Members of Bongzilla, Droids Attack and more have joined forces.
What do you get when a giant stoner monster and warring androids walk into a Japanese gambling hall in Brainerd, Minn.? Madison supergroup the Garza, of course. Composed of bassist Shawn Blackler, guitarist Nate Bush, and drummer and singer Mike "Magma" Henry, the band have a resume that includes prominent roles in area rock groups Bongzilla, Brainerd, Droids Attack, Pachinko and Striking Irwin. Influenced by acts such as the Melvins and Dead Kennedys, their music is heavy -- and heavily indebted to the worlds of punk, grunge and noise rock.
The Garza have one EP under their belts, and they'll release their first LP at the Frequency on April 26. Just in time for the show, Henry gave Isthmus an insider's look at the album and the group's creative process.
How did playing in other local bands like Bongzilla and Droids Attack lead to the formation of the Garza?
Henry: I was the drummer in Bongzilla, Pachinko and Brainerd, and Shawn played guitar for Brainerd, so we met way back. Nate used to be in Droids Attack, and they'd played with Bongzilla and Brainerd, so we've all crossed paths over the years. We ended up meeting at the Wisco and hitting it off. We started writing, and our chemistry clicked right from the beginning.
Tell me about last year's EP. Is it a good introduction to how the band sound now or more of a time capsule?
We put out the EP about a year ago. Gavin Lefebvre recorded it at Greyhound Sound in Madison. Shawn's brother, Kevin Blackler, runs Blackler Mastering in Brooklyn, N.Y. His company handled mastering for us. They did such good work that it's almost like they were in our heads and knew exactly what kind of sound we wanted. We were so pleased with how the first record turned out that we knew we wanted to have the same lineup for the next one.
How did the full-length record come about?
We started writing new songs for the full length right away after finishing the EP. After a year, we did our tracking, recording and mixing at Greyhound and got it mastered at Blackler again. They knew exactly what we wanted.
What's the biggest difference between the two records?
There's another year of playing together for the full-length record, so the ideas feel a lot more natural. Everyone understands where the others are coming from without a word. It leads to a lot more flow and understanding between us.
We've become picky, too. Instead of putting in a change that fits with a riff, we've started asking if it's the best change to go with that riff. We aren't as easily satisfied with the songwriting anymore. We've trashed songs we've put a lot of time into because we weren't feeling them.
And there was more thinking about each of the songs as a whole.... When you start a band, you might come up with a riff and create a song around it. For the full length, we'd have a few different [elements] put together already.... We played what we wanted, not just what works. There's definitely been a growing process that you can hear.
Did anything particularly weird or funny happen while making the record?
The funniest thing for me was that I had to learn how to sing without playing drums. I was in the recording booth with a big ol' fancy microphone in front of me, and I was off all the time. There were times where I was like, "Oh, shit! Four bars have gone by already? I should be singing already." It was completely backwards, like learning how to run before knowing how to walk.