When referencing Reigning Sound’s upcoming appearance at Sled Island, a friend of mine said, “They’re my favourite band to never break up or never reunite that’s playing.” While that may seem like a backhanded compliment, it’s the truth. While some of the all-stars of the lo-fi garage rock genre may be broken up (King Khan and the Shrines) or worse, dead, Greg Cartwright’s Reigning Sound formed in Memphis and started with their garage punk antics in 2001, when most diehard Gonerfest attendees hadn’t even purchased their first record player.
“I came from The Oblivions in the mid-90s and before that, The Compulsive Gamblers,” reflects Cartwright on his pedigree. “I did a couple of records with The Deadly Snake as well. Then, I formed Reigning Sound and, shortly after, I moved from Memphis to Nashville and we tried doing the long-distance thing. Gigs didn’t pan out because of the day jobs the other guys had. So, I had to reform the band in North Carolina where I am now. Even with current lineup, the other guys live in Brooklyn and New Jersey.”
When asked about the changing lineup, Cartwright says, “Reigning Sound has been a band for about 12 years but it’s always been a constant thing even though the situations change. Like the availability of certain players come and go and I have to add new people. Definitely each player adds his own thing to the music and as the lineups have changed, the dynamic has changed. It used to be guitar, bass, drums, keyboard. By the third album, we lost our keyboardist and when he was lost, I noticed the the loss of one member can shift things.” Even with the shifting of the players, Cartwright affirms that he is “the only songwriter in band and I always have been. Being that I write all the songs, my tastes change all the time for the kind of records I want to make and that’s the cool thing, I never had to adhere to one particular genre and I could give whatever I wanted to do a try.”
On the current garage rock “revival” and fascination with all things lo-fi, Cartwright has a unique outlook. “The big thing is people’s tastes change. The format is a big lynchpin in how people’s tastes change. We’ve gone from records to cassettes, to records to CDs and from there to digital listening. To me, lo-fi is on a level playing field with a computer or little ear buds, an iPhone or something like that because it’s such a terrible sounding medium. I don’t listen to any digital device. If I’m on a computer I can’t hear difference. So, in a way, that has levelled the playing field for things that are low fidelity.” In essence, all of the technological advances and convenience factors have made things sound worse, versus better.
Furthering the case for analogue, he states that “it has a sense of space. Analogue gives dimension and space whereas digital doesn’t do that. We record trying to stay away from the digital process. It’s not a prejudice but analogue is the medium I grew up in and I loved that process. It appeals to me that way. It limits your potential decisions and you have to decide upfront how you’re going to do it. Whether or not you want to add a saxophone or something later on. It makes you think on how everything comes together and is mixed.”
Reigning Sound play the Republik on June 21 and downstairs at the Legion #1 on June 22.
by Spencer Brown