Apocalypse No: How Making Happy Metal Makes SOON Happy | Music Feature | Indy Week
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Apocalypse No: How Making Happy Metal Makes SOON Happy 

Moving on from hot dogs to barbecue, SOON is (from left, clockwise) Thomas Simpson, & Mark Connor, Robert Walsh, and Stuart McLamb.

Photo by Alex Boerner

Moving on from hot dogs to barbecue, SOON is (from left, clockwise) Thomas Simpson, & Mark Connor, Robert Walsh, and Stuart McLamb.

At the end of the record-release party for Vol. 1, the debut by the heavy Triangle quartet SOON, the band opted to close with a cover. It was The Cure's "Plainsong," a decidedly non-metal selection for one of the Triangle's most alluring, aggressive new acts.

Still, the version was slow and heavy and crushingly loud, much like all of SOON's music. His Gibson Firebird's signal dripping with effects, guitarist Mark Connor translated the euphoric swells of the synth melody. Drummer Thomas Simpson attacked his kit, lit from the front by a strobe light. With his full beard and long curls, bassist Robert Walsh suggested a Germanic barbarian or a hard-touring classic rock veteran. Amid the cleansing wash of heaviness, he was the anchor, the center of the maelstrom.

When it was over, guitarist and lead vocalist Stuart McLamb glanced at the crowd from the Kings stage and said, "See you soon." Somehow, the statement didn't seem like a joke. It sounded sincere and reassuring, like an airport farewell for a close friend. Vol. 1 is heavy and dense, fitting for its release on Swedish metal label Temple of Torturous. McLamb's clarion vocals, though, cut through with surprisingly positive lyrics, making the mood brighter than that of SOON's bleak metal label mates.

SOON is a natural mood enhancer, forged with hot dogs and beer and presented with an appropriate level of easygoing camaraderie. Music keeps the four members of this band happy, even normal, and their tunes communicate that need. This is mood music, sure, but not for sulking. SOON is somehow jubilant. Without an outlet, its members wouldn't be.

"I don't think I've ever not played in a band in my adult life," says Walsh, sitting in the sun outside Carrboro's Looking Glass Cafe. If it was the kind of thing he could quit, he says matter-of-factly, he would have.

click to enlarge Stuart McLamb - PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER
  • Photo by Alex Boerner
  • Stuart McLamb

It's one of the first warm days in February, so Walsh, Connor, McLamb, and Simpson take a table by the sidewalk. They range in age from the freshly thirty to forty-something. They look to be—and, in fact are—a motley crew. They've been in more Triangle bands than they can easily recall. Walsh was in the garage rock hounds The Spinns and now works in the psychedelic trio Bitter Resolve. Connor has played power pop with Bright Young Things and space rock with Left Outlet. McLamb and Simpson's most notable other band, The Love Language, has seen national buzz, though not in metal circles—it's a summery indie pop outfit.

This compulsion to play in numerous bands, they say, keeps them busy and grounded. Connor and Simpson have dark memories of band-less eras.

"Mid-twenties, I was playing in one band. It fell apart, and then I was going through other life shit—jaded, depressed, over it," Simpson says. "I was homeless. I was living out of the back of a truck, going through that."

Connor nods. He came to a similar realization that music was a lifestyle, and not something he could simply walk away from. He didn't play in bands for a few years, and it left him rudderless.

"It took me a little while to realize, 'Oh, I'm weird now. I'm drinking too much and I'm not going anywhere,'" Connor says. "I wasn't really listening to music. I was disconnected from it."

Simpson picks up the thought, as if it were his own: "As a result of the whole experience, I joined multiple bands. I compulsively joined as many bands as I could."

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