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Late bloomers
Taxpayer’s Bones & Lungs makes it to Lunch
Related Links

Taxpayer, "When They Were Young"

The Taxpayer's official Web site

Taxpayer in the Phoenix Band Guide.

Johnathan Perry reviews Four by Four: Volume 1, featuring Taxpayer.

Taxpayer recently celebrated the release of their smart, tightly crafted, catchy-as-hell new Bones & Lungs (Lunch) with a nearly-sold-out headlining gig at T.T. the Bear’s Place. The band’s precocious, arena-ready sound and the crowd’s fervent reaction, complete with demands for an encore, belied the fact that B&L is their first full-length. Then again, the seeds of Taxpayer (who open for Mobius Band next Thursday at Great Scott) were planted more than a dozen years ago, so it all sort of makes sense.

It was the summer of 1992, and Jay Marsh, Rob Adams, and Mikey Jones, just having finished seventh grade, were camping out in an Army tent in Jay’s back yard in West Newbury, smoking cigarettes and listening to music. Earlier that day, they’d bought a Minor Threat tape because it looked "neat," and that night their little minds were blown by the DC hardcore legends. Right then and there, they decided they had to start a band. Marsh had recently bought one of those cheap guitar/amplifier packages from Daddy’s Junky Music. Jones decided to get the same thing; Adams became the drummer by default. The bass-less band started practicing and writing music in the laundry room in Marsh’s basement. Their first song was called, well, "Laundry Room."

"We thought we were awesome right off the bat, but we definitely weren’t," Adams says when he, Marsh, and bassist Tim Peters sit down with me for shepherd’s pie and pints at the Burren in Somerville’s Davis Square. "False confidence for years," Marsh laughs. "That’s the only reason why we’ve played together for so long. We always thought we were so fucking good, man."

It wasn’t long before they discovered the burgeoning North Shore hardcore scene. "In the area that we grew up in, bands like Cave In, Piebald, and Converge were all playing," says Adams. "Every weekend there was an awesome show." It was around 1995 that they finally became a "real" band, dubbing themselves Oswald’s Last Plea. Over the next few years, they underwent a number of name and line-up changes, and eventually everyone went off to college — Marsh to UMass-Amherst, Adams to BU, and Jones to Northeastern. They stayed together but were unable to concentrate on the band, called Psara at that point, in earnest.

In 1999, during his sophomore year, Marsh met Tim Peters in UMass’s Van Meter dorm, where they both were living. They bonded over Sunny Day Real Estate’s then new How It Feels To Be Something On, and Peters began playing bass with Psara. "And it’s been solid ever since," says Marsh. "But . . . ," Adams cuts in. "Oh, yeah, I forgot — then we broke up," Jay laughs. The band went on hiatus as Marsh spent time abroad and Peters did a semester at sea. After graduating, Marsh and Adams moved back home. "It was the most depressing fucking era of our entire lives," Marsh says. "Slowly we started saying, ‘What the fuck are we doing? This is so pathetic. Every night we go out, drink a couple of beers, and reminisce about how fun music was, and we’re not doing anything about it.’ And then we just decided, maybe we should think about doing it." They started playing music again after Cave In offered Marsh their rehearsal space, which was going to be vacant while the band were on tour. "Then it was like, ‘Shit, we’re paying rent. If we’re gonna do it, nobody can be a wimp about it. We have to really get dedicated.’ And it just happened."

They spent the next eight or nine months writing songs, most of which were scrapped as they struggled to find their sound. Over the years they had bounced from hardcore to emo to "Pink Floyd shit." But over those months, after about two years of not playing music together, they found their niche as a straight-up rock band, combining the complex, coordinated drum-and-bass attack of Fugazi with the atmospherics and high-flying vocal melodies of Coldplay and OK Computer–era Radiohead. Eventually they built up a solid batch of seven songs that they recorded for an EP titled I’ll Do My Best To Stay Healthy. They called themselves Taxpayer, after a song from the EP called "Taxpayer Superstar."

Lunch Records’ Paul Buckley was at the I’ll Do My Best CD-release show in the spring of 2004 to see another band on the bill. Adams’s girlfriend knew Buckley and begged him to stay for Taxpayer. He agreed to check out one song, was hooked, and approached the band about contributing to the Four by Four compilation (four bands, four songs apiece) that he had in the works. Some six months later, Four by Four: Volume 1 was released, and Buckley invited Taxpayer to record with local producer extraordinaire Paul Kolderie (Radiohead, Hole) for a full-length to be released on Lunch. "Mike and I were obsessed with Radiohead," says Marsh. "So we were laughing uncontrollably — on the inside, of course." Peters adds, "When he mentioned that, that’s when it got the ball rolling, and we were like, ‘We gotta write some songs.’ "

This past spring, they went to Kolderie’s Camp Street Studios in Cambridge and banged out six songs in three days. Buckley told them that with those songs, and a few from the EP and Four by Four, they were done. Marsh wasn’t having it. "I was like, ‘I guarantee you the shit that we’ve been writing lately — you just give us one more session, I guarantee you this is going to be 10,000 times a better record than if you put any of that old stuff on it.’ " In fact, they didn’t have any more songs written. So they penned three more quick ones — the album’s elegiac one-minute opener, "Among Low Clouds"; the U2-influenced "Gifts with Strings Attached"; and "Pace Yourself" — and went back to Camp Street for another session. "Cut It Again" and "Dial Zero for Assistance" from Four by Four ended up rounding out the disc — a debut some 13 years in the making.

Taxpayer + Mobius Band | Great Scott, 1222 Comm Ave, Allston | Dec 1 | 617.566.9014

Issue Date: November 25 - December 1, 2005
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