Friday, October 22, 2004


I'm drifting into unknown space
Falling back towards the Earth
And landing on my face
- Bindle, "10,000 Miles"

Bindle was a rock band from Fort Worth, Texas, that existed for just over three years, between 1998 and 2002. They were never anything but a local phenomenon (although they ranged as far from their home turf as Austin and San Angelo). They never released any recordings (although they made plenty -- demos, live shows, and a series of sessions for an aborted CD that took place as the wheels were coming off the band). With the exception of the drummer, they've all remained active (some extremely so) in popular local bands like Goodwin and Pablo and the Hemphill 7, to whose fans Bindle must seem a mere footnote -- if that.

Why, then, is Bindle worthy of your awareness? (Why, you ask, should I read this lengthy screed?)

OK: If you accept the dual premises that 1) music, art, indeed life its own damn self is nothing more than a collection of Moments that are by their very nature ephemeral and fleeting, and 2) that mass marketing and promotion are not necessarily indicators of quality, then sooner or later, you must realize that unless you're willing to expend the time, energy, and effort it takes to stay engaged in what's going on in your town, maybe even right down the street, you could be missing out on something uniquely special and worthwhile. Hardly a tragedy, but still regrettable if you care about good music/art/life and want to foster it where you live.

The biggest reason for the ephemeral nature of these musical Moments is so simple it shouldn't even need to be stated, but here it is: every band is hard-wired to self-destruct. Ex-SST Records figurehead Joe Carducci nailed it (and much else) in his out-of-print book Rock and the Pop Narcotic, attributing "the difficulty of keeping a band together" to "the fact that [a band] must be a commune of sorts and most Americans aren't culturally prepared for this reality." To put it another way, "plays well with others" remains important long after we leave the schoolyard. In this respect, Bindle was archetypal. When I first approached Matt Hembree, Bindle's bassplayer/manager, about writing this story, he was incredulous. "Why would you want to write about Bindle? We were just a bunch of really creative musicians who, every time we were on the verge of accomplishing something, always managed to sabotage it through our personalities and egos. Oh, wait a minute -- I see." Singer Tony Diaz put it this way: "We were always breaking each other's heart."

It's a classic rock'n'roll story, elevated (in my mind, at least) by the quality of the music they made and what they could have been: if not successful on a mass-ass MTV VH-1 level, at least supported in their hometown. "People are always coming up and telling me, 'Oh, you were in Bindle. You guys were really great,' " said Hembree. "And I feel like asking them, 'If you felt that way, why didn't you come to any of the shows?' " Guitarist Steffin Ratliff agrees. "Everyone in the Metroplex must have seen Bindle -- once," he said. "Prophet without honor" is not a badge of distinction that anybody wants to wear, but one that Bindle could definitely claim, and not just in retrospect.

Muffinheads and Drunken Monkeys

To begin with, Bindle got together when three quarters of Drunken Monkey -- Hembree, Diaz, and drummer Kevin Geist -- decided to break up and reform without guitarist Jim Palmer.

Hembree had grown up in rural Tennessee, playing in a family bluegrass band (a background he shares with Ornette Coleman's bassist Charlie Haden), and came to Fort Worth via the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He remembers attending a college football game in Knoxville and realizing that "there were five times as many people in the stadium as there were in the town where I grew up." Early in his college career, he got his first exposure to Rawk in the form of the Ramones. "It was like bluegrass," he recalls, "all I-IV-V progressions, but it rocked." It was the heyday of Amerindie rock and Hembree jumped in head first, spending his weekends hanging out at Vic and Bill's Deli, a popular music venue in Knoxville.

Moving to Fort Worth in 1986 to work for General Dynamics, he pulled tight with guitarist Daniel Gomez, a self-described "fat Mexican Satriani wannabe" who piqued Hembree's interest by feigning inability to play standard cover tunes. Together with teenage drummer Dave Karnes, they formed the comic metal-funk power trio Muffinhead, playing four nights a week at the Aardvark on West Berry Street near Texas Christian University. When Karnes left to attend the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Hembree and Gomez moved on to Uncle Pete's Parade, a unit Gomez dismissively characterizes as "a really horrible Steely Dan as R&B-based alt-rock band," with the crisply polyrhythmic drummer Geist, who'd first met Gomez and Hembree while he was playing in a short-lived teenage band called Fresh Coffee, and singer Tony Williams. No sooner had they completed a demo recording than Gomez announced that he was leaving.

