The Way to the Path

Written by Patrick Duvall

Before A Human Path is the product of a journey.

It goes something like this:

A majority of the songs (A Soliloquy, The Tightrope Mile & Nebulamorphous) took initial form between David and me in South Carolina immediately after recording our debut album, AM Radio.  But progress was halted when our then drummer, TJ Bailey, with the offer of a national tour, potential label support and endorsements, not to mention a growing dissatisfaction with being a member in Of The Sun, left the band to join another Myrtle Beach-based metal band, The Classic Struggle.  Frustration was all-encompassing.  We were about to have our very first album in our hands, a self-produced labor of intense dedication we had spent countless hours crafting together, and we no longer had a drummer.  Soon afterward, original drummer and our youngest brother, Joe Duvall, stepped back in to play drums in Of The Sun.

It was the psychic and emotional turmoil of this period that was the fuel for the sound and content behind A Soliloquy and The Tightrope Mile, while simultaneously, finding a fluidity to all of the madness, we began crafting Nebulamorphous.  

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Joe at The Basement in Myrtle Beach, SC. 2009

During this time, we made the decision to uproot from our hometown of Surfside Beach, SC, and relocate to Austin, TX – a place we’d been hearing a lot about from our good friends, Shaun and Lianne (owners of 007 Hard Rock Tavern, where we were the house band as our previous incarnation, Aftermath).  It was a completely alien city, we had no connections, and it soon became apparent that Joe would not be making the move with us.  Still, David and I sold our cars and bought a 1971 Chevy C30 step van (basically an old ice cream truck) on Craigslist for $700. We leased a house in Austin, sight unseen, sold the bulk of our debut albums at a going-away party, where we covered our new transport in graffiti.  And after taking it to a local shop for a tuneup, we hit the road with our dog and a majority of our worldly belongings packed inside.

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Shaun and Lianne

We broke down a little over an hour after we left town, and spent the night parked at a gas station outside of Marion, SC.  The next day we woke up, replaced the water pump, and hit the road afresh. Our top speed was 40 mph. Anything higher and the engine began to misfire.

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David making breakfast after the first night spent in the ice cream truck.

Maxing out at forty started to make us lose our minds. Everyone on the highway was blazing past us, making it seem as though we were actually moving backwards at times.

All in all, we experienced no less than five break downs, leading to four days and nights spent on the side of Interstate 20 in the August heat: the first outside of Marion, SC; a flat tire in Alabama; in Mississippi, we discovered that the “tune up” we paid for didn’t actually happen, so we performed our own in the parking lot of an Auto Zone; outside of

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David, Tulkas and myself at the Texas border

Monroe, Louisiana we were dead in the water.  No idea what had gone wrong, but Sweet Tooth (the name we bestowed unto our beastly ice cream truck) wasn’t going anywhere.  A wrecker towed us to his house, where he discovered that there was close to no oil in the engine, and the carburetor was only screwed on finger-tight (another sabotage from our “tune up”).  He fixed our problem in his front yard and charged us $100.  Later that night, another one of our tires went flat outside of Bossier City, LA.  We limped to a tire shop the next morning, where they over-inflated the tire they sold us, causing it to explode immediately after getting back onto the interstate.  After getting a solid spare in place, we pressed onward, determined to make it to Austin without any more rest.

The sun went down shortly after heading south on I-35 and we were in Austin just before midnight.

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Our first Texas sunset
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Sweet Tooth

Austin being the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World,” we had doubts that it would take any longer than 3 weeks to find a drummer to work with.  This did not turn out be the case.  What we hadn’t realized was that Austin wasn’t particularly well-known for it’s metal scene.  It was 2010: garage and indie rock reigned supreme.  The disappointing reality of this setback was equally as profound as living in a place where we knew absolutely nobody aside from the people we were living with, one of whom as it turned out, hated my guts with a passion. Sleep paralysis began to visit. My bed was a pile of blankets on a wood veneer floor glued to what used to be the concrete slab of a garage. Rats kept me up at night. Hunger was a near constant.

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Hanging out back at our first home in Austin

Still, I kept my mind focused on why I’d moved over a thousand miles. I stayed busy with graphic design. I ran every other day, sometimes up to 15 miles. The household jammed with regular frequency. Everybody worked out together. Parts of riffs I’d written years ago floated back into memory and were forged into rough shape.  David and I had also found a title for our new material, drawing from all of the circumstances, emotions, hardships and lessons, we would need a title that seemed to encompass all of these things, we decided to call it Before a Human Path.

The tone of our situation forced my hand, and I could only be honest with myself. Of The Sun was going to survive and grow, and we were going to grow alongside it. I was going to sacrifice whatever it took for however long to see it through. With this acceptance came the euphoric fatalism that birthed Cantos, the first song Of The Sun wrote in Texas. David wrote and played drums for it, our housemate James Swain held down bass sequences I created to accompany the winding guitar passages. Before A Human Path was going to happen eventually.

Nevertheless, over the course of the next several months, whenever we weren’t working service industry jobs, we posted ads on Craigslist and flyers around town, searching for a drummer to no avail.  1,000 demos were hand-pressed and passed out during music week of South By Southwest 2011 and a connection was established between us and the newly-formed Texas Metal Collective.

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A small sample of the SXSW 2011 demos.

