Telescreen a feast for the ears and eyes

by Ryan Snyder

It’s easy to believe that buying and listening to an album will provide a fan with enough information to form an opinion on the band. After all, it’s a reasonable assumption that artists wish to be defined by the music that they make. But then there are some who go well beyond the listening-only experience and into territory that engages sensibilities in auxiliary fashions. Winston-Salem’s Telescreen is one who wants to connect with their audience not just through their ears, but through their eyes as well. Guitarist/keyboardist James Tuttle can remember the exact moment when the seed of inspiration was planted that would develop into his current project. That was Nov. 23, 1994, when Nine Inch Nails performed at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem. The band used intense visuals, creating a powerful experience for the audience. This resonated with Tuttle in such a way that Codeseven, a band he played with at the time, began to experiment with similar stage effects. “To this day, it is the best show that I have ever seen,” Tuttle said. “I wasn’t even a fan when I went, but the mood they set was just unreal.” You might remember the different faces of Codeseven if you had any interest in the Triad music scene around the mid-’90s. They had a particular influence over the high school and early-college crowd, themselves being high-schoolers at the time. In the early days they were characterized by their early screamo output (before the term became tainted) with noise-rock inflections at small, cramped venues like the nowdefunct Pablo’s. As the band’s roster progressed, so did their sound. Tuttle, along with brothers Jon (bass) and Matt (drums), and guitarist Eric Weyer, saw the band through experimentation with NIN-inspired visuals. It was by this time that Codeseven had taken their music in an entirely different direction, utilizing complex orchestral harmonies that would eventually become the signature sound of Telescreen. With Codeseven on indefinite hiatus as of summer 2005, Weyer and the brothers Tuttle were looking to further the headway that was made near the end of their previous band’s lifespan. Jared Draughon came into the picture when his band Classic Case broke up in early 2007 and became the vocalist for Telescreen, which didn’t have an official named at the time. “We go back more than years with Jared, playing shows with his early band Blankface.” James said. “The timing of both past bands breaking up led to great timing for putting Telescreen together.” Their first release was a digital EP entitled The Solar Sea, which afforded buyers unique distribution right; anyone with the files were allowed to resell them to whomever they chose. The intention behind it wasn’t to make money, but rather to create a viral marketing campaign designed to reach as many listeners as possible. “I still think it was a great idea, but we ran into the problem of people wanting to give us the money back to help out the band,” James said. “That was amazing, but it prevented the EP from going viral and getting into as many computers as possible.” A physical release will be issued in the spring on the Tragic Hero/East West label and represents a major step forward in how the band seeks to present itself. It will include a few bonus tracks from the digital EP, but also a DVD of an entire concert with plenty of extras. “You really need to see it just as much as you need to hear it to get what we’re trying to do as a band,” Tuttle added Sonically, Telescreen exudes an atmospheric, ambient and even somewhat minimalist orchestral quality that seeks to form an emotional connection with the listener. Their rolling compositions are both expressive and dramatic and each piece seems to be driven toward a final, climatic destination. Visually, they employ stunning, almost psychedelic imagery that serves to camouflage each band member in a swath of swirling colors and homemade films. This is accomplished through a 15-by-30 foot scrim, an almost translucent fabric often used in theater, set up at the front of the stage. “We try and really pull out the emotions from the music and the best way to achieve that is to use visuals,” James stated. “We kind of tell a story with the visuals and down the road, we would like it to be more of a movie experience with us playing the soundtrack.” The band hit the road at the end of October for a swing through the east coast and the Great Lakes area, where they will have plenty of opportunity to hone their presentation. “It’s definitely a little bit of work,” Weyer said. “But we love it and can’t wait to see how it turns out.”