According to Gomez, Tony Williams was "a great singer, but he never wrote any lyrics down. We were getting ready to record and Matt and I were going to sing harmonies, so I asked [Williams] for lyrics and he said, 'Oh, I just make that shit up every night.' " Around that time, Gomez saw Tony Diaz singing at Club Dada with a band called Deep Domain. "The band was terrible and the music was terrible," said Gomez, "but [Diaz] was great -- a powerful singer who believed every word he sang. I thought, 'I want that.' "

So, establishing a precedent for the Drunken Monkey split, Gomez, Hembree, and Geist all tendered their resignations to Uncle Pete's Parade and, after timely pause, reformed as Big Mouth Buzz with Diaz on vocals. The band only lasted long enough to record a few demos (one of which, "NYC," found its way onto a compilation released by the Arlington club J. Gilligan's) and to play live once -- sitting in on a cover band's set at a Mexican restaurant -- before Gomez decamped for Portland, Oregon.

Hembree vowed never to play with Gomez again, but he and Geist stuck together in Drunken Monkey. Together with Palmer (whose previous band, Dead King's Pillow, was known for extreme behavior that included picketing their own shows and cutting up plaster lawn angels with a chainsaw onstage) and Diaz (who developed his bruised choirboy voice singing in his high school chorus before he quit because "I was getting laid more by playing football"), they played music that was deliberately challenging and obtuse.

Geist, who sounds like an East Coast native although he was born in Dallas and grew up in Arlington, characterized Palmer as "a phenomenal musician, but hard to work with -- he really knew how to make you feel crappy. He'd come to rehearsal and play the whole set with his back to us; not one word was said. It was like a bad acid trip." Frustrated at the guitarist's apparent lack of interest in promoting the band, his collaborators decided to make a move. But first, they needed to find another guitarist.

Enter Steffin Ratliff, a native of the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area to the north and east of Fort Worth. A quiet, reserved individual who speaks most eloquently through his instrument, he'd been a "closet guitarist" for years before signing up for the band wars at age 20, playing in metal bands and backing former Brad Thompson's Undulating Band singer Hillary Tipps. The three ex-Drunken Monkeys approached Ratliff at the suggestion of Daddy's Soul Donut bassist Neil Schnell, and by the fall of 1998, the guitar-slinger was writing and rehearsing with them.

Around this time, Hembree received a phone call from Gomez, who'd recently returned from Portland. "He said, 'Hi, Matt,' " Hembree recalled in his best charming-Daniel-Gomez phone voice. " 'Are you in a band? I want to play in your band!' " A wary Hembree told his friend that he could come over to audition, but Gomez responded, "Fuck that! I'm coming over to join your band." Thus, the first incarnation of Bindle was born, taking their name from either a hobo's pack or a bag of heroin (although Hembree swears they were unaware of the name's meaning in druggie parlance).

From heart to head

From the get-go, it was a band with a lot of strengths. "It was the first band Matt and I were in where we weren't calling all the shots," said Gomez. Both he and Ratliff were highly melodic players with solid rhythm chops, and they managed to allow each other enough space to work comfortably together. Reformed shredder Gomez had toned down and edited his style and now voiced chords like a jazz guitarist, while Ratliff, an admirer of singer Jeff Buckley, had a penchant for mixing bluesy lines with Near Eastern-sounding scales. "It was the first time I'd ever been in a band with people that were better than me," said Ratliff, "and I was learning a lot. Before that, I mostly played with douchebags."

