Friday night and a small crowd of non-prescription glasses-wearing young Seattleites gathered together in a sea of triangles, crosses, Doc Martens, and concert tees before the Vera Project, a literal door in a block of cement, sitting in the shadow of the Space Needle, a mecca to a host of regulars that the owner would describe as "mischief makers, line crossers, hooligans, artists, and music connoisseurs." This evening, the lines formed for Tallhart and From Indian Lakes.
Standing behind the small crowd, one couldn't be sure if we were waiting for a bathroom or a parking garage, with the only indicator of the venue's existence being a small hand painted and labeled "Vera." On entrance, I felt as if I had descended into Hogwarts' Chamber of Secrets as I traced a MET gallery of concert posters, graffiti, and stickers with my fingers guiding me through the darkness toward the throbbing of people and guitars. Flashes of light illuminated gold plated records, painted mannequin parts, sound equipment, and small sculptures shoved into dark corners to make room for the devoted indie followers.
Alan, the tour manager and previous band member of The Downtown Fiction, pulled me into the back room and outside behind the Vera Project where I found the members of Tallhart and From Indian Lakes preparing themselves for the upcoming show. Earthy and real, the band joked around about their long midwest tour stops, the proper pronunciation of "pho," and the sketchy sushi restaurant they had just walked out of. At one point, Joey, the lead singer, ran to the tour bus with the realization that the last time he was photographed and interviewed he was wearing the same exact shirt.
My overall impression of the band members while I spoke with them was that, while their style ranged from hipster to truck driver, they had a common sense of mountain authenticity, simple and honest, much like their music. Untouched by a marketer, the band's visual aesthetics were not cohesive with their sound and message, but from the hand clasped, lyric-mumbling fans in the front row, it didn't seem to matter. Perhaps, that's what makes From Indian Lakes so unique, and as many of the fans would say, "the best band you have never heard of."
Able Bodies, their most current album, has an overarching theme of sadness, life's vulnerability, and that we are all able bodied to have a positive outlook on hard situations. Ironically, its very last song, "Till I Can Walk" speaks of the band's inability to write a "happy song." Whether intentional or not this inconsistency, prescribing a positive outlook then confessing their inability to find it themselves, is more in line with the nature of humanity than consistency could ever be. If From Indian Lakes had ended Able Bodies with a happy, upbeat song, they would have run the risk of falling into line with the vast majority of musicians who believe they can prescribe lyrical medicine for their listener. Rather than telling the audience what the band believes they need to hear, From Indian Lakes writes lyrics that they believe need to be heard. This singularly puts them in a category far apart from your a-typical indie band.
In the song, "We Are Sick," the lead sings, "I walk around, but I don't breathe out, I stumble like a child and fall to the ground," and his inability to get out of bed, "I wake up but I don't go out." In our generation, what many social commentators are labeling as the new, "lost generation," akin to the roaring twenties of drinking and forgetting. Many musicians fall prey to life's lie of permanent prosperity and create music to which we can dance and raise our glasses to wealth and inevitable happiness. In contrast, From Indian Lakes sings, "I guess my time is fading out," and that, "I thought I knew but I don't, I don't know anything at all," in the song, "We Follow." By breaking the mold, Able Bodies connects to a different set of listeners, listeners that have been dealt life's hard hand and do not see an end. Throughout the chorus of "We Are Sick," the phrase is repeated, "would someone tell me the truth." This resonates with those who are constantly told, "it will get better," but what From Indian Lakes recognizes is that sometimes it simply doesn't.
People fight cancer and lose, the blind will never be able to see, the handicapped will never be able to get up and walk, and a child with down syndrome will be an adult with down syndrome. Life is hard. Sure, we are able bodied to take control of our positive outlook, but sometimes for those that life has given a constant losing battle, our positive outlook, to stay genuine must carry a sense of loss and sadness, because it's when you think you have lost everything that you find what is genuine and that is life's art.
The understanding of this art is displayed eerily well for a band of men in their early twenties. When asked if From Indian Lakes had heard any stories of their lyrics profoundly connecting with someone, in short, they said they hadn't. But what they didn't see was a sixteen year old boy in a wheelchair with his parents at the very back of the room during the show. That speaks more than any story ever could.
(Words + photos by Tamala Aown.)
About the Author
Brooks Ginnan is the editor of Exiled Music Press. He is usually crying over the fact that we will never see a reunion of The Smiths or Cocteau Twins.