Last summer, things were looking pretty bleak for guitarist David Barajas. His band State — a project that survived the breakup of his other band, Extra Blue Kind — seemed to have been picking up steam. But in just a few months, State’s rhythm section defected to other bands, and Barajas’ first mate, co-vocalist and guitarist Tre Murillo, came down with a season-ending case of mono.
“At that point, I was almost ready to throw in the towel,” Barajas says. “There were so many ideas floating around about what we should do, but no one was putting any effort into it. Things got pretty messed up there for a while.”
But the band and Murillo have recovered, and a revitalized State is celebrating the release of their latest, You Shouldn’t Stare, Saturday, Sept. 13 at Spin Nightclub.
Enduring an enforced hiatus during that summer of 2007, Barajas spent a lot of time hanging out in his hometown of Columbus. He eventually hooked up with an old high school buddy and keyboardist Ben Wever. The two started throwing ideas back and forth.
“At first, we were just talking about music in general, and then we started talking about State. It was a different sound [with keyboards], but I was like, ‘Fuck it, I can do this,’” Barajas chuckles.
With Murillo healthy and new recruit Birch Miller on bass, State set about putting together a new body of material. Wever’s “You Shouldn’t Stare” set State on a darker, more melodic and keyboard-driven path.
“That kind of set the tone and showed us that we could pretty much tackle this kind of style and not worry that it has to be balls-out rock and roll,” Barajas says.
You Shouldn’t Stare, recorded at Bloomington’s Russian Recording State, is an expressive and full-sounding album, a breathless run through a neurotic Hoosier playground full of broken glass guitars and nicotine-drenched vocals. Wever’s keys took the band to unexpected places.
“When we first heard the rough mixes, we were like, ‘Oh My God! We just made a goth record!’” Murillo says. “Then after we remixed it and put a sheen on it, it became more bottom heavy and darker.”
There is a lot of the old, hard rock State floating around, particularly on songs like “Summerdale,” “The Model” and the chug-a-lugging, loud-quiet exercise “Carousel.” “Get Right” is the kind of throat-grabbing, full-throttle punk shout-along that Murillo’s old outfit, The Nicotones, were so good at.
However, it’s the moody, keyboard-heavy, orchestrated songs that make you sit up and listen. The title track and “Sleep” bookend the album with gorgeously dark and evil-sounding carnival swirls. “Everybody Is a Saint,” a low, building ballad that eventually explodes into a perfect combo of sweet and crunchy, perfects the band’s new sound.
State has recently added a new drummer, Matt Weimer, to the fold, and finished a Hills Have Eyes-inspired video for “Summerdale,” following on the successful (37,000 hits on YouTube) 2006 Tarantino-inspired video for “She Dreams of You.”
Meanwhile, Barajas says his songwriting is just as fresh as the band’s new sound. “For the first time ever, I wrote lyrics that mean something to me, that were drawn from my experiences.