Old Potion's been on quite an odyssey to get their first record made. The band formed in 2010 under a different line-up, and murmurs of releasing an EP began in 2012. In 2013 the band successfully crowdfunded the money to make the album, but the members of the band at the time all grew distant and the project nearly fizzled into nothingness.
But through the fire and through the flames comes the folk(ish) four-track Magnetism, recorded with new personnel and led by lead guitarist and vocalist Dylan Kellman. The current roster is a quasi-supergroup made up of members of other Denton bands who, god willing, made damn sure this album happened. The album's release show this Saturday will be a cathartic close in the band's current chapter, paving the way for the new songs they've already got drafted.
Old Potion has a complicated family tree. Brothers Jesse and Philip Gage, who play drums and bass respectively, are also two-thirds of the band No Touching. Guitarist and vocalist Claire Morales also has a solo project that's releasing a new album in about a month. "We all meshed together really well after everything had fallen apart with the former line-up," Kellam says. "But it all came together in a great way in the end."
However, this is principel songwriter Kellam's first foray into the music scene. You wouldn't guess it, but Kellam had never picked up an instrument until about three years ago, and he played his first show just a year after that.
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Lyrically, Magnetism primarily deals with the idea of taking control of your own life and choosing its direction. A rebelliousness exists in the songs, pushing against the idea of a predestined fate and reluctantly falling into a certain lifestyle that's not where you wanted to end up. The concepts are partly fictionalized, but the roots stem from Kellam's own experience as he discovered music as a tool to work through alienation during his time living in Austin. "The songwriting kind of let me put all of that behind me," he says.
"I was talking to a friend of mine who was an exceptional guitarist, and I told him I wanted to learn," he adds. "I just needed to keep myself moving to get through where I was at." When he moved from Austin to Denton, Kellam was offered a perfect place for a brand new start: a new school, a new city and a newly found interest in playing music.
Though Kellam mostly handles leads vocals, the band frequently uses dual vocals between him and Morales to create a tension that adds a distinct texture to the band's sound. A previously released single from the EP, "Cries and Whispers," features that especially, alternating between the two singers.
The track enters with staccato guitar chords and a marching drumbeat, staying in line until Morales' harmonica part strays from the rhythm, leading into the verse. In the meat of the song, Kellam and Morales trade vocals back and forth as the song reaches its crescendo. Guitar thunders with rapid strumming as the bass drum stomps with fury, and right when it feels like the track might be set ablaze, a single harmonica note lets it hang in the air momentarily as the guitar reprises the riff from the song's intro.
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The song is also an example of the trickiness in labeling the band. Elements of it certainly draw from folk, but other parts are aggressive enough to step outside of the genre somewhat. "We're kind of folk, kind of not. Kind of rock, kind of not," Kellam says. One of the key influences is the Mountain Goats, which naturally leads to an emphasis on story-telling lyrics and folk tendencies.
After their release show on Saturday, Old Potion plans to pack it up and head west, ideally to California. "None of us have ever done touring like this," Kellam comments. "We're looking to get our feet wet." The band's got a few fellow musicians out there to make contact with, and they're hoping to come back refreshed and start chipping away at a full-length LP. Kellam says the band is in it for the long haul, looking to book plenty more shows, get a few albums together and pursue it for as long as it'll go.
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