Band dynamics are tough to lock down. When musicians find others that click, they tend to stick together. Leave it to Ten-Speed, a trio of dedicated artists playing experimental rock with folk tendencies, to be spokesmen for this ideal.
The band, a duo in 2006, featured Nick Alvarez on drums and Isaac Pierce on vocals and guitar; their bass player was a gutted Lowry organ’s pedals rewired by Pierce. “At best it felt so immediate and flexible,” says Pierce. “I think it sounded like it was about to fall apart,” he jokes. This unlikely bassist lasted them more than a hundred gigs. Then while recording their 2008 album “Firewater Pinhole Camera,” the recording engineer Mike Thompson offered to sit in and fill the missing piece in their rhythm section. Thompson’s presence provided a less-chaotic energy, a hard feat joining Ten-Speed’s unspoken and unconventional timing. “That concept of ‘beautiful accidents’ is something we later tried to really focus on in a more structured, repeatable way as a three-piece,” says Thompson. It appeared to work. “We’re so happy to nail these solid songs as a trio,” says Alvarez.
Once they had a foundation in place, Pierce took leave of Chicago for Seattle. Focusing on the idea of dynamic rather than distance, Pierce reflects, “Linearity and concern for what the air is doing might keep Ten-Speed music buoyant and full sounding.” The members make time to keep going, traveling to invited shows. In the meantime, as primary songwriter, Pierce keeps the music alive, solo. “When I’m alone on stage, I say, ‘I am Isaac, this is Ten-Speed music.'” What remains is a group ethic. Each injects their essence into the band, unable to disregard the energy they create. “It’s great to always have something to do,” says Pierce. A band isn’t something easily dismissible, ask any musician. Ten-Speed applies the glue needed to hold their project together. “Never would we not put down the daily tools to get out and feel like Mike Watt in a vehicle,” echoes Alvarez. (John Wawrzaszek)
June 30 at Quenchers Saloon, 2401 North Western, 9pm.