Dup Crosson lives lightly so he can travel that way—and often. The creative force behind Saint Solitude sounds relaxed over the phone, somewhere between his Asheville home and coastal New Jersey, as he pushed his 8-year-old Saturn to yet another tour stop.
"Pennsylvania features the Northeast's largest erotic shantytown," he marvels and laughs, bone-tired but exhilarated to be on the road. Several days later and back in Asheville, he sounded like a different person, and not for the better. His favorite place to play—The Rocket Club in Asheville—is going out of business. He was already thinking of moving back north, but this latest blow has only cemented his resolve.
To be fair, Crosson still loves his mountain town. He just can't make music here. The loss of the Rocket Club is symptomatic, he says, of a larger problem. "There are a lot of people making art and music," he explains. "Other than that, I don't think the music infrastructure is there as much as Chapel Hill and Atlanta. The audiences in Chapel Hill are more receptive to what I'm doing. In Asheville, people go out to shows because other people are going, or just to get drunk."
The Rocket Club tried—and failed—to exist as a midpoint between Asheville's dive bars and virtually-impossible-to-book larger stages, the Grey Eagle and Orange Peel. Crosson found features largely absent in Asheville's small club scene—a green room, a soundman, a PA. The 285-capacity venue opened in 2007 and almost immediately peaked when Liars—on tour with Radiohead at the time—took a night off to play with local unknowns King Tut. The luck wouldn't last. Owner Ken Klehm made a surprise announcement during a Monday jazz show, cleared the calendar, and closed the doors less than a week later. An Asheville Citizen-Times story claimed the venue "[fell] victim to a tough economy."
Whatever happened, Saint Solitude lost a rock-friendly club—a rarity in Asheville, according to Crosson. He plays dark and moody cerebral pop, peppered with unsettling religious imagery and punctuated with ear-popping feedback. "Yo La Tengo changed the way I play guitar," Crosson says. He saw the veteran trio play and was enthralled by Ira Kaplan's expressionistic guitar style. "I was always concerned about hitting the correct note, and now it's like 'Oh, cool ... I can put my distortion pedal on and go furious.'"
It's the right sound for a late-night WKNC playlist, not so much for Asheville audiences at large. So Crosson tolerated this less-than-perfect hometown situation by building a regional presence, playing the Triangle as often as his own town. But with one more Asheville venue lost, this may no longer be enough.
Saint Solitude started as a solo project, and Crosson spent the entirety of summer 2009 alone on the road, booking as he went. "[It was] three dreamy months on the edge of being broke," Crosson says, pausing to construct an appropriate analogy. "It's like telling your girlfriend you love her in the car before slamming on the brakes and going off a cliff."
His little Saturn survived the multi-thousand-mile ramble, but he returned to North Carolina ready to replace his loop station with a rhythm section. Bizarre fakeouts and failures to communicate ensued.
Eventually, Eddie Pomeroy, an animated, driving bassist, and drummer C. Scott Shaw, of former Shakori Hills veterans Speedsquare, fit Saint Solitude. The good-natured Pomeroy possesses a surprising philosophical depth, and Shaw, a "cynic's cynic," as Crosson puts it, is wickedly sarcastic. There's a balance here because, as jaded as he claims to be, Crosson is an idealist at heart. There's a raw immediacy to the relatively new trio. On a bedrock of impermanence, Saint Solitude warps closer to post-punk snap and squeal.
But now that he has his band ready to go, he's ready to get moving again, likely to Massachusetts. But Pomeroy and Shaw knew it was a temporary gig, and the restless Crosson never did feel quite right in the South. If the music provides a moving target, it's only because the musician does the same.
"From 18 to 23, I was somewhere different every six months," he says, "and I kind of liked it."