Road tested

Salt the Earth busts ass on tour 'Roman Empire' style

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

photo

contributed

Salt the Earth is (L to R) Matt Morgus, Nick Haxton, Martin Bush, and Nick Knutsen

After multiple tours across the country, Salt the Earth is finally starting to go places.

Though formed just two years ago, the Lawrence four have already performed more shows, logging more more tour miles than many of their veteran peers -- and their work is starting to pay off.

STE vocalist/guitarist Marty Bush said the band modeled its strategy for success off that of "The Roman Empire" -- conquering the music world through better distribution and touring far and wide.

The band's first record has been available online a year-plus (as well as in several independent record stores). Their recently recorded "Treading Water" EP (set for release Oct. 14) will be stocked in Best Buy stores around the Midwest.

"We're going to start in the Midwest and see how it does," bassist Matt Morgus says. "If it does all right then we'll go nationally -- which is pretty good distribution for a super independent label."

Still, nothing works quite like constant touring. Bush says the band has done eight tours and been on each coast twice -- a travel log of more than 15,000 miles on an otherwise new van the band purchased in April.

In its early days, the group was a regular player at house parties, frequently performing at the now defunct Pirate House and Pink House. It has since moved on to bigger things, like Furnace Fest (in Birmingham, Ala), where STE will open for Andrew W.K., Taking Back Sunday and the recently reunited Hum.

The band is currently touring with The Evaluation, and both will appear Wednesday at The Replay Lounge.

"It's July now, and we've already been on tour four months SO FAR out of this year," says Bush, who has dates scheduled through the end of October. "We're seeing a lot more kids at our shows now, and we're playing in a lot bigger venues," says Bush.

Architects and presidents
Though all four members of Salt the Earth are of college age, after the fall 2002 semester they made the collective decision to drop out of school and devote themselves full time to rock.

"Our families were supportive but disappointed," Bush says.

"They thought we'd make great architects and presidents," adds guitarist Nick Knutsen.

All four are employed in Lawrence, with Knutsen, Bush and Morgus working at Urban Outfitters, and drummer Nick Haxton delivering pizzas for Domino's.

"Some of us have two jobs," Knutsen says. "We don't just sit on our butts all day."

"Not that we wouldn't like to," Bush chimes in. "My biggest goal is just to play music and sit on my ass."

So important is this goal the STE four that they have no backup plan.

"We don't have as much to fall back on," Bush says, discussing the decision to quit school. "It's our choice, but this is all we have going for us."

Thanks to signing with Anxiety Records (Independence, Mo.), nothing comes out of the band members' pockets anymore. The label pays for tours and funded expenses for a trip to L.A. to record the EP. The group also has corporate sponsorship deals with guitar-oriented companies Mesa Boogie and Dean Markley.

"We're doing it by investing the earnings from CD sales back into the band," says Anxiety director Shannon Schlappi. "We're essentially losing money in the hopes of helping these bands get to where they want to go and at the same time hopefully making consumers more aware of the Anxiety Records name."

Says Morgus: "We make a little bit of profit. It's not enough to get by, but it's all right."

Past Event

Salt the Earth / The Evaulation

  • Wednesday, August 6, 2003, 10 p.m.
  • Replay Lounge, 946 Mass., Lawrence
  • 21+ / $2

More

Out on a limb
Anxiety signed STE late 2001, a few months after both the label and the band were formed. Shortly after the act independently released its "Serpentarius" EP, Anxiety re-released its self-titled debut album.

A year has passed since the group issued any new music, but its members could hardly be accused of being lazy.

The band spent almost all of July touring and, along with producer Lance Attack (who has handled such local notables as Reggie and the Full Effect and The Appleseed Cast), the group also spent time at Love Juice Labs in Los Angeles, recording the new "Treading Water" EP.

photo

Thad Allender / lawrence.com<br><br>

"We're really going out on a limb with the new EP," Morgus says. "There's hardly any screaming."

The five-song disc reveals a slightly different side of the band. Where its earlier material has been in the melodic hardcore vein, the new EP is, well -- let's let Bush say it: "It's much more mainstream," he said.

The new songs are more radio-friendly (though the Maiden-like riffs and other metal-esque elements are still present) and tighter, seeming to have abandoned it trademark controlled chaos.

Though the band gets decent airplay on 90.7 KJHK and on 96.5 The Buzz's local music showcase, Anxiety plans to give the new EP a significant regional radio push.

STE is also planning to get a full-length album ready by spring 2004. Bush describes the creative process behind the band's recording as "helter skelter" and says the members are big on compromise. "It's about giving ground enough to where everybody's happy," he says. "We're much better musicians now (than when we started) in terms of what we're capable of making."