TRANS AM: X MARKS A SPOT
Leon casino, Photo Credit Prankster101 Productions
Trans Am has been around a long time. The thing that makes them special — the thing that has given and sustained their credibility as a band is that they have created a lane unto themselves. More than an instrumental band, more than progressive rock trio — beyond the description. Trans Am has stood as one of this generation’s pillars of rock music, so when they bro-what? They didn’t break up?
“People for like the last 10 years have thought we were breaking up, but we never broke up, I mean we were just living in different cities, but I think that in ‘90s and the early 2000s the precedent had been established that we were a full time band that was touring constantly, so as I moved to San Francisco and Nathan moved to New Zealand everyone just assumed we broke up, “ notes guitarist/keyboardist/bassist/dad/life coach Phil Manley, “But we’ve always maintained the connection as a band, we just get together once in a while, which is actually kinda how the band started, because we all went to different colleges and that is when technically we started Trans Am.”
OK, so misconceptions aside, Trans Am has a new album “Volume X”. The title could be alluding to the their tenth album. It could be alluding to X as the unknown, as the band’s sound is always shifting from hard rockers to almost late ‘80s R&B, to Fahey-style acoustic jams, to Black Sabbath, electro, to whatever is thrown into to the bouillabaisse. It is hard to say, but why say? Why not get lost in the nocturnal magic of “Night Shift” or smash easily replaceable household items whilst spazzing out to “Backlash”, or reminisce to lovelorn “I’ll Never”, whose computerized voice is perfect for this technological age: sweet and somehow detached.
The album was recorded over the course of a few years, which in some cases might make it hard to settle on a sound, but the cohesiveness and vision of the album shine through with each listen.
“It was kind of weird the way it came together, it’s like when you take a very long time like that, and when everything is sort of fractured, and everyone is in different places, there is a possibility it could sound fractured and disjointed, but there was a lot of material we didn’t use, and the second to last session we did a lot of work and everyone left the session being like really down on the material. I felt like, like they were like ‘This isn’t ready, this is fucked up, this needs so much work,’ but then when we got together for the last session, it was like ‘Really, most of this is done, we just to work on this, this, and this. So it was one of those weird instances where it benefited us to take some time away from it and let the dust settle and gain perspective…I feel like the record really benefitted from that.”
Of course in being a real band, they would have to buckle down and tour to promote this masterwork, which is no small feat with everyone living in different places, Nathan writing books, Manley engineering and opening a new studio, members having families, and Seb playing full-time in the band Baroness. One might even wonder, why tour at all, to which Manley notes “As a band, you’re not really if you’re not playing shows, you’re just like a recording project.”
So what does this tour entail? The entire US in 14 days! A stop which lands the band at the wonderful Rudyard’s Pub May 20th.
Still, one has to wonder, after this, with all the various things the members are into, could this maybe signal the last hurrah? After all, with there being 7 years between this and the last time album, would now be the time to take that victory lap and call it a day? Manley gives us this assurance:
“We’ve never really talked about the last lap, I think that if we put out a compilation of covers, then you know we’re breaking up, I think we told ourselves that a long time ago, that if you put out an album of covers you’re like, fulfilling a contract, it would be a weird album that’s for sure…”
Did you hear Trans Am’s version of “Double Vision by Foreigner”?