Six-Sided Box are at an odd juncture. Having just completed their first album, I’m Glad We Had This Conversation (SixSidedBox.com), they should be gearing up for scads of shows, maybe even a tour.
As it is, they’ve got boxes of shrinkwrapped CDs and no idea who their guitarist will be in a few months. And it’s questionable whether the Potential New Guy they’re rehearsing tonight at the Chisholm family house will work out.
Trumpeter Dave Chisholm and singer-guitarist Pete Markowski founded Six-Sided Box 18 months ago. Chisholm, at the time, was directing and performing with the Salt Lake Alternative Jazz Orchestra. It was and still is a good gig, but he wanted to play music that people would enjoy—not pick over and scrutinize for chops or technique. Longtime friend Markowski was a bedroom songwriter who had sung with his school choir. Chisholm has studio access at the University of Utah and they both had a few tunes they liked.
“We thought they were totally amazing,” Chisholm deadpans, “even though they were total s—t at the time.”
To complete the lineup, Chisholm and Markowski pulled guitarist Willis Clow and keyboardist-saxophonist Andrew Kuhnhausen from SLAJO and picked up bassist Doug Wright and drummer Ryan Sinner from other local bands.
With six differently inspired and trained musicians—including three jazzers more than most rock bands, Chisholm’s sonic trumpet (a trumpet played through guitar effects) and a virtuoso guitarist, they immediately had a unique sound: Spacey, atmospheric, song-oriented indie-rock with progressive tendencies, paradoxically unaffected Brit-pop affectations, and a secret weapon in that sonic trumpet. But unique as it was, Chisholm says it was also “Really bad. I think we were really bad for a long time.”
It took until six months ago for the band to completely jell, to get a handle on their unconventional sound, become confident onstage, and work up to a respectable two gigs per month—not to mention make a record. Hence, the band’s apprehensions at the pending personnel change. They wonder, what if it took these six guys to make this band this good? Suppose losing a player, as they will when Clow goes to USC this August, means losing momentum? What if it all falls apart?
Chisholm and his bandmates know they’re on to a good thing and are determined to maintain the progress they’ve made. That’s why they’re auditioning PNGs three months before Clow plows; they figure if anything kills them, it’ll be time off. If they work overtime getting somebody—almost anybody, up to speed, maybe they can have a smooth transition.
So how’s Potential New Guy doing? As the band practices, he wears a blank face: it’s hard to read whether he’s diggin’ the tunes. It’s also hard to read whether Six-Sided Box is feelin’ the PNG.
After each song, Clow praises or instructs the PNG. On one song, he nailed everything except “that one part.” On another, Clow instructed him to use an “add9” chord voicing. It’s clear that PNG is catching on, doing all right, that the band doesn’t have much to complain about. Still, they hesitate to give him the job just yet—for now, they still have Clow, there are still shows to play and songs to record (a five-song EP is planned for release this summer). And when the time comes to plug in a new guy, it has to be perfect.
Plus, even if PNG doesn’t work out, Six-Sided Box is figuring out they’ll be just fine. “The band is greater than its parts,” Chisholm says, explaining that the soul of Six-Sided Box is in its songs. “It’s not the trumpet, it’s not the singer, it’s not the harmonies—it’s the songs.” As for what will happen when Clow leaves, “We’ll deal with it as it comes.” SIX-SIDED BOXCD ReleaseUrban Lounge241 S. 500 EastSaturday, May 2110 p.m.746-0558