DFW Music News

Son of Stan's Jordan Richardson and the Re-Making of a Rock 'n' Roll Dream

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It's the second weekend of August in Dallas, and it feels like the third circle of hell, assuming that's the circle with cold beer and weird art on the walls. Richardson is in high spirits at the Dallas Contemporary's Design District Market, glistening with a little more sweat than most people. He just finished playing drums for his friend Ronnie Heart, a diminutive Fort Worth frontman with good moves and better guitar riffs. There wasn't much of a crowd right up by the outdoor P.A. People were browsing the crafts inside or taking a dip in the Dumpster pool 50 feet out into the parking lot. But Richardson looks content, free of the burdens (and the paycheck) of big-market entertainment, released of the obligations of someone else's sheet music. Drumming is a hobby again, an afternoon playing with his friends.

By the time he got back to L.A. from the Ride Festival in Telluride, he was halfway done recording what would become Divorce Pop, the debut album of his new band, Son of Stan. Whenever he had the time and energy, he'd leave the day's work drumming with Ben Harper and drive across town to Lasus' home studio in what used to be a pool house. He and Richardson would stay up through the night, experimenting with strange sounds and chasing the hallucinatory convictions unique to the tiny hours of the morning.

Richardson had been writing the songs for some time. He'd sat in Corsica, Italy, on tour with Harper, thinking about home, about the past, about his mom's old Cutlass nicknamed Manilla Marge. The language of music had always been his strongest method of communication. So he sat in his hotel room, describing the confusion he was feeling with guitar chords and metaphors about the trips he used to take as a kid to shopping malls. Eight-year-old Jordan, like most suburban boys, felt somewhat imprisoned by those trips. Inside Show Off Fashions, he gathered plastic shirt hooks, which he called saxophones, and escaped under the round clothing racks. He held the saxophones to his mouth and played songs he'd invented or that he had memorized from the heavy rotation of Fort Worth's pop and oldies stations, hits by Phil Collins and Gene Pitney and the Thompson Twins.

When Natalie thinks back to her childhood, two things stand out the clearest: "There was always music," she says, "and we were always going somewhere."

On these shopping trips, Georgia would bargain with her young son: If they spent an hour at a place she wanted to go, they could stop somewhere for him. On one such visit to Montgomery Ward, Jordan saw a GI Joe maze. It cost an insane amount, $75 or "something unprecedented," says Jordan, so of course he didn't get it. He was inconsolable for reasons he didn't understand.

His sister's cheerleading camps bored him until he was about 10, when the revelation hit him that he was watching 100 17-year-old girls dancing to pop music. "It was just cool," he says. "The cool music of the time, the cool dancing of the time."

You can hear the sexual uncertainty and strip-mall malaise and the sounds of '80s pop radio on Divorce Pop. Lasus and Jordan used strange recording methods, plugging instruments directly into the mixer instead of using amplifiers, so they could only hear the music through their headphones. It was a sonic experiment that interested them both, born of the necessity of silence with Lasus' child and wife sleeping in the adjacent house. For the same reason, they didn't use a drum set, instead recording each snare and tom line individually, often using an electronic drum pad. The final album features no cymbals at all. It is languid and vibrant. Songs start imperceptibly and hum to life in sparkling keyboard lines and hypnotic guitars tuned strangely. His voice comes in, layered on top of itself, his tones a schizophrenic chorus of patience and agitation, brazen confidence and paranoia. The imagery is equally fantastic and mundane. The words came later, an impressionistic combination of specific autobiography and fictional emotion.

"In an Olds' 98/We were young/You were straight," he sings on lead single "Corsica." They released the song last year, midway through the recording sessions, in a sort of trial run. It's been picked up by radio stations as far away as London and Mexico City. Audiences in New York and Los Angeles and Fort Worth sing along to every word. "A buzz was starting to happen while we were making the record," Lasus says. "You could just tell. He was having so much more satisfaction and fun doing this."

Son of Stan is officially signed to WizardVision Records, a label Richardson helped his friend Steve Steward establish. Divorce Pop is its first formal release, though they've dabbled with a few Fort Worth bands before this. Steward describes the aesthetic of the label as "Conan The Librarian on UHF, weird malls and dying shopping centers." He's hoping to release a few albums from danceable electronic bands and also sign a metal band or two. "We listen to a lot of heavy music," he says. "But there are a lot of Hall & Oates fans in our circle."

For now, Son of Stan is Richardson's full-time job. He just finished a nationwide tour with Happy Hollows. His merch includes two T-shirts, one with a burrito running vertically up the ribcage and one with a blurry photo of someone dancing and three lines of text that read, "Son of Stan" then "#divorcepop" and finally "#girlsasses."

Jordan sells plenty of everything at Son of Stan shows. He mostly takes opening slots at this point, but he's rarely ignored. It's hard to mistake the quality of the songs and even harder to avoid the infectious joy of the man singing them.

Nathan Brown finishes his cheerleading at Queen City Music Hall and takes his guitar off the stage. Son of Stan is next. Richardson ducks out of the conversation he's surrounded by and heads onstage to set up. There are two Son of Stan lineups -- in L.A., it's a two-piece, with his roommate Dan Marcellus on drums. Fort Worth's Son of Stan is typically four people: Jordan on guitar and vocals, Brian Garcia on drums, Ronnie Heart on guitar and Cliff Wright on bass. Tonight there's also a saxophone player. They set up quietly, and without much warning they kick into "Chip Away," Divorce Pop's most patient song, and feet start tapping all the way in the back of the Hall. Stan and Georgia are here. They almost never miss Jordan's North Texas shows. Stan takes a spot on the floor and sings along to most of the lines, even the dirty ones.

The crowd gets more and more attentive. This is not a fetal Fort Worth band at its debut, finding its voice. Nick Offer, frontman of the dance-punk band !!!, is standing near the soundboard, nodding approvingly. "We listened to the songs before the show," he says. "It sounded like Sonic Youth demos with a drum machine. It was cool." The music resonates the way you'd expect from an indie band cresting on buzz. The saxophone comes out on "Sadie" and the room practically pulsates. They close with "Corsica" and there's not a straight face anywhere.

Stan, Dad of Jordan, looks on approvingly, his hands folded together behind the small of his back. He's seen Jordan play thousands of shows; this, he'll say later, is the best ever. Better than the ska band at the hockey rink, better than the big band at TCU, better than the ones with Ringo Starr and Pink Floyd and all the rest because tonight, singing these bright songs about dark things, is when his son looked the happiest.

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Kiernan Maletsky
Contact: Kiernan Maletsky

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