As recent as last year, Denver pop/rock band Meese had a recording contract with a major label, had a nationwide release, was touring heavily with bands like Paramore and Switchfoot, and was widely expected to parallel the national success found by band pals The Fray.
Then, earlier this year, brother-founders Patrick and Nate Meese surprisingly announced they were disbanding Meese. A few months later, they debuted as an indie band at Denver’s Underground Music Showcase under a new moniker, The Centennial–and with an entirely different sound.
Talk about starting from scratch.
Last weekend, The Centennial released a DIY project, an EP titled Second Spring, which is not currently for sale. You read that right–the EP is not for sale. They are giving it away, at least for now. You can download the entire six-song recording at their website.
Gone are the melodic, pop-rock hooks, replaced by a mellower, melencholy-laden sound almost completely driven by two-part harmony (covered by Patrick and wife Tiffany). I’ve struggled to classify their sound ever since I first heard them play–words like ambient, minimalist and shoegaze come to mind, but only partly describe it. Perhaps the best term to describe it is “post rock”. An almost literal de-construction of a pop-rock sound, and an attempt to regather its various elements into something new.
The de-construction/re-construction of Meese into The Centennial was partly preceded by some circumstances outside of their control. Apparently, some serious personnel changes and internal stuff at the label coincided with the release of their record, ultimately halting their momentum and preventing the band from gaining traction. But for a band to change its entire direction, sound and identity, it takes more than just unfortunate business deals; you do that kind of thing for entirely different reasons. In various conversations with the Meese brothers over the past few months, I gather that in reality, they were bored with the pop-rock thing. It would appear that the label mishaps just gave them the excuse they needed to try something new.
The shift from Meese to The Centennial has not been a smooth musical transition–not a magic act where one band disappears and from behind the curtain a new one shows up in its place. I’ve heard The Centennial play live three times, and each time their sound has been a little different. I can hear within their music their struggle to experiment and reinvent, and I can hear it in the record as well. This is a band that has ventured into uncharted waters and is still morphing, and for all we know they may sound completely different within a year. What I find intriguing, though, is that the Meeses aren’t engaging this process privately. Through their live performances and recent recording, they are letting it happen in the public venue, allowing us into their struggle, so to speak. I don’t know if this is what they intended, but it’s exactly what I like about them right now.
The (current) sound of The Centennial might not speak to everyone, but it definitely speaks to me on a soul level. Maybe it’s because the story behind the sound speaks to me also. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived their story in a different way–maybe it’s because I know what it is to start over from scratch, and I understand the struggles behind reinvention. Whatever my personal connection to the band and their story, I like what I’m hearing, and I hope you will, too. Take a listen for yourself, and if you like what you hear, go over to The Centennial’s website and download the record.
The Centennial: “Free Man”
The Centennial: “1988”