In the rhythm section, Hembree had musical tastes broad enough to encompass the Replacements, the Buena Vista Social Club, and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and sufficient technique to play on the first CD by the internationally-acclaimed-but-locally-obscure prog rock outfit the Underground Railroad. He'd developed near-telepathic communication with Geist, as well as an enduring respect for his sectionmate: "Kevin didn't just keep time, he played music through the medium of drums," he said. Meanwhile, up front, Tony Diaz, a fan of emo-ish alt-rockers like Weezer and Jimmy Eat World, was an ebullient and extroverted performer with a resonant, passionate voice that was equal parts bray, roar, and sob.

There's an artificial separation in a lot of people's minds (including some musicians') between technique and feeling, a phony dichotomy between head and heart. It's the kind of thinking that says, "Either you're a soulless automaton or an 'authentic' artist." If you like, you can trace it back to punk's "If you wait until you're good enough, you'll never do it" aesthetic. But while it's true that loads of musos who were barely competent have made valid statements, the problem with "rock'n'roll's an attitude, maaaan" is that it's resulted in a lot of music with only one emotion, and real people are much more complex than that.

Therein lies the secret: the more you know about your craft, the more expressive you can be. It's like having more words in your vocabulary or more colors in your palette. And while it's true that sophisto musos have sometimes failed by letting their chops rather than their sensibilities guide their art, the real irony is that as levels of musicianship have risen higher and higher, the lowest common denominator of mass audience taste seems to have commensurately fallen. Myself, I'd say the rot settled in sometime in the '90s, when young people with no historical awareness became the decisionmakers of the mainstream music industry. The result of that pattern and the stultifying groupthink of consultant-programmed radio has been a large number of listeners who, in Frank Zappa's words, "wouldn't know good music if it bit them on the ass." (And if great music happens but nobody hears it, did it ever really exist at all?)

Worse, in recent years, it seems as though many musicians have internalized the marketer's tendency to classify and categorize music, and lots of bands seem to have only one idea by design -- this one sounds like Radiohead, that one sounds like Whiskeytown, this other one sounds like the Stooges. Bindle was more eclectic and original than that. "We all listened to different stuff," said Ratliff, and Diaz added, "When we were writing, if we came up with something that sounded like something else that was popular, we'd discard it."

Viewed in the context of their time, it's possible that Bindle's varied sound, shaped by a variety of diverse influences, was an impediment to its success: their audience didn't know what pigeonhole to put them in. Sure, musicians who saw them uniformly dug 'em, but who cares what musicians like? The boys in Bindle weren't hippified enough to appeal to a jam-band audience, and they were too, uh, seasoned and mature for the pop-rock kids. (The youngest bandmembers were already in their mid-20s by the time Bindle got together.) More detrimental to the band's longevity was its personnel instability. "Members were always joining and leaving," said Hembree. "We never had a lineup that lasted more than six or nine months."

"Safe jazz for white people"

Early demos, recorded at the Echo Lab in Denton with engineer Dave Willingham, demonstrate the "Mk 1" Bindle's range. "Princess" was as close as they ever came to a conventional post-grunge alt-rock song, replete with Hendrixoid arpeggios and a rather subdued feedback solo from Gomez. "Pop Tart" was a sprightly pop-punk tune, transformed by an ultra-distorted mix into a claustrophobic slab of grinding white noise worthy of Nine Inch Nails, obscuring the already-cryptic line "I've broken a covenant / With my toaster oven." "Sunrise," uncharitably described on as "safe jazz for white people" -- an example of Rawk people's puzzling tendency to automatically label any song that employs major seventh and minor seventh chords as "jazz" -- was in fact a leisurely-paced vignette of city life, reminiscent of something off Innervisions. Diaz even duetted with his overdubbed self a la Stevie Wonder.

Recordings of some early live Bindle shows also survive. "5 Days Gone" has a loose-limbed, loping jam-band feel and a modal melody that blends Indian spice with Diaz' Iberian soul. "Clean" starts out as an ominous, brooding number in 7/8 time, giving way to a lighter 3/4 section where Gomez and Ratliff intertwine snaky lines, sounding for all the world like the Tom Verlaine-Richard Lloyd guitar tandem in NYC art-punks Television. For "Hand," Ratliff plays a vibrato-laden bassline while Hembree creates a bed of "white noise guitar" for Gomez' jangling rhythm. "Luckiest Day" grooves like an alt-rock version of Steely Dan, with the rhythm section playing elastic funk underneath guitars that alternately chatter and sing.

