When local D.C. band The Sentiment lost its bass player, the band members went to an unusual source to find a new one.
“The almighty Craigslist – the great unifier,” said lead singer Michael Medlock. Through the site they were able to hook up with senior Katie Thomas, and the band’s so-called revolving door of musicians – at least temporarily – stopped.
Thomas is a sort of veteran of the D.C. scene, despite its scarcity of college bands. One of the bands she used to play in would practice in the New Hall lounge until they eventually got kicked out by UPD. Her most recent band, Drums vs. Jules, had to fold after a member moved to Los Angeles. But it’s her familiarity with the scene that made the transition to The Sentiment an easy one.
“The D.C. music scene is pretty small,” she said. “It turns out they knew people I knew.” Past bands, past boyfriends, past friends of friends – everyone comes together in the clubs by U Street.
“The scene’s so incestuous,” Medlock quipped. The singer has conflicting feelings about local music in the area. He got in a bit of trouble for saying the D.C. scene sucks in a recent interview with WRGW – something he attributes, in some part, to a plethora of “redneck Virginia” groups.
“There are so many Puddle of Mudd cover bands,” he said. “People just aren’t excited about D.C. music.”
Students certainly aren’t either, according to Thomas. “I never see any GW people there except for maybe the two girls from Exit Clov,” she said. “And I don’t think they even went to GW.”
Part of the problem, the band claims, is the lack of space in the city. There are only a few venues for musicians to play in D.C., which makes it more difficult for bands to break out. The Sentiment has done a good job of it thus far, however, playing regularly at venues like the Velvet Lounge and Asylum. They recently played the Black Cat main stage, and will hopefully play there again this June.
Practice space is also hard to come by. With D.C.’s housing consisting mainly of row houses and apartments, drummer Sean Conner said he just has to bank on good neighbors. The Sentiment rents out a garage in Chinatown to practice their music.
Their unique sound is a blend of indie rock and alternative influences, from bands like the Pixies and Q and Not U, and has drawn comparisons to noise rockers Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Singer Medlock’s wailing vocals soar above the intricate guitar riffs of guitarists Travis Frazier and Andrew Diego. Thomas’ pounding bass grooves and Conner’s adrenaline-pumping drums fill out their sound.
But, as the band’s name suggests, there’s an emotional side to The Sentiment.
“What’s at the core of every song but an emotion or a sentiment?” Medlock said. The music comes first in the band’s songwriting process, where songs are born out of Frazier’s and Diego’s riffs, followed by melodies and finally lyrics. But what the Sentiment is best known for is not its lyrics, but rather its live shows, which they describe as a kind of “controlled chaos.”
Sentiment is best known for is not its lyrics, but rather its live shows, which they describe as a kind of “controlled chaos.”
“Mike is the most flamboyant singer in D.C.,” said drummer Sean Conner. At concerts he runs around like a madman, traveling through the audience and once even jumping on Conner’s drum kit. The energy they put into their live shows quickly transfers to their audience. Their most recent show ended with at least 10 people on stage dancing and pretty much everything covered in beer.
“Travis gets this look on his face every time [Mike] gets near his equipment,” Thomas said of Medlock’s sometimes destructive onstage persona.
Their live shows make them stand out from other bands in the small local scene, who they say don’t get the audience going in the same way. They infuse a little life into shows, and the audience feeds off the energy they create. “Regardless of what the audience thinks, it’s what the music feels like,” Medlock said.
The music feels pretty good – maybe it’s time for some GW kids to join in the fun.
Check out the Sentiment with Enemy of Three and Gallows at the Velvet Lounge this Friday at 9 p.m. Cover charge is $8. For more about the band and to hear their music, check out their MySpace page at www.myspace.com/thesentiment.