Shortly thereafter, TJ decided things weren’t working out with TCS, and so made plans to join us in the spring, but was delayed until autumn due to a broken foot.  In the meantime, arrangements were made with longtime friend and guitar wizard, Russ Cochrane, to have him join the lineup as an accompanying guitarist.

We leased a dilapidated, nearly-100-year-old 2 bedroom farmhouse behind the low-rent musician’s community on Wilson Street in South Central Austin, with 1 bedroom serving as our rehearsal room.  We all shared the other bedroom, where there was no walking space.  We would often have to walk over sleeping bodies in order to make it to our own mattress or grab a change of clothes.

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Exterior wall of the Wilson Street property we rented during the summer and fall of 2011.

In the time between the spring and autumn we spent awaiting TJ’s arrival, nomadic longtime friend, Dan Mesich, occupied our couch shortly after moving into Wilson Street and never left. TJ eventually arrived and we immediately got to work preparing to break into the Austin metal community through the co-coordination of James Gonzales and Marc Villareal of the TXMC.

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With Marc and James in more recent times.

However, the entire affordable housing community complex on Wilson Street was condemned by the city shortly after TJ’s arrival, so we leased a 2br apartment a couple miles southwest on Manchaca Rd.  We moved our equipment into a rehearsal space at the St Elmo Music Lab. This time around, their were 2 people apiece to each bedroom. Dan was still on the couch.

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Dan at Wilson Street.  Halloween, 2011.

Fueled by the relative turbulence of the time, The Limbless God took shape. We debuted at Dirty Dog on Feb 17, 2012, headlining a 4 band lineup to a packed house, following up with local and regional shows, as well as with 2 appearances during SXSW ’12. The span of time between the first residence to the apartment on Manchaca was frequently spent in a state of debauchery.

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SXSW 2012 at Hoek’s Death Metal Pizza

Shortly after the initial thrust in making our mark in Austin, TJ and Russ both moved in with their girlfriends and we started losing communication. Practice was a rarity, and TJ started experiencing debilitating panic attacks, ultimately leading to his decision to move back to South Carolina.  Russ soon decided to move back to Boulder, CO to be closer to his family. David and I were back to square one again, and we got right back to fishing on Craigslist.

Our brother Joe had started expressing interest in the opportunity to relocate to Austin; not to join the band.  He just wanted a change of pace.  So he moved to Austin in August of 2012 with longtime friend, Mike Lawrence, and friendly acquaintance, Cedrick Kober. David, Dan, Joe, Mike, Cedrick, and I leased a 6br house in University Hills, reserving the living room as a rehearsal space for if and when we found a drummer. Eventually, Joe couldn’t help himself.

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Joe onstage at Hole In The Wall, playing after(!) Consider The Source.  (Jesus, look at that drum kit.)

We began preforming as an all-brother 3-piece for a few months, but following the passing of both of our grandmothers just days apart in February of 2013, Joe left the band again, a week before a scheduled performance alongside Intronaut.

The shock of another failed attempt sent David and me into a tailspin, and we entered a 3 year hiatus. But as luck would have it, producer Sebastian Cure attended what ended up being our last show with Joe, and was so impressed that he introduced himself to insist that he record our next effort at all cost.

During our hiatus, Sebastian would touch base throughout time to reassure that he’d continue to stand by his word, and we all became fast friends. He announced that he had plans to build and run his own studio one afternoon in a meeting with David and me at Black Sheep Lodge, and we struck a deal for 2 records in exchange for a custom mixing console.

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Working on the White Room Studios recording console

It was realized in a year and we had a celebratory gathering at the same spot a year later to the day.

Still, we had no band. White Room Studios was born. Of The Sun was stuck in the mud. We auditioned a friend from a defunct local metal band we’d hung out with, but things didn’t progress and we parted ways after several rehearsals.

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Meeting at White Room to plan our recording schedule for “Before a Human Path”. L/R: Me, David, Sebastian

James Cotton Hartman, guitarist of Maui-based prog rock band MothXP (who David filled in on bass for during SXSW 2013) decided to relocate to

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MothXP at SXSW 2013

Austin as spots opened up in the house in University Hills.  David and I had since moved to opposite ends of town with our girlfriends.  Wanting to get back into writing and performing music, he, too, began to post Craigslist classifieds, where he crossed paths with Johnny Reed. Their personal musical styles didn’t mesh, but the technical proficiency of Johnny’s playing stuck out in Cotton’s mind so he relayed Johnny’s phone number to David and an audition was scheduled.

As homework, we assigned 3 songs to Johnny for him to learn before the

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Johnny tracking “BAHP”

meeting: Enevolergy, Tentacled Eye, and The Pursuit. Unbeknownst to us, he learned the songs by  mapping out drum hits on stools in his apartment, committing the movements to memory. His first time playing those songs on a kit was when he auditioned, and he nailed all of them. We were speechless. He even came knowing most of another song, Lordosis. That was it. Moving forward was now an option.

Over the hiatus, David and I had programmed the drum sequences to the songs that were set to become Before A Human Path. After we showed the demos to Johnny, we got busy dialing into the new material as well as a number of tunes from our first record, AM Radio, which Johnny tore through with fierce tenacity.  From there, a recording schedule was finally set at White Room, and over the course of the months that followed, we locked into every nuance of the material, graduating from the rigidity of the digital demo tracks to the fluidity enunciated in Johnny’s personal style. A new sound was established once and for all.

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Post-show picture at Kick Butt Coffee

 

 

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