The original Bindle lineup made a single foray into a "real" studio, recording "The View" as a project for a friend who was studying recording technology at Dallas Sound Labs. "The student engineer sat behind the board and had some things set up," Hembree recalled. "There was this older engineer who'd walk through the control room from time to time, listen, say something like 'Take 3dB off here,' and it'd sound fantastic. That guy must have had the greatest ears in the world." Diaz gave the others a scare when he left the studio to pick up a djembe drum he was planning to play on the session at precisely the moment when they were ready to record his vocals. "Even though we weren't paying for the session, Daniel couldn't wait to tell on me," Diaz laughed. The result of the day's work is a slice of funky rock that features Hembree locking it in the pocket with Geist's deft hi-hat work, Gomez picking a syncopated line on acoustic while harmonizing vocally with Diaz, and Ratliff playing shimmering chords on a tremelo-heavy electric.

Not long after recording "The View," Daniel Gomez unexpectedly bowed out of Bindle. None of his bandmates can recall a particular incident that led to his departure, but Geist said, "[Gomez] had just got married, he had a kid in Oregon, and he was having trouble with his carpal tunnel." Gomez simply told Hembree, "Oh, by the way, I'm not going to be playing in the band anymore."

Perversely, Gomez then turned around and started engineering demos for the edition of Bindle -- Diaz, Ratliff, Hembree, and Giest -- that he says is his favorite. "I was tired of the jam-band aspects of Bindle," said Gomez. "The level of musicianship was high, but that just meant that if there was ever a space in the music, someone would have to fill it. I wanted to do something a little more focused and accessible. So I quit playing for awhile to concentrate on writing and learning how to record a band." Gomez is nothing if not intentional, and he'd grown tired of working in the studio with unsympathetic engineers. So, in the best DIY fashion, he started accumulating recording gear and building a home studio. The Bindle demos he recorded, besides documenting the band at a peak of creativity, also served as a laboratory for him to learn the technical aspects of recording.

Diaz responded to Gomez' departure by penning "Before," the lyrics to which concluded, "No parting words for a friend / So does he know that we've put an end / To walking out and coming in again?" Ironically, the lineup change led to a sound more in line with what Gomez was envisioning -- more streamlined, more emotionally direct, more overtly melodic.

"He always said that less is more"

Post-Gomez, Bindle began venturing out from its normal stomping grounds -- the Wreck Room and the Aardvark in Fort Worth, Club Dada in Dallas, J. Gilligan's in Arlington -- and making road trips to Austin and San Angelo. At J. Gilligan's, they'd play three-hour shows that mixed their originals with covers of Ben Folds, the Beastie Boys, Cake, and other popular artists of the day. (It's surprising how few "modern rock" bands play more than a single 45-minute set anymore. Not long ago, I was reminiscing with David "Kid" Daniel, bassist for the punk-era band the Fort Worth Cats, about a late-'70s club that paid bands $150 to play until 4 AM. Those days, perhaps thankfully, are long gone.)

At San Angelo's Steel Penny Pub, Ratliff would spend time talking music and trading CDs with a sympathetic fellow musician, whom Geist would invariably refer to as "Steffin's boyfriend" on the trip home. The night before one San Angelo trip, Geist had his car broken into and his drums stolen, necessitating a quick trip to a music store to buy a replacement set. Not surprisingly, Bindle never made money on the road. Reception was good, but crowds were small.

