my experiences and abilities to help others in whatever I do. I figure, if you're not helping someone else with your efforts, what's the point, really? So I got involved with a local music camp who's goal was empowering young girls through the medium of rock and roll music. This gave me the chance to use my background of teaching and working with at-risk youth, as well as sharing my musical experience in a positive way. That is how I met my bandmates. I would say our hearts are in the same place, and that's what eventually led us to work together musically.”
After hitting it off at the camp that summer, the trio started regularly jamming on cover songs for fun in Horton's living room. But by late 2009, things had really started to gel and original songs began to pile up. And so, Gasoline Grace became a working live band.
“Even though we didn't know each other until recently, we are all from Memphis and I guess we share that innate musical calling that comes from being born in a city often considered to be the birthplace of rock and roll,” says Isaksen.
The band gigged around town and polished its new material for most of 2010 before finally deciding (after an failed/premature attempt to record an album live) to go into the studio late that year with local producer/engineer Kyle Johnson at his Rocket Science Audio facility. The final results of those sessions became Hearts on Fire.
“Kyle is very responsive to changes in the sound,” says Horton. “Anyone who has seen him work live sound can see how focused and responsive he is.”
Johnson helped the band realize its vision for the despite having to pick up and move his studio in the middle of the project, which required a certain amount of patience and flexibility on the part of the band. Still, the album maintains a consistent sound and accurately captures the rootsy, vintage punk style of Gasoline Grace - which owes several nods to Los Angeles, CA punk legends X.
“It's (the album) just a collection of our first attempt to come together musically as a band,” says Isaksen. “I think it's a good representation of our first musical efforts as a band. However I am already chomping at the bit to get our next round of songs recorded.”
Indeed, the band is already looking forward to a potential second album, thanks to the prolificity of the band's two primary songwriters, Isaksen and Parker. But don't expect them to become Lucero-esque road hogs anytime soon.
“We definitely want to complete a second full length CD of songs. As far as touring, we are open to weekend excursions regionally,” says Horton. “We are in our late 30s and for us, the band is a way to continue to play and hang out.”
“After being in more bands than I can count, I am really content to have an outlet for the songs I continue to write,” says Isaksen. “I have always loved playing live and loud, and that will never change. More records? Absolutely! That's one of the beauties to being in a band with another songwriter- you always have tons of material.”
Gasoline Grace CD Release Show
w/ Dynaflow and Whose Army?
Saturday, November 26th, 10 p.m.
$5 cover (show only), $8 cover (includes CD)