In May 2005, at the Hi-Tone Café, Brad Postlethwaite supposedly played his last show with Snowglobe, the popular local band he'd founded years before. But this week he'll be back at the Hi-Tone playing a CD-release show for a new "Snowglobe" album, Oxytocin. Except the show isn't being billed as a Snowglobe show but as a Brad Postlethwaite solo show. Confused? That's okay.
"It's still confusing to me too," says Postlethwaite, who, at 27, is juggling making his own music with helping run the Makeshift record label he co-founded six years ago and preparing to start medical school in the fall of 2007.
"One thing that was weird about the me-quitting-Snowglobe thing was that I never wanted to quit Snowglobe or stop recording music," Postlethwaite says. "I wanted to stop the crazy touring we were doing."
Ultimately, differing goals and ambitions between Postlethwaite and the band's other primary songwriter, Tim Regan, seem to have sidetracked one of the city's most popular and promising bands. When Postlethwaite takes the stage at the Hi-Tone this weekend, Regan -- who has moved to Knoxville and now fronts his own band, Antenna Shoes -- will be the only member of Snowglobe not also taking the stage in some capacity.
"As of right now, Tim's not in the band," Postlethwaite says, "but we don't want him to not be in the band. ... He didn't want this to happen. He didn't want this record to come out under 'Snowglobe,' and he thought us all doing solo records was a bad idea."
The liner notes to Oxytocin assert that it's the "first in a series of solo-directed projects by members of Snowglobe." Postlethwaite says that bassist Brandon Robertson has a "Snowglobe" record near completion, with horn player Nahshon Benford and drummer Jeff Hulett hopefully to follow. Robertson, Benford, and Hulett all play on Oxytocin, along with a handful of other local musicians.
The idea of doing solo records under the aegis of the band was Postlethwaite's solution to creative tensions. "It was a really hard decision for me to make, and I still wonder if it was a good one," he says.
"I think it's a typical thing for bands with two songwriters, that things get polarized," Postlethwaite says. "And our songs were heading in that direction. So many people told me that the last Snowglobe record sounded like two records, mine and Tim's."
Another problem was likely increasingly divergent career goals between the two songwriters, who have remained friends.
"I think that's been a problem, yeah," Postlethwaite says. "I liked the idea of sticking to the indie route, and [Regan] was always thinking bigger. Now that he's kind of on his own, I think it'll be easier for him to follow his ambitions. I think that if he doesn't end up playing with Snowglobe again, it'll probably be because he'll have realized that we were holding him back in a way.
"School is now a higher priority to me than [touring with] Snowglobe," Postlethwaite says of his initial "departure" from the band. "I looked at what I had to do to get into medical school and realized if I put this off any longer I'm going to be thirty-something when I start and 40 when I get out. I feel like lots of bands would have sat down and talked about it and figured out how the whole thing could have worked, but that conversation never happened. The next thing I knew people were talking about a show being my last with the band."
The idea of labeling what is essentially a solo record with the band's name might seem odd, but it makes sense when you listen to the album. Musically, despite the absence of Regan, Oxytocin sounds much closer to Snowglobe albums Our Land Brains and Doing the Distance than to Postlethwaite's previous solo album, 2003's Welcome to the Occupation. It has the layered, communal, near-orchestral sound that has made Snowglobe such a unique presence on the local scene.
"There were so many factors that, for me, pointed toward this being under 'Snowglobe,'" Postlethwaite says. "These are all songs I would have donated to a Snowglobe record. Usually, songs I put on a solo CD are [written for that purpose], more personal opinions, a more stripped-down sound. These songs are poppier and more Snowglobe."
In making the record, Postlethwaite recorded basic tracks at home, and members of Snowglobe and other musicians would add to the songs. Postlethwaite's creative control came in the final mix, deciding what to keep and what to take out.
At this week's release show, Postlethwaite, Robertson, and Benford will be joined by Coach and Four guitarist Luke White and drummer Aaron Sayers, a longtime Postlethwaite collaborator. Snowglobe drummer Hulett will open the show with his own band, Jeffrey James & the Haul.
As for Snowglobe, Postlethwaite hopes gambling on a looser structure can pay off. "I feel like if we want to keep any semblance of this band together, it needs to be loose enough for us to live in different places and still work together," Postlethwaite says. "Not so loose that it doesn't mean anything, but not that traditional band sense of four guys who live together in a warehouse and tour around the country."
Instead of a full-time touring musician, Postlethwaite's ideal is to be a doctor who still makes records on the side and performs in whatever city he lands in.
"Yeah," he says. "That kind of sounds awesome."
Oxytocin CD-Release Show
Brad Postlethwaite, with Jeffrey James & the Haul
The Hi-Tone Café
Friday, July 21st
Doors open at 9 p.m.