Centro-Matic‘s only flaw may lie in their prolific output. It’s hard to focus on one achievement because the moment you do, they’re off releasing another album of equal achievement. And while their output is consistently better than other prolific artists (Ryan Adams immediately comes to mind), there is this nagging feeling that the band has sacrificed a masterpiece or two at the hands of simply divulging too much too soon.
If this minor complaint—the desire to have everyone recognize how amazingly good this woefully underappreciated band is—wasn’t enough, leader Will Johnson started a second band a few years ago under the name South San Gabriel. Essentially using the same supporters as Centro-Matic, South San Gabriel provides these Texans with an outlet for their atmospheric side.
Centro-matic‘s new album, Dual Hawks, is the band’s 9th full-length since it formed in 1996. Dual Hawks is also the 3rd full-length from Centro-matic’s atmospheric doppelganger South San Gabriel which was formed in 2001 by the 4 members of Centro-matic in order to accommodate the quieter side of Will Johnson‘s prodigious output.
In the era of mp3s, the bands have taken the unusual step of releasing a double-album containing one disc from each group. As a whole, the album highlights the differences between the two bands. While the Centro-matic side of Dual Hawks rocks in way that recalls the band’s raucous debut (Redo The Stacks), the South San Gabriel side is much more subdued – layering strings, piano, horns and guitars around Will Johnson’s voice to create the most beautifully haunting and fully realized South San Gabriel album. The result is a double-album that succeeds on both ends of the musical spectrum and never feels bloated or at odds with itself.
The GloNo Video crew caught-up with Centro-matic during the bands’ two-night stand at Schubas Tavern in June and put together dual videos profiling both Centro-matic and South San Gabriel. Check ’em out after the jump…
As the lone songwriter for two active bands, Centro-matic and its offshoot South San Gabriel, you would think Will Johnson would have ample musical outlets. After all, Centro-Matic has released 8 albums in its ten-year career, as well as several EPs and 7-inch singles, while South San Gabriel has released two full-lengths since forming in 2003. But Johnson’s abundant song output (somewhere between Ryan Adams and Bob Pollard on the songwriter’s proliferation chart) has necessitated a solo career resulting in two more albums, Murder of Tides and Vultures Await.
Not that any of this has come close to soaking up the hundreds of songs Johnson has written that have never been recorded for a proper release. (He says he records all songs on a four-track as soon as they are finished and then sorts through them for those that best fit his current project.) Johnson’s favorite place to write is a walk-in closet at his mother’s house. When asked why that location seems to be so fruitful, he shrugs and says “it’s kind of like a womb… warm and dark and comfortable.”