By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Not really what you'd expect in a sushi bar. The otherwise cool, modest clamor of dishes clinking and Kirin bottles toasting and waiters explaining the fishy menu gave way to the scooting about of chairs and tables to make way for...a very loud rock band. The four guys filling the front of the space with their big amps and drums and mike stands that Friday night weren't about to waste their not-long-awaited debut on wussy sonics. So what that the yuppies scattered about the restaurant looked pained at the first roaring chord? That set of throttling, towering pop songs made an impression on a room that couldn't ignore it.
In fact, almost exactly one year ago, Floor 13 produced a sound that nearly shattered brick walls, glass windows, and eardrums at Deep Sushi on Elm Street, back when then-manager Scott Melton was encouraging that sort of thing; many of his waiters were downtown musicians. It may have been the lineup's first show in a tiny venue, but they played it like rock stars at Shea Stadium. And once it was over, that surging confidence--if not air of entitlement--left a tinge of promise that lingered in the room. Floor 13 was a good band only destined to get better.
"I wanna sell 15 million records," says Winston Giles, frontman-guitarist and founder of the band. This is not a popular attitude among the local, indie-obsessed contingent, but then, Giles isn't from these parts--he's a transplant from Melbourne, Australia, via Los Angeles. "If I end up with a Ferrari, I've earned that. I want Ric Ocasek to produce our records. I'm tired of that underground, humble, indie shit."
Giles, at 25, already believes himself a rock star. From his days living above his dad's pubs in Melbourne to his nights as a roadie for L.A. rock acts to his present-day life in Dallas with his finally fixed band, he's walked the walk in hopes of stumbling into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If he believes he's bigger than lo-fi life, maybe the rest of the world will too. It's a question of whether the songs can support the dream, whether the connections are in place, whether Dallas and the rest of the planet are ready for this kind of step-skipping. The band has, after all, brushed away offers from local indie labels to release its first record. They want to wait for the bigger fish to bite.
"I love my songs--they're my babies, and I've got a great band. I'm not gonna fuck this up. I'm moving more into that Cars-Flock of Seagulls thing, that '80s thing," Giles says, without a trace of irony. "I'm good at it."
At the time of the Deep Sushi show, the music didn't quite evoke the glory days of early MTV, or by this critic's ear, the self-indulgent rants of mid-'70s glam or the hyper-sexed anthems of Cheap Trick (circa One on One) like it does today. Back then, the act was a standard four-piece playing concrete rock arrangements, and member solidarity was still months away. Giles had only part of his permanent team assembled: ex-Static member Josh Weber on guitar and journeyman Duncan Black (Dooms U.K., Slowpoke) on drums. These two would stick with Giles, but by early summer, veteran bassist Alan Hayslip would give way to newcomer George Terry, and Giles would add nice-guy-about-town Brodie (who prefers to go sans first name) on keyboards and samples. And fittingly, the big sound would only get bigger, the slick sound slicker.
"We're probably 20 years too late for what we're about, but we like that," Terry says. Giles' bandmates are lounging around a new Inwood-area club called Kangaroo. The threat of pretension looms in the shadows, yet despite the members' collective aim toward mondo fame, they come off as effusive and giddy, if not terribly down to earth.
"Basically, we wouldn't turn down a chance to make a living doing what we love to do," Weber adds. "Right now we're just at a neat little buzz."
As they should be. The band's self-released, self-titled EP, intended more as a press demo than a public sale, boasts four songs of the glossiest behemoth pop around. The CD kicks off with "The Sucker," and the production runs as deep as it does wide (pushed by engineer Dave Willingham): the hiss and pop of a needle settling into a vinyl groove, and then Brodie's ricochet Prophet giving way to a growing gush of atmospheric everything else. In a heavily affected vocal croon, Giles stutters: "My love she is / So vain and so cold / I am a sucker / I fell and fell hard," and in the ensuing explosion, it's easy to understand how the whole is just too dense, too cocky for any mere sushi bar. It's great song, as are the other three on the disk, as ambitious and insidious as Machiavellian pronouncements.
"Our music just comes out that way," says Black. "If we don't like the way something's sounding, we say, 'Are you kidding? This is awful. This is not gonna be on the radio.' The problem with shooting any lower is that you may be a big thing in town, but you drive 20 miles out, and no one's heard of you."