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Redding Feature

| June 30, 2006

Little Big Men

It’s shockingly easy to record and distribute music in this digital age, but it’s still like finding a needle in a haystack to come across music that is worth a listen. Even more difficult is finding a band who can make devoted fans out of those listeners.

Redding are a small band from a small town with a little story, but what makes the story worth telling is that this blip on the musical map has a big sound — big enough to make you listen, big enough to matter. There is also a certain charm in Redding’s naivete and simplicity that makes one appreciate their music even more.

Joey Graves, Dan Gula, and Jon Stamm grew up in Belleville, Illinois, an otherwise invisible dot on any map — geographical or musical — except for the fact Americana masters Jay Ferrar of Son Volt and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco started the quasi-legendary Uncle Tupelo there. Conjecture it to say that with little else to do than play video games, walk to the corner store, and watch MTV and VH1, three pre-pubescent boys saw that TV screen rock ‘n’ roll life as something reachable — if they started a band. Never mind that none of them really knew how to play anything.

“Me, John, and Danny we were just sitting around bored one day and we were like, ‘You guys want to be in a band?’ And we were like, ‘O.K.’,” Graves recalls of one fateful day in the lives of three middle-schoolers. “John had this little electric drum set, so he was like, ‘I guess I’ll play the drums,’ and I always thought guitar was interesting, so I picked that, and Danny was the singer. He didn’t play guitar or anything, but he eventually picked it up. And then we figured out that he couldn’t sing at all.”

Some old tapes were uncovered revealing that Graves himself could carry a tune, so the mic was handed over and they focused on their immediate influences.

“We played kind of heavy metal when we first started to play for some reason,” Graves says, agreeing it was easiest. “Yeah, just down tune to D and push down all the strings and you’ve got a chord. That’s how we started playing. We listened to some really crappy bands that I’m kind of ashamed of, like Korn and Limp Bizkit and stuff like that.” His first CDs, though, were by Oasis and Bush. Their tastes began to lean toward melodic pop by high school, and then Graves’ older cousin, Jeff McCollough, came along and showed them the way.

As high school seniors two years ago, they had graduated to actually tinkering with ProTools in Graves’ basement, and needed a bass player. He recalled McCollough went to school for recording at nearby Greenville College, so he asked him to come play. McCollough was impressed with what Redding were doing, and wanted to be a permanent part. He brought along with him not just bass skills and some knowledge of recording, but a record collection none of the others had, one filled with British pop bands like Elbow, Radiohead, and Doves — bands they wanted to emulate.

“We really liked the melodic sounds of the British bands, how they concentrate on textures and all sorts of tasty guitar parts that aren’t in-your-face, [parts] that you have to listen to a song over and over to hear,” Graves explains. “We like how they layer their songs; there are just so many little things that you hear after you listen to the songs more; it just never gets old.”

— Penelope Biver

For the rest of the Redding story, grab the July issue of Illinois Entertainer, available throughout Chicagoland.

Category: Features, Monthly

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