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Lofty sounds

Trebuchet album weaves orchestral maneuvers with hard rock cred


Denton’s Trebuchet plants one foot firmly into the 1990s-influenced grunge/alternative rock sound and the other into the borderlands of metal with Said A to B, the full-length follow-up to the band’s split EP with the Phuss.

“We wear our influences kind of on our sleeves,” said Justin Hawkins, the architect of the band’s vocal melodies and lyrics — part of what makes the local band a serious affair. “All of our parents listened to classic rock, and we grew up listening to classic rock. But we also came of age during the 1990s grunge rock. And in the 1990s, there were a lot of good bands coming up in the D-FW scene. One Ton Records was a big influence for us, a big deal for a lot of us.”

Said A to B includes eight songs, but with most of them clocking in at more than 4 minutes, it’s a meaty record that feels complete.

“Potentiometer” begins with a slow metal-worthy beat and low guitar licks. Were the tempo doubled, it might be a dead ringer for a Metallica chorus, but the tempo is blunted by a deliberate pace and Hawkins’ vocals are at their most reminiscent of the Toadies’ Vaden Todd Lewis. (Hawkins actually taught Lewis’ daughter when he was working at School of Rock in Fort Worth. “Yeah, she’s awesome. She’s loud,” he said.)

Hawkins’ pipes can soar with the same insistent grittiness in the throat. And yet instead of sounding disordered or dangerous, Hawkins’ lyrics are more personal and regretful. Then, at the start of “O.L.H.” Hawkins harmonizes with himself in a run that is vintage Freddie Mercury.

What makes the album such a good bet for metal fans isn’t its degree of hardness, but the orchestral way chief songwriter Dustin Fleming composes. In “Potentiometer,” the lead guitar could easily double for violin or harp, and the rhythm guitar chips in the way wind instruments often do to supplement strings. In more than one song, John Yett’s bass adopts the resonant, space-taking character of a pipe organ. It’s the drumming that anchors the band in the rock zone.

“A lot of the songs on this album are like medleys, almost,” Hawkins said. Indeed, most of the songs feel like they unfold in multiple movements.

“It’s funny, because I feel like on our old records we sounded a lot harder,” he said. “This record, we’re more laid-back.”

The band wrote the songs just after the release of the split EP, and Hawkins said they were ready to polish them about a year ago. An evening in the basement of Andy’s Bar on the Square produced a conversation about recording the album in a loft space where Keith Naylor, the rhythm guitarist, was living with his girlfriend before moving out. Photographer Marcus Laws and videographer Patrick Flaherty rented the spot as a studio and let Trebuchet record over four days.

“Our days were long. They started at 11 p.m. and went until 5 a.m.,” Hawkins said. “We had to get it done. That space is so amazing, sound-wise.”

Fleming burned mixes, passed them out to the band, and each musician took “really, really detailed notes,” Hawkins said. Fleming revised the mixes using those notes.

When Said A to B drops on Friday, Hawkins said he expects the track “Lies and Delusions” to define the record for the band. It does build, back off to drums, busy bass picking and a few yelps from the guitar, before building to the inevitable crash of sound. In spots, the song takes a side trip to British folk-rock interludes, yet the sound never feels slapped together. Each movement is intentional and meaningful.

“‘Lies and Delusions’ is the pinnacle of the sound, the pinnacle of the composition we were after. That’s the one that I’m completely ecstatic about,” Hawkins said. “First and foremost, we really aren’t the radio model band, as much as that might be to the detriment of the bands in this town. We want to tell the story of the songs we write.”

How to get it: Said A to B is available on limited-edition vinyl with a screen-printed cover, plus a band sticker and a download card, for $20. The record will be available at Mad World Records and Recycled Books Records CDs on the Square, and at Good Records in Dallas. A download card, available on www.trebuchet, is $8. The record will be available on iTunes.

Sounds like: the Toadies under the influence of System of a Down and Lift to Experience. The intensity of Trebuchet pairs nicely with Pink Floyd or Alice in Chains.

They’re with the band: Bobak Lotfipour, drums; Dustin Fleming, lead guitar and sound engineer; John Yett, bass; Keith Naylor, rhythm guitar; and Justin Hawkins, lead vocals and guitar.

Details: The Virgin Wolves, Trebuchet, Mothership and the Phuss play Friday night at Hailey’s Club, 122 W. Mulberry St. Doors open at 7 p.m. Cover is $5 for ages 21 and older, $10 for those younger than 21.

— Lucinda Breeding