By Jeremy Hallock
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By Observer Staff
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Huffman had hoped for interesting things to happen when he became a member of Sivad a year and a half ago. Not that he hadn't seen his share of interesting--and unexpected--events in the months before he joined: Comet had suddenly broken up in April 1997, on the road between here and nowhere, a minor van accident convincing half of the band, brothers Neil and Jim Stone, to return home to Mesquite without warning Huffman or drummer Josh Garza (now in Captain Audio). Huffman wasn't that surprised: The band's death was abrupt, but it had been dying for some time. Comet was divided into two camps--Garza and Huffman on one side, the Stones on the other--and neither side communicated with the other, which can make things hard when four people are wedged into a van hurtling through a Midwest midnight.
Huffman exited Comet with at least one friendship still intact: He and Garza reunited on April 27 at the Dallas Observer Music Awards at the Arcadia Theater as The Secret Machines of Captain Audio, which also saw Brandon and Ben Curtis take the stage together for the first time since UFOFU split up. Huffman says that, eventually, he and Garza may put together another real band, but there was too much baggage involved to start working together immediately after Comet's demise. So Huffman went looking for new people to make music with, playing for a while with Chapman in a band called Suntouched, a band along the same lines as Sivad except that it took its cues from blues instead of jazz. It was a side project for most of its members, one that eventually dissolved under the weight of other bands.
But Huffman had enjoyed playing with Chapman, so he accepted when Chapman asked him to sit in with Sivad when the band went into Willingham's studio to cut an album, and he's been in the group ever since. In Sivad, Huffman found a way to be in a band again without having the pressures and constraints that come along with it. He could play whatever he wanted, and bounce his ideas off of four like-minded musicians who wouldn't tell him what to do.
"I felt stifled, in a way, for a while," Huffman says. "And Sivad is a good source of freedom, because nobody in Sivad tells anybody else what to play. There's no military-style, 'You have to play this type of theme, we have to create this type of mood' vibe. Everybody in the band respects one another's abilities. That's the sort of beauty of it. It just goes with the group of people we invite to play with us."
It's a group that can include everyone from Monsch to Quincy Holloway, the band's original drummer and currently a member of Sub Oslo and the Gospel Swingers. Holloway, Poetschke, and Chapman (then playing bass) formed the band in 1992 when they were students at Weatherford College. Poetschke wanted an outlet to explore jazz in a different kind of way, not unlike the sounds he heard on Miles Davis' legendary 1971 album
Live-Evil, the first song of which, the intimate epic "Sivad," became the nascent band's name. Sudborough joined a year later as a percussionist, eventually taking over the drummer stool when Holloway left to concentrate on his other bands.
Though the band had taken its name from one of Davis' songs, that was almost the only connection to Davis' music until Sudborough joined the band. Sudborough--an avid Miles Davis collector who owns everything Davis recorded between 1969 and 1975, including a handful of bootlegs--immediately set about changing that. Now, you can hear Davis' influence on songs such as "Wake Up the Fish," seven minutes that could be Sivad at 70 Hurtz Studio in Argyle on February 1998 or Davis' band at The Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., in 1970.
"I was the only one who really even knew a lot about that era of Miles' music career, and I kind of pushed the band in that direction pretty heavily when I joined," Sudborough says. "They were already there in a sense, but I kind of helped them expand on that more. We never try and actually play any of Miles Davis' songs or any of that kind of stuff. We just take the essence of it, which is not practicing in a sense. Miles paid his musicians to rehearse on the stage, so I guess we've taken that to the next level, in the sense that we try and just compose on the stage. We just let it all come as may be."
For now, Sivad is concentrating on raising funds for another go-around in the studio. Poetschke and Sudborough released Solar Verbs themselves, and the band still owes money on its previous recordings. They are trying to find a label willing to release the next Sivad album, maybe Erv Karwelis' Idol Records. Meanwhile, the members of the band are gathering together enough studio equipment so they can record whenever they want to. As Poetschke says, when it comes to improvised music, you have to be ready for anything at any time. They never know when a song will come floating through one of the band's endless jams that needs to be heard again, not lost forever after it comes out of an amplifier.