Future primitive: The music industry is going in the tank: CD sales go down every year, and the revenue generated when we load up our iPods with 99 cent songs isn’t making up the difference. While music, in reality, is as popular is ever, it is understandable if those in and outside the business are feeling a bit uneasy about the future. It is comforting to know, however, that there are still guys in garages playing and singing into their four-tracks original music that one day we may all listen to and enjoy regardless of whatever format it is served up in.
Nick Hessler is one of those guys. With his group Catwalk, he has released a 7" on YAY! Records and is preparing to release another. A few years ago, he bought a four-track recorder and started recording demos, playing all the instruments himself. Around 2005, he began recruiting other musicians to help flesh out his songs. Eventually, he settled on the lineup of Chris Bello on drums, Kristina Maples on bass and himself as singer-guitarist. Eric Bello, who had recently started up YAY! Records to release his own band’s music, liked what he heard and decided to release a 7" single for the band.
"I’ve been friends with Eric for awhile, and about the time I was starting Catwalk he was getting his label going," Hessler says. Bello, frontman for the band Maria, is getting a little buzz around his label, releasing vinyl-only recordings of his own band as well as Pam & Teri and the Sea Lions.
The stuff of dreams: Catwalk’s music is reminiscent of the Jesus & Mary Chain – minus the feedback and heroin – and pre-grunge Seattle pop bands such as Beat Happening. When asked about his influences, Hessler – other than saying he likes Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth – shies away from naming musical acts.
"I’m not influenced so much by bands but more what goes on around me, like emotions," he says. "I’m big on dreams." The songs do have a dreamy vibe, although most are spare, like the folkish "Permanent" and the driving "On the Cracked Pavement." While the spare sound may be due as much to the primitive recording technology as the band’s artistic vision, it does have a certain dissonant effect.
Forward thinking: Meanwhile, Hessler, who has a maturity and musical vocabulary way beyond his 16 years, is in no rush for his band to be the next Hollywood star.
"We made a New Year’s resolution to get really tight with our live act," he says. Among their plans are to add another member or two to flesh out the sound further, and also to get Chris Bello and Maples in on the songwriting process. They are currently "taking a break" from doing shows as some of these developments emerge. Through all this, Hessler remains prolific, always working on new material and ideas.
"I have all these ideas stuffed in my mind," he says, "and I just need to get them out."
For songs and show dates, visit www.myspace.com/catwalkca.