By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
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By Alice Laussade
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"I have the emo bangs," laughs Donnie DeBoer, pulling his lengthy locks away from his face. The singer and main songwriter for local rockers Auto Escape smiles mischievously as he makes fun of the genre in which he plies his own craft--though he's the first (and loudest) to disagree with such simple categorization.
"What we all are into," DeBoer says, "is as far left to right as you could possibly go." After a prolonged discussion concerning the merits of Radiohead and the Flaming Lips, about the only two artists that all four members can agree to liking are Incubus and Lauryn Hill.
"I knew this wouldn't make any sense," deadpans DeBoer. But it does, as one listen to Turn It Off, their most recent EP, will testify to the band's mining of classic rock influences (early Aerosmith, Big Star) and its estrangement from all things generically emo.
The group of 20-somethings has been together for two years, creating a sound that thankfully recalls Cheap Trick more than it does My Chemical Romance. Along with Donnie and his curious little brother Nathie (who swears his favorite album is A Christmas Together by John Denver and the Muppets), Auto Escape includes Grant Pittman and Matthew Melton. Together, this rather nondescript-looking quartet appears ready for a move out of local obscurity.
Tracks such as "White Roses" and "Falling Asleep in the Snow" from the recent EP, while leaning toward the mainstream, still crackle with compositional freshness and pop smarts that put Auto Escape ahead of their immensely popular yet emotionally pretentious brethren in the emo community. "I'm just a backseat driver waiting for an exit sign," DeBoer sings on "Backseat Driver," another solid new cut, unknowingly expressing a consistent theme: abandoning the horse you rode in on once some new territory is in view.
With a focus uncommon for a band so young, all four members of Auto Escape eschew hobbies or even guilty pleasures in a need to make their music consistently better. "I don't even own a TV," says bassist Melton, although he confesses that his musical single-mindedness has occasionally gotten the better of him. Once he watched his bass fly out of the back of his pickup while going down Central Expressway.
"I really cried that day," Melton says, shaking his head, still fixated on his misfortune. Better crack that anti-emo whip some more, DeBoer.