A show recorded at the Wreck Room in late November 2000 reveals that the "Mk 2" lineup had a remarkably full live sound for just three instruments. Hembree was a rhythmically solid and melodically inventive bassist who provided the music's center. Reduced to a single guitar, Ratliff was free to up the band's Rawk quotient, playing more aggressively on tunes like "Revengeance" and "Anonymity." On "Spinning," inspired by Diaz' experience dealing with diabetes, the band was particularly intense, conjuring a sense of dread akin to that evoked by Reggie Rueffer's Hochimen at their darkest. The sci-fi theme of "Robot" (and Ratliff's tortuously melodic solo) masked some metaphorical Diaz social comment. Of the new tunes, only the Caribbean-flavored "Blink" (unfortunately saddled with some rather pedestrian lyrics) and the galloping riff tune "Mosca" retained the funk-rock feel of earlier Bindle.

The Gomez-recorded demos include what all the bandmembers agree are some of their finest moments. Diaz' lyrics to "Yusuf," rich with lovely lines like "Standing in the market of moon and star ... Voices like stones break this heart," were inspired by the story of Brit folk-rocker Cat Stevens' spiritual awakening. The band's arrangement complements the song's soaring melody, the rhythm section's supple groove providing a platform for arcing flights of Ratliff guitar that underline the lyric's sense of longing.

When performed live, "10,000 Miles" proved to be an audience favorite, and it contains a line that neatly encapsulates the Bindle experience, in a way: "I'm drifting into unknown space, falling back towards the Earth and landing on my face." On the demo version, Diaz wears his heart on his sleeve, as was becoming his wont, while the music washes over the listener like a bath of melody, with Ratliff's guitar effectively functioning as a second lead voice and sounding, oddly enough, not unlike Daniel Gomez'.

In sharp contrast to the lyricism of those songs stands the churning vat of angst that is "Helicopter," with Diaz lyrics "about following your dreams, even if it kills you." Most surprising of all, in light of all the Bindle music that had preceded it, was "State of Girl," a full-on, pumping rocker (albeit one with a chorus in 7/8 time) inspired by a friend of Ratliff's -- "one of those girls that calls you whenever she needs help or fun or is in trouble," according to Hembree, whose bass on the track, in dropped-D tuning, rumbles like a locomotive while Geist's snare hits ring like rifle shots.

"I'm not going to be here next year"

The members of Bindle had a number of connections to Fort Worth's theater community. In fact, Diaz, Ratliff, and Hembree had appeared onstage in a Fort Worth Theatre production of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, for which they performed traditional Mexican music as well as songs by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Ratliff was also friends with some members of an improvisational comedy troupe called Fuzzy Logic that appeared at the Ridglea Theater and employed a 22-year-old musician named Justin Pate to accompany their performances.

Pate was a stage kid who grew up singing, acting, and tapdancing at Fort Worth's Casa Manana Theatre. In high school, he'd drummed and sung with a Weezer-ish band called the Visitors, who shared stages with pint-sized Dallas post-grunge contenders Radish. He'd learned piano fundamentals through childhood lessons and had a natural ear for intervals, which aided him greatly in coming up with extemporaneous scores for Fuzzy Logic's spur-of-the-moment creations. Hembree and Ratliff were sufficiently impressed to want to draft him into Bindle as a keyboardist -- even though he didn't own an instrument and had to use Hembree's "shitty Yamaha PSR540" for most of his tenure in the band. Pate jumped at the opportunity: a fan of Drunken Monkey as well as the Beatles and Phish, he felt "honored to be playing with some of my idols." "Even before he knew all the songs, he'd join in on percussion," said Geist. "Or he'd play drums on one song while I played keyboards. It was fun. Then we heard him sing some of his own songs and thought, 'Hmm, here's another voice.' "

Together, this "Mk 3" version of Bindle composed two songs that are as good as anything the band ever wrote. "Red Hair," with tag-team lead vocals by Diaz and Pate, follows the trajectory of a flirtation, from its beginning as infatuation to its inevitable end in disillusionment tempered with hope, which only makes the final "I think I found the one" more poignant. Musically, it was Bindle's poppiest statement yet and the band's most straight-ahead rocker since "Pop Tart." Diaz wrote "Automatic" as a sequel to "Robot" and in some ways, the music the band plays behind his words is the culmination of Bindle -- a stately architectonic construction of heart-rending melody.

