Washington music venues see a wide variety of local acts, from roots rock to bluegrass, hip-hop and jazz, but very few groups are dedicated to improvisatory rock and roll. Aside from occasional stops by national acts such as Umphrey’s McGee and Widespread Panic, the jamming is saved for area jazz musicians. That makes the Method a bit of an anomaly and all the more welcome.
The group began in the summer of 2007 after saxophonist/guitarist Satya Thallam and bassist Justin Shuster returned to DC from Atlanta. They began playing with Dave Salvo, a longtime friend from Georgetown University, and drummer Tim Ward, whom they found through a Web site that helps connect local musicians. Then last year, the band stumbled on keyboardist Brian Dodds during a show at the Adams Morgan dive Chief Ike’s Mambo Room. Most recently, the band added singer Fowler, a former collaborator whom Shuster calls “the missing link.”
The band is now composed of six seemingly virtuosic musicians who excel in the loose and improvisatory live format. That made recording the Method’s first release, the EP The Boulevard Sessions, that much more difficult. “To say the studio experience presented challenges would be an understatement,” says Shuster.
Listening to the album, it’s difficult to understand why. The grooves are tight, Shuster’s songwriting is top-notch, and the improvisation, although toned back, is not sacrificed. The songs sound very much alive and in the moment. “Boulevard,” which uses a repeated saxophone melody over a funky bass line and keys, may be the group’s strongest piece of songwriting and the best use of Fowler’s raspy, bluesy voice. It’s an impressive and sophisticated release, especially for a band’s first venture into the recording studio. But how does it stack up the to live show?
Find out tonight when the Method celebrate the release of its EP with a show at the Rock & Roll Hotel. In the meantime, check out our Q&A with the band’s Dave Salvo and Justin Shuster.
Names: Dave Salvo (lead guitar) and Justin Shuster (bass guitar).
Ages: Salvo: 25.
Salvo: Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
First song that made you want to play music:
Salvo: “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” by the Beatles.”
Shuster: “Hangin’ Tough” by the New Kids on the Block.
Local spot to seek inspiration or write music:
Salvo: “The Shusters’ garage.”
Shuster: “I get pretty creative while riding Metro. It’s like people-watching at 60 mile an hour.”
Best local venue:
Salvo: “The Rock & Roll Hotel, hands down.”
Best bar to hear music:
Salvo: “I’m resisting the urge to say, ‘Wherever the Method is playing,’ but I can’t.”
Shuster: “For some reason, I never fail to enjoy myself at Ragtime. Maybe it’s the beer.”
Favorite local band other than your own:
Salvo: “They play in DC enough to be considered local, so Hoots and Hellmouth.”
Shuster: “The Black and Tan Fantasy Band. I only caught them once, but it was one hell of a show.”
Best thing about Washington’s music scene:
Salvo: “The venues on U Street, Northwest, and H Street, Northeast, are starting to attract their own built-in crowds of people seeking out new music.”
Shuster: “People always knock how Washington music lacks traction because of its transient population. I disagree. I’ve lived here my whole life—I actually went to high school down the street from the Rock & Roll Hotel. In truth, it’s a small scene, but there are bands and musicians that we’ve seen around for years. We all appreciate the community that exists here.”
Worst thing about Washington’s music scene:
Salvo: “The Grog and Tankard no longer exists.”
Shuster: “RIP, G and T.”
Craziest tour memory:
Salvo: “In December, we were in the middle of our best set to date at the Rock & Roll Hotel. We launched into an ethereal, layered jam out of one of our original pieces, which could have lost the crowd, considering it was midnight on a Saturday. Instead, the audience was hanging on every note. It was the first time in my life I felt like the band and the audience were completely on the same level. It was a transcendental experience. After the show, I celebrated by attending the Bad Santa party upstairs.”
Shuster: “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
Finish this sentence: “When not making music, you can find me . . . ”
Salvo: “ . . . composing set lists and thinking about interesting segues at work. Don’t tell my boss.”
Shuster: “ . . . studying.”
Rolling Stones or the Beatles?
Salvo: “The Beatles. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong and a terrible person.”
Shuster: “The Beatles. But if you say otherwise, I think you’re still a person of merit and deserving of love.”
Digital download or hard copy?
Salvo: “Hard copy: I grew up trading Phish tapes—come on!”
Shuster: “Digital download. I’m poor.”
Rolling Stone or Spin or . . . ?
Salvo: “I pass.”
Shuster: “Ehh . . . . ”
Club show or festival?
Salvo: “It completely depends on my mood, but it’s hard to top the intensity of a rocking show inside a decent club.”
Shuster: “Festivals definitely conjure up some pretty nice memories.”
What does the band’s emblem—on your Web site and blimp—stand for?
Salvo: “Our Web site designer, Zak Schwartz, came up with the interlocking ‘TM’ logo that kind of looks like a bug. It should stand for ‘the Method,’ but in actuality it stands for ‘Thistle Myopia.’ Zak was inspired by the blimp idea after hearing us close a show with Led Zeppelin’s ‘Good Times Bad Times.’ ”
Shuster: “Right—what he said.”
Tell us about your experience recording the Boulevard Sessions EP.
Salvo: “I never thought I’d enjoy recording the EP, honestly. Music has always been about being in the moment, not nitpicking over every last note. Surprisingly, I found the whole experience very rewarding. Analyzing the songs in such detail will pay dividends when we play them live; we learned what sounded good previously and what needed to be fixed. Also, playing 90 takes to get one measure right was worth it, because the end result was a disk we could be proud of.”
Shuster: “I concur. We’re a live band through and through. My bass lines tend to be somewhat fluid, and I actually pay little attention to how I play individual notes and phrases as I go. This won’t surprise my band members. Recording has felt unnatural in the past due to the burden of having to settle on specific, permanent ideas. The obvious upside to recording the Boulevard Sessions EP, however, was how constructive it was for our songs. It forced us to tease out each element so that the songs came together as more interesting pieces than ever before. I think they sound great.”
Are there any plans for a full-length album?
Salvo: “Can you offer us a record deal? If so, I’m all yours. If not, I’d like to do it anyway.”
Shuster: “I suppose. But this EP is a step in the right direction in that it will open up new opportunities for us and get our name and music out to a much wider audience. That’s what we’re really focused on at the moment.”
When introducing your music to someone for the first time, what song do you play?
Salvo: “Tough one. ‘Are You Lonely’ is probably the most universally appealing: It’s danceable, happy, and straightforward. For musical snobs, I’d play ‘Dog Without a Tail,’ a jazzy number that features three of the band members’ soloing prowess.”
Shuster: “I agree that ‘Are You Lonely’ is a pretty easy song to like. All the elements of our sound are there, and it’s a damn catchy tune. I also play ‘The Boulevard’ for newcomers because it has a slightly more sophisticated sound that tends to draw people in. At least I think it does.”
Favorite musician or band that sounds nothing like you?
Salvo: “John Coltrane.”
Shuster: “Bob Dylan.”