"We felt a certain level of exhaustion," drummer Grady Sandlin admits, discussing his band, RTB2, and their now-legendary rate of playing shows. "I've never been criticized to my face about playing too much, but I've heard others say that people criticized us for it," he says.
Weary from their workload and not wanting to wear out their welcome, Sandlin and guitarist Ryan Thomas Becker decided to devote more time to other bands, like bluegrass outfit Boxcar Bandits and folk rockers Hares On the Mountain. Then, they decided to start a whole new band, Last Joke, and all of these projects got busy recording and gigging. Oh, and RTB2 still found time to record two new albums.
"We had a busy year," says Becker. "Around March 2011, a lot of things happened. We recorded and mixed this record , then we did the 8-track record."
The latter was We Are A Strange Man, and yes, it was only released via 8-track. Intended as an experiment more than an official release, it contains many songs that ended up on their new album, 2, as well as some early Becker and RTB2 material. And, if you notice some blurred lines there, that could help explain the group's decision to back off a bit.
But the new album, which has been on the shelf for over a year, should help refocus their collaborative efforts, as well as fans' focus. 2 is an official statement from the band of where they are now as a result of having time to let loose elsewhere.
The band credits producer Stuart Sikes for helping them find the balance between the raw, live feel of their debut album, The Both of It, and their last EP, In the Fleshed.
"I'm very proud of it," Becker says. "There are some songs from my back catalog that I've always wanted to get this treatment. And then some brand new songs that get a little weird."
That shines through in tracks like "32," "Brownstar" and most notably, "Cool In the Dark." According to Becker, years of revisiting bands like Shudder To Think and Captain Beefheart have finally filtered into his songs. While the bluesy tinge of their early work is seemingly long gone, they haven't completely gone off the deep end. The rest of 2 is solid, from "God Will Be the One to Blame" to "Another Black Beauty" and the beautiful "Sarahs In Cars."
"This feels like a first record, even though we called it 2," Becker laughs. "But I think every record should feel like the first."
Catch RTB2 Saturday, September 1, at 1:50p.m., as part of 35 Denton's Hot Wet Mess.