All was not well within the ranks, however. "I hadn't felt like I really belonged in Bindle for a few months," said Diaz. Plagued by relationship problems, he was on edge emotionally and becoming unreliable. There were also musical differences between the singer and Ratliff and Geist. "His vocal style was really busy," said Geist. "I thought the music should have more space." Things reached critical mass during a rehearsal at Geist's house, while Diaz was visiting family in south Texas. The musicians were fine-tuning material in preparation for the recording of their debut CD (at First Street Audio with engineer Bart Rose) when the guitarist and drummer expressed reluctance to record with Diaz and pushed to have Pate front the band. Hembree was shocked. "We almost broke up," he said. "Hindsight being 20/20, I should have let it go and not tried to keep the band going at that point." When Diaz returned from south Texas, Hembree fired him from Bindle. "Everyone was tired of Tony," said Hembree. "I drew the short straw."

With a CD to record and a show to play a week later, Pate quickly learned the lyrics to 20 songs -- a feat that's become the subject of local legend. "He was nervous, but he did a great job and got good audience response," said Geist. The band recorded seven songs from their existing repertoire -- "10,000 Miles," "Automatic," "Blink," "Helicopter," "Pop Tart," "Red Hair," and "Yusuf" -- as well as a Visitors-era Pate composition, "Next Year." (A vocals-only mix of "Pop Tart" was intended for use as a "hidden track" on the CD.) In the studio, Hembree said, Pate sang all of the backing vocals because "we'd run out of money at that point, and getting a decent harmony track out of me or Steffin was not in the budget any more." Only four of the tracks were mastered before the band's demise (for a demo that was never used), and another song from the sessions -- "Yusuf" -- holds the distinction of being the only Bindle tune to see an "official" release (on the First Street Sessions Vol. 2 compilation, credited to "Bindle, lyrics by Tony Diaz").

The result of this last-ditch effort is both the best local CD you've never heard and less than it might have been. The tunes are strong and fully realized, and the instrumental work is uniformly brilliant, but Pate's singing, while pleasant, competent, and arguably more commercial than Diaz', falls short in emotional depth and range on intensely personal lyrics like "10,000 Miles," "Automatic," "Helicopter," and "Yusuf." His wry, Ben Folds-ian delivery is most effective on the lighter, poppier items like "Pop Tart" (with Hembree injecting a couple of bars of Tejano polka at the end of one verse) and "Red Hair." Pate's finest recorded moment comes on the self-composed confessional ditty "Next Year," with its anthemic bridge leading into a rousing Ratliff solo. But the spark had gone out of the band. According to Hembree, "We were finished before we ever went into the studio." Whether or not he realized it, when he sang "I'm not going to be here next year," Pate was telling the truth.

By the time of the Bindle First Street sessions, Pate and Ratliff were already performing with a newly-formed reggae outfit, Pablo and the Hemphill 7. Pablo frontman Joe Vano had recruited them with some trepidation. "Bindle was [Pablo bassist] Marcus [Lawyer]'s favorite band, and I loved them, too," Vano said. "We were afraid -- we didn't want to be the reason they broke up. But those guys told us that it wasn't about that; they'd been heading that way for awhile." When Hembree announced to the local music press in late January 2002 that the band was folding the tent, it seemed like a formality.

Bindle played their last show ever on February 7, 2002, in the lounge at the Ridglea Theater, opening for Midlake. In the audience were Tony Diaz and Daniel Gomez, who recalls, "It was a little awkward being there, because I was the guy who quit and Tony was the guy who got fired. But we said, 'What the hell, it's their last show.' We got there, and Tony said, 'Wow, I think this is the most people that have ever come out to see Bindle.' At the end, though , the audience started drifting away. It was kinda sad, but at the same time, it seemed fitting."


