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The family plan
Lock and Key become leaders of a new local scene, and the Call Up join in
Related Links

Lock and Key's official Web site

Will Spitz introduces Lock and Key to Phoenix readers.

Back on October 20, the members of Lock and Key were sitting at the bar of the Paradise Lounge and wondering whether anyone was going to show up for a show to celebrate the release of their debut full-length, Pull Up the Floorboards, on the North Carolina indie label Deep Elm. It was a Wednesday night — Blackout Bar night at the Lounge — and yet Lock and Key had reason to worry: it was also the night of the seventh game of the ALCS, the game that would send either the Yankees or the Red Sox to the World Series. Since the band, who would be heading off on a seven-week tour the next day, had to be there early for sound check, singer/guitarist Ryan Shanahan had invited friends to come to the Lounge to watch the game with them. "I was like, ‘They’re not really gonna come,’ " he recalls. "But people showed up in the first couple of innings, and we all just hung out and drank beer and watched the Sox. And they weren’t playing music, either. It was Blackout Bar without music. They won, and 20 minutes later, after everyone had their cigarette break, we plugged in, and everybody was in the best mood. I think we played better because of that."

Many of the people who were there for that show are what the members of Lock and Key view as a burgeoning scene made up of local musicians, recording engineers, photographers, and artists. Lock and Key may be one of the city’s most promising and hardest-working young groups, but as they see it, they’re just one group in a community of punk- and hardcore-influenced bands emerging from the old houses and run-down apartments in Allston/Brighton.

When I catch up with them, Shanahan is feeling nostalgic. He remembers a party he went to back when he and Lock and Key drummer Keith "Trash" Casella, both then living in Watertown, were starting to break into the local scene with their high-school band Fastlane. The soirŽe was at the large Allston house that was the headquarters of local punk label Fork in Hand Records and home to members of Big D & the Kids Table and Drexel. "It hit me like a ton of bricks that here were all these bands who were all friends, and their friends recorded them, and their friends put their records out, and their friends did their art work. And I was just like, ‘Oh my God. This is how it is?’ And I wanted to be part of that so badly. And we totally have that going on right now. It’s the coolest thing. And instead of everybody competing, everybody’s working together."

No one seems to be working harder than Shanahan and Lock and Key. Their diligence and dedication when it comes to taking the show on the road — at T.T. the Bear’s Place a week ago Thursday, the band kicked off a five-week tour, their third full-scale jaunt since they were freed from their college commitments last May — have people starting to take notice. And in the wake of the promising No Fate EP the band released on Deep Elm almost a year ago, Pull Up the Floorboards has made Lock and Key one of the bands to watch in Boston’s always teeming local underground. They’ve been invited to take part in this year’s Rumble, and after being highly touted in the Phoenix back when No Fate was released, they’ve been named a "Hot Band" of 2004 by Stuff @ Night and one of the 10 bands to watch in 2005 by the Boston Globe. And the Herald recently praised them for their "clean and keen rock ’n’ roll."

Although the band’s music is indeed "keen" — Floorboards is rife with evocative metaphors, and the songs are arranged thoughtfully by Shanahan, Casella, guitarist Mike Vera, and bassist Josh Hoey — it’s not exactly "clean." Shanahan barks gruffly over waves of distorted guitar chords, in a way that could suggest Nirvana or Jawbreaker. But the band they’re most often compared to are Gainesville’s Hot Water Music, with whom share a predilection for thick guitars and throaty vocals. Shanahan does cite Hot Water Music as a major influence, though it’s clear he’s growing tired of the analogy: at a recent practice, Casella likened a work-in-progress to a Deftones song, whereupon Shanahan retorted, "People are just gonna call it Hot Water Music." Maybe so, but with its doubled ascending guitar octaves and double-time rhythm, the new tune sounds more like Siamese Dream–era Smashing Pumpkins, and it signals a departure from the straight-ahead post-hardcore of Floorboards and No Fate. On another new song, Vera provided some atmosphere with a spacy, delay-drenched guitar melody — a new and welcome texture.

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Issue Date: March 11 - 17, 2005
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