Running around Deep Ellum frantically on this cold and drizzly morning, Gordo "Buzz" Gibson (aka Michael Gibson) is a poster child for all that is unresolved. He's been up all night, working on final mixes for his band's soon-to-be-released debut album, but he's just shy of finishing. He's got record companies galore trying to lure his pen toward their dotted line, but he hasn't chosen one yet. He's excited and exhausted at the same time.
With loose curls dampened by the rain, heavy chops, and a garish polyester shirt, he looks like he might've just stepped out of a 1973 college yearbook. Yet there's a sense of energy surrounding him, the foreboding feeling that something's on the verge of happening, which is nearly too ironic given the name of his band--the Tomorrowpeople.
"The Tomorrowpeople was this BBC show from the '70s," Gibson says over his shoulder, dodging cars on Main Street. "It was about people in the next phase of evolution who had, like, telepathic powers and stuff...But we don't even know for sure if we can use the name right now. We might have to change it."
"Yeah--then we'd call the album The Tomorrowpeople Must Die."
Adding to the irony is the fact that it seems like the Tomorrowpeople formed only yesterday, in the wake of Brutal Juice's demise just two months ago. But apparently singer-guitarist Gibson hit the ground running after the Denton band split, and he hasn't stopped since. Along with former Toadies guitarist Darrel Herbert--who has switched to bass--Gibson has managed to put something quite remarkable into motion in a very short time.
Unfortunately, words like "remarkable" have lost their potency these days through overuse. In this case, however, the description shouldn't be taken lightly. Never mind that industry magazines are calling the Tomorrowpeople the number one buzz band in the country. That kind of press is nice, but not totally trustworthy. What matters is the music, and in this case, the buzz is a hundred percent right-on.
If you were to walk into a room and hear a Tomorrowpeople song like "Youth in Orbit," it'd stop you dead in your tracks. It's one of those haunting pieces of music that sends a chill through your spine and makes your head drift right off into outer space--a "Major Tom" of tragic young love.
"Actually, it started while I was still with Brutal Juice," Gibson explains over a Mexican lunch special. "I had an eight-track [recorder] with me while we were touring, and I was doing these recordings just to amuse myself. I knew it didn't really fit with Brutal Juice. It was more melodic. Right then, I knew that was the end of Brutal Juice for me."
He then threw a band together in record time, including guitarist Jody Powerchurch, drummer Serge Diaz (also formerly of Brutal Juice), and keyboardist John Norris, to bring the project to life. But the point at which it all started coming together was back when Gibson was hanging out with then-Toadies lead guitarist Herbert while the two bands were touring together.
"Darrel never really fit in with the Toadies," says Gibson. "He's a good dresser, which I don't think fit with their image very well. Plus, he's not much of a partier. He's more the kind of guy who likes to go shopping or wake up early and go running."
That suited Gibson just fine, given that he was on probation at the time for drug charges and couldn't join his bandmates in wild indulging. Besides, Brutal Juice's heavy sound had become more of a facade by that time than an honest feeling.
"I'm 28 years old now," Gibson says. "I can't compete with the testosterone of a 23-year-old. For the last two years [Brutal Juice] was together, we were basically just going through the motions. This new band isn't about angst. It's about having a good time."
Gibson then proceeds to explain--with utterly honest eyes--how he's now embracing the idea of schmoozing with record execs, how he loves fashion and would, in fact, like to hire an image consultant (like the Spice Girls), and how happy he is that his mother likes his new songs. If it were coming from anyone else, the interview might've ended right there, merely out of principle. But this is Buzz Gibson we're talking about--a guy who's spent the past six years of his life supporting bands like Gwar.
"My mother came to our show at South by Southwest, and she was actually singing along. It was great!" he says. "Can you imagine how good that made me feel? My mom would've never come to a Brutal Juice show."
"Certain bands just look like they're having fun."
Like the Spice Girls?
"Yeah! That's intriguing to me. I wasn't having fun in my old band. This band is about having fun."
Furthermore, Gibson says, he's not interested in hitting people over the head with music anymore. "When you put this on," he says, holding an unfinished tape of the album, "I want it to disappear right into the walls."
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Gibson's sudden shift in tastes makes more sense when you look at what kind of music he's been listening to over the past several years, including the '70s cult band Big Star, which inspired alt-pop acts like the Replacements and showed up on the classic 4AD compilation This Moral Coil.
In fact, the Tomorrowpeople might most accurately be described as a convergence of the Replacements' pop sense with the ethereal and emotive energy that Chris Bell put into Big Star's later songs like "Kangaroo," "Sister Song," and "I am the Cosmos." It allows Gibson to sing lyrics like "Suicide is a place to hide/Where they'll never find you/Again" without coming off sounding bleak, if you can imagine such a thing. Gibson seems to have reached that rare point of maturity as a songwriter where he's survived the "Vicodin and dexedrine/Riflin' your mother's medication/Locked up with the drunks in the police station" and lived to laugh about it. And he's come to terms with manhood.
"If this band is still around in 10 years, I don't wanna be going 'Oh Jeez!' I wanna be in a man's band, like the Stranglers or the Afghan Whigs, even though I don't really like their music. I just don't want to be in a boy's band, that's all."
The Tomorrowpeople play Saturday, April 12 at the Orbit Room.