A week later, Pablo and the Hemphill 7 opened a show at the Ridglea for reggae icon Bob Marley's band, the Wailers. By that time, Geist had returned to school to finish a computer science degree, while Gomez and Diaz had begun writing and recording demos together in the band that would evolve into Goodwin. Their original intent was to perform with a revolving cast of bass players and drummers. (They even had Kevin Geist back on board for one show at Club Dada.) Finding a bassist for their first show proved to be problematic, however. One day, Diaz received a phone call at work. "I knew it was going to be Daniel," he said. "Matt's name was never spoken. Daniel just said, 'Um, I haven't had any luck finding a bass player.' I said, 'Oh, no...not him.' " And so, once again, Hembree, Gomez, and Diaz were in a band together.

Goodwin made a CD that I've called "the best rock record I've heard in five years." Through the wonder of e-commerce, they've sold copies to fans as far away as Finland and Australia. (The internet has opened up unprecedented opportunities for independent distribution to those savvy enough to exploit them.) Among other things, they're the embodiment of the vision Daniel Gomez had when he left Bindle.

Pablo and the Hemphill 7 are one of the most popular bands in Fort Worth. They spent a year playing four-hour gigs of mostly cover tunes in any venue that would have them, then retrenched to concentrate on developing their original music. You can hear echoes of Bindle in their Beatlesque song "Picture This," sung by Pate. When Pablo's not working, Steffin Ratliff lends his guitar (and bass) to the moody alt-rockers Sleepy Atlantis (for whom Pate occasionally drums) and arty Dentonites the Shining Time. For his part, Pate is also a regular member of the free-form jazzy funkateers Confusatron and the "indie-soul" outfit Horses. He says that one day, he wants to have his own band. When he does, he'll find a long line of local musicians waiting to sign on.

Some people will tell you that to survive the long haul, a band has to be like a family -- perhaps a very dysfunctional one, but a family nonetheless. There are bonds of friendship between musicians that can survive years of musical and personal differences. The six men who made up Bindle continue to hold each other in high regard. (The first time I talked to Daniel Gomez, he told me, "Steffin Ratliff is the most underrated guitarist in the Metroplex.") When I started contacting the principals about this story, almost every one of them told me that one or the other of their former bandmates wouldn't want to talk about Bindle. But get a few of them together and their pride in what they accomplished as a band is palpable. Sitting in the corner of a club over many beers, they'll recall details of shows they played together years ago -- the alchemy that takes place in the interstices between intention and execution, when musicians know each other well enough to perform with abandon.

Listen: It's happening out there somewhere, tonight. It's your favorite music -- you just haven't heard it yet. You might not know the name of the band, and you might never hear of them again. But if you're lucky enough to be there, you'll be part of the Moment.

ADDENDUM (9.16.2015): Apparently, Uncle Pete's Parade singer Tony Williams (aka The World Famous Tony Williams) is Kanye West's first cousin and backup singer. Which probably means he's made more money off music than everyone else mentioned in this story. Who'd a thunk it?


Blogger Tiffany Todd said...

I hate blogspot, such a pain in the ass to comment. Ugh! Great article! I've been telling Matt and Tony both for ages that they need to bring back Bindle. The music was just so great. Not that I don't love me some Goodwin. But *sigh* Bindle was heavenly.

6:56 AM  
Anonymous JC White said...

Been trying to reorganize my digital music collection over the last few weeks and was looking for some kind of artwork/photo to pair with "Next Year" by Bindle when I ran across this article. Enjoyed it immensely!

I was a San Angelo-ite in the early 00s and Bindle was always one of my favorite of the regular bands that would pass through the Steel Penny, a great live music spot in the middle of nowhere West Texas.

Wish I still had copies of some of Bindle's other music but this MP3 of "Next Year" is the only thing that's survived eleven+ years of moving around Texas.

8:46 AM  
Blogger stashdauber said...

JC: Behold Matt Hembree's Bindle archive:

9:49 AM  
Blogger stashdauber said...

Matt and Kevin Geist are playing together again, in a poppy trio called Henry the Archer:

9:50 AM  
Anonymous JC White said...

Wow! Thanks for all the links and info. Now I've gone from one song to Bindle overload!

I was most definitely at the Steel Penny show that Matt has posted a recording of. Memories...

Love the blog, you've found a new reader.

9:15 AM  

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