Exploring and Adoring the Oddities of Southeast Ohio With Cutler Station< < Back to
At first, I thought the members of Vincent, OH’s Cutler Station were all talking over each other when I sat them down in the cramped quarters of WOUB’s AM studio for an interview. But, as it turns out, they were actually having a multitude of equally developed conversations with each other simultaneously.
This speaks not only to the intimate nature of the bandmates’ relationships (very literally, some of the members are family, but we’ll get into that later,) but more importantly to the unique and incredibly potent energy that the group brings to their music, which explores a multitude of distinctly Appalachian phenomenon: everything from snorting the drugs de rigueur of the region in the back of a presumably poorly kept up car to living in an area that has been historically battered by big industry to the one and only Mothman of Point Pleasant.
Cutler Station’s self-titled full-length debut, which is due out January 18 (although you can hear it right now on their bandcamp page) spirals out of park with some gentle undulations of synthesizer that burst into the power-pop stylings of “Curt Hennig,” a tribute to both the American professional wrestler of the same name and the band’s vocalist/guitarist/songwriter John Evans’ 2-year-old son — two characters that have more in common than one might think. One of many things that the self-described “dad rock” foursome excels at is painting deeply entertaining images that play equally in the fields of tragedy and comedy, all done up in hues of sincerity and an honest love for the bizarre — and the opening track is a nice, gentle introduction to that mindset.
The group is made up of brothers John and Kirby Evans, their cousin, Steve Lipscomb, and their long-time pal, Jason Swiger. The four have been playing together in various musical acts for over 20 years, and the Cutler Station we know now formed in 2011. Although the group has been putting together playful rock ‘n’ roll from day one, Cutler Station showcases a solidifying of the band’s mission to bring their audiences something that could be described as a glimpse into oft-acerbic-yet-comical world of living in Southeast Ohio.
The third track on the album, “Catacombs,” presents what sounds a bit like a brilliantly manhandled mbaqanga guitar riff plopped amidst a rollicking garage pop proscenium — and to top it all off, it’s sonic testament to the famous Mothman of Point Pleasant! The song describes a booze-laden set of post-midnight hours in the legendary and debatably fictitious Civil War-era underground tunnels in Marietta with none other than He of Red Eyes and Leathery Wings. And if that isn’t of an area-specific enough of a cerebral adventure, just hold on until the album breaks into the hilarity and woe of the following track, “Southeast Ohio Speedster,” which features a snippet of a rather incriminating voicemail from a former employee of Lipscomb’s construction company. The song details the headspace of a character that is “higher than the minimum wage,” having a taste for a variety of mind-bending substances, and whose whereabouts are most likely known by his drugdealer, if not his probation officer.
“Appalachian Highway” takes the theme of honest examination of our beloved Southeast Ohio even further, harking to the poisoning of the water of the Ohio River Valley by the DuPont Corporation — which also employs a great deal of the region it indifferently contaminated with the highly toxic chemical C8. Similarly, the second track of the album, “Death from Above,” (which is a sonic exploration deliciously chocky synthesizer and perfectly syncopated cymbal crashes,) — examines both the disheartening explosion of Dollar General stores in the region and the 2017 fire at the Ames Tool Plant in nearby Parkersburg, WV.
The album aptly closes with the restrained pop stylings of “Worldwide Hum,” which lyrically alludes to the international phenomenon of widespread reports of a mysterious and constant low-frequency Hum that is only audible to some people.
Cutler Station is an excellent rock ‘n’ roll album. It, much like it’s creators, manages to pull off a series of simultaneous, nuanced conversations on the power of myth, the way in which comedy can muddle itself sweetly with despair, and, perhaps most importantly, the epic legend of the Mothman.
Hear WOUB’s interview with Cutler Station, embedded above. The band also performed a series of their songs during their time at WOUB, which are featured after the interview. Cutler Station will perform at Whiskers, a house venue in Athens, on Friday, January 18.