Last month, Brad Pounders (probably best known as a member of the influential late-'90s new-wave/punk band the Clears, with Alicja Trout and Shelby Bryant) unveiled his second solo album, Hamartia, available now as a digital download from iTunes and other online retailers.
Hamartia, the follow-up to Pounders' 2000 solo debut She Shakes, bears little resemblance to the musician's synth-heavy past, however. He's spent the last decade or so laying low, performing only at the occasional open mic night, all the while absorbing new music and honing in on a more organic approach to songwriting. "I found myself moving away from that technology," says Pounders, referring to the synthesizers that dominated his previous work. "I have kept a low profile but haven't stopped writing and playing. I have mainly been working on and trying to find my sound as a solo artist and the best way for me to communicate my material."
And so for inspiration Pounders turned to acoustic instruments.
"I started writing melodies on piano and/or acoustic guitar and steered away from the keyboard somewhat," he says. "I think that helped me immensely in developing a sound that is new and distinct and more representative of who I am today."
For the moment, Pounders' new sound is (mostly) sparse and simple. Few of the songs on Hamartia feature full-band arrangements, focusing the attention on Pounders' somber melodies and gruff-yet-plaintive voice. In fact, much of the album was intended as only a demo, but according to Pounders, the material itself had other ideas.
"Hamartia decided to be released on its own, so to speak," he says. "Further changes would have affected the entire feel of the record. It was done, and I had to release it to keep the integrity of the project." Pounders plans to release more fully realized versions of some of the songs at a later date, alongside new material. He also has plans to form a band and return to live performance, a prospect that comes with some degree of trepidation.
"I would say I'm more excited than nervous," says Pounders. "I have done everything I can to quell the nerves by letting other artists that I respect and trust hear my work and chime in with comments."
Meanwhile, Harry Koniditsiotis has managed to keep himself almost impossibly active, against seemingly steep odds.
Koniditsiotis has been a fixture on the local garage/punk scene since co-founding his band the Angel Sluts in 2003. But in 2005 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which initially threatened to put his budding career on hold.
"I was worried, at first, that it would slow me down," Koniditsiotis says. "I have friends with MS who aren't doing as well as I am. I think there's just a drive inside of me to keep going. I'm a very positive person. I definitely have that motivation, the need to focus and not succumb in life — to MS or anything."
So instead of slowing down, he founded two more bands — The Turn It Offs and Twin Pilot — and opened a recording studio called Five and Dime Recording, where he has produced albums for Lover! and The Six String Jets, among others, all the while recording and touring with the Angel Sluts. "Playing music and being on tour is the best and most relaxing way to cope with having MS," Koniditsiotis says. "I'll probably be sitting in a wheelchair by the time I'm 70, and I don't want to be there wishing I had done more now." This fall, the Angel Sluts will embark on a U.S. tour, followed by the release of two seven-inch EPs, produced and engineered by Koniditsiotis. And then more touring. "Doctors have told me I should learn to pace myself better," he says. "I guess after five years, I still haven't figured it out. But I can't imagine doing anything else."
The Angel Sluts play Saturday, August 14th, at the Hi-Tone Café, with Off With Their Heads and the Arrivals. Admission is $8.