Musicians in some genres have a certain look associated with them. Long-haired guys dressed all in black—especially if one or more of them is wearing leather pants—are probably going to play metal. Long-haired guys dressed in every color but black and sporting sandals are probably going to offer up long, crunchy jam grooves. A pompadour, cuffed jeans and creepers indicates a likeliness that you're going to hear rockabilly. Big gold chains, baggy pants and a Gucci hat signal hip-hop. A tight T-shirt, tight jeans and hair that's business in the front and a party in the back are clues that country/western is on the bill for the night. On the flip side, a tight T-shirt, tight jeans and smudged black eyeliner means—if you stick around—you'll probably be listening to emo. If any member of the band performs naked? Punk.
But what about just regular rock 'n' roll? There used to be a time when you could tell a rock band just by looking at its members, too. Now, not so much. A lot of rockers—local ones any way—tend to take the stage in clothes that are totally unremarkable. But maybe it's not that they don't care; maybe it's a matter of substance over style.
Brothers Cliff (guitar and vocals) and Tivon Miller (bass and vocals), 24 and 28 years old respectively, and 31-year-old Beau Kolar (drums) are the members of rock trio Abrupt Edge, seven-year veterans of the local rock scene. They say a couple of groups most influential to them are Lost Prophets and Christian-rock band Blindside, and on the liner notes for their 2003 release, Facing Mirrors, both Millers thank God for the gift of music. Reserved and polite—both in manner and in dress—one look at these three musicians and "rock band" are not words that come to mind. One listen to the music, though, makes it clear.
The Miller brothers were weaned on music. Their father was in a local band for years, and though Tivon didn't start playing guitar until the age of 21 (Cliff and Kolar both started playing around age 12), both boys were brought up around rock. "There are recordings of [me] crying in the background while [his father's band] was recording tracks," says Tivon.
"I started Abrupt Edge during my last year in high school. Anyone who knows me knows I go with the band and the band goes with me," says Cliff, whose dedication to his band and his music was tested earlier this year.
In late May, Abrupt Edge's bass player left the band to pursue a business venture. "Being in an original band and trying to make a career of it isn't exactly easy," Cliff explains.
Losing a bass player would be enough to cause even the most dedicated band to consider giving up the ghost, but the remaining three members of Abrupt Edge decided to forge ahead. They had just finished scheduling a small but crucial tour with stops in La Grande and Portland, Ore., Salt Lake City and Twin Falls. They'd just released a five-song EP, Born, (BW, Reviews, March 14, 2007) and needed to get out on the road and push it.
"It takes a lot of effort to get to know club owners out of state as it is," says Cliff, "so we weren't going to call them back.
"We didn't want to not do it just because we didn't have a bass player. So, we just started practicing with me on bass," says Tivon. Moving him from rhythm to bass could have been merely a stopgap measure, but after 10 successful shows (their favorite was in Twin Falls), the band is confident they won't be auditioning a fourth member. Still, losing a member and shifting another member's focus had to have had some effect on the band's sound. Tivon says, "Everybody tells us [our sound] is tighter. Everybody likes it better."
"We were a little apprehensive at first because we kind of like the thicker stuff," says Cliff, "but everyone has been saying that it [sounds] better and you can hear all the vocal parts. Our harmonies stand out more. We've had an awesome response so far."
Asked if they thought the change would affect how they approach their music in the future, Cliff laughs. "We actually wrote a new song about a week after Tivon started playing bass," he says. "It just kind of took off; that's the song everyone started loving. It's written in a three-piece style, and it really inspired us. We thought, 'We can do this.' We actually just recorded it last week at the Mix House with Scott Pergande. It's called 'I Know.'"
Tivon joins in saying, "We wrote the song in two hours. We played it a week later, and everybody at the show loved it immediately. Usually we would wait [to record] until we had like five songs for the EP or [enough] for a full-length, but we wanted to get this one out right away because of the awesome response."
Cliff adds, "We've been writing the full-length [version]. We have a lot of it written, but we wanted to get something new out there [to] keep people interested. We really want to get the EP out to more people and let people know about us so when we are ready to release a full-length, people are aware of us."
Abrupt Edge opens for Flickerstick—a very cool band from Denton, Tex.—on July 20 at the Bouquet. Tickets are $10; show starts at 9 p.m. You can hear and download (for free) Abrupt Edge's new song, "I Know" at www.purevolume.com. For more information or to hear more music, visit www.myspace.com/abruptedge.