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Boxbomb: perfect package for writer on a deadline

by Lee Adams

One day last week as I came into the office I was racking my brain over a music story. As newspaper fate often has it, my plan for a story crashed and burned at the last minute leaving me feeling a little hopeless. I had no backup plan and refused to just write to take up space. It had to be a good band or event or something. Something I really believed was worth promoting. As I walked toward my office I saw two CDs lying on the front counter. ‘“Great,’” I thought, ‘“more crap from some band who thinks their the hottest thing to hit town and that we should cover them or we’re out of the loop.’”

We get a lot of crap around here.

I opened the cellophane on the independent label CD and popped it into my computer as I started checking my email. ‘“Dana na na na dananananananana, dana na na na dananananananana,’” a grinding guitar came through the right speaker. Then the pattern repeated through both speakers along with a firm downbeat on the tambourine. Then it repeated again, this time with a heavy hi-hat sound and then blam, the sound was pumping full through my surround sound computer speakers. Then whining vocals soared over the music carrying the melody as the power of the song intensified toward the chorus.

‘“Gosh,’” I thought as I picked up the CD from my desk, ‘“who are these guys?’”

‘“Boxbomb’” the cover read. I’ve heard of these guys. Where have I heard of them? Are they on the radio? I opened the jewel case and pulled out the front cover. It was only one page.

‘“This can’t be right,’” I thought. ‘“This sounds too good, this is too well-produced. Where’re the lyrics, the band bio, the instrument sponsorship info? These guys are big-time, right?

I looked up boxbomb.net on the Internet. They started playing together in 2003, and are from the Durham area. I called manager Michael Reklis immediately. Darn, there was nobody answering the phone. I left a message and sent him an email. I had to know who this group was.

I was surprised to find out how young and new to the music scene the band was. They were so good, they were so tight. I’ve not heard many mainstream albums as well-made as this one.

I had blown off work and was lounging in my chair, nodding my head and playing air guitar. Then again, this was important research for my story, right?

A couple days later I talked to the guys over the phone. The band is made up of Ryan Gustafon on guitar and vocals, Rob McFarlane on guitar, Sean Alexander on bass and Justin Holder on drums ‘— all not older than 22.

McFarlane and Holder grew up in Massachusetts together, going to high school, hanging out, and playing music. Both of their fathers played music in a band together, McFarlane’s playing guitar and Holder’s playing keyboard, and so naturally they began playing together as well.

McFarlane picked up the guitar, but Holder, unlike his father, gravitated toward the drums. Although Holder was influenced by drummers like Steve Gadd and Vinnie Calouita, he says his biggest influence was Animal on ‘“The Muppet Show.’”

‘“I credit everything to him,’” Holder says, and he’s serious about that.

When McFarlane’s family moved to Durham a few years ago, Holder was left without a friend and fellow musician. So the only logical choice for Holder was to move to Durham as well, which is just what he did.

It wasn’t long afterwards until the two met up with Gustafon and Alexander and formed Boxbomb. The name, they say, has no particular meaning. It comes from Dr. Seuss’ book Oh, The Places You’ll Go. The last paragraph of the story reads:

So…

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,

you’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So…get on your way!

Boxbomb came as a derivative of Buxbaum, and the name stuck.

The band has played multiple shows at Ace’s Basement (that’s, where I’d heard of them) and stays busy around the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area. On Aug. 26 the band is scheduled to play at Greene Street along with House of Fools, and if they’re even half as good as their CD it’ll be one of the best live, original rock shows to hit Greensboro (and we know how desperately this town needs some original music), so don’t miss it. Everything I’ve heard says they’re even better live than they are on their CD, and that’s a true mark of musicianship.

I’m not one to buy CDs often as my tastes are too diverse and I get bored with recorded music quickly. But I’ve been listening to this CD over and over since I got it and would gladly pay twice the eight dollars it’s currently going for at Gate City Noise to add it to my small collection. This is a steal. Get it now and see the guys live at Greene Street while you can still get up close to them. They’ll be going far.

To comment on this story, e-mail Lee at lee@yesweekly.com.

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