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ISSUE NO.
156 NOVEMBER 6, 2003
 
 
  theBeat
  The Not-So-Quiet One
Will Sartain Stands Alone
  By Jamie Gadette
   
 
Will Sartain has added a solo career to an already impressive list of artistic,academic and projessional pursuits.
The RED Interview

eople are talking about Beck and Will Sartain. The two lanky rockers with a penchant for experimentation both boast hearts on their sleeves. Of course, the former artist is cloaked in fame, but his success is based on years of experience. The local artist is already well on his way to becoming established—and he’s only 19. It might sound a bit pretentious to compare the young, bespectacled multi-instrumentalist with an iconic Hollywood hipster, but Sartain is so humble about his talent that drawing such parallels seems an appropriate method for accurately conveying his abundant potential.

He has already gained significant acclaim through his work with local indie-rock group Redd Tape. As bassist, Sartain strikes a complementary pose to the other equally talented and playfully eccentric artists. His infectious charisma would overshadow less unique performers, but drummer Lindsay Heath and vocalist/guitarist Scotty Fetzer are also capable of holding their own.

Still, Sartain is the only member to test his musical prowess in solitary waters with his new album Beep! There are no battles for creative control inspiring his decision to record a solo album—he simply wanted more room to pen lyrics.

“My whole goal is to be honest,” he says. “I don’t like superficial stuff—most music is so unreal.”

Sartain’s father, who earned a master’s degree in music, and older brother Mike (lead vocalist of local band Starmy) are responsible for introducing him to new sounds. A few spins of Weezer’s “Blue Album” helped plant an urge to perform at age 11—so Sartain picked up sticks and started pounding the drums. The itch only grew and soon he was playing guitar, bass and keyboards.

Playing in several high school bands helped Sartain gain increased technical ability. However, it was spoken word that taught him how to comfortably approach the stage. At age 16, he relocated to Colorado (where he lived with his mother) and discovered poetry slams. “[I] learned about opening up and being exposed. There were lots of supportive people,” Sartain says. “It was very good for me to do performance poetry. I stopped doing it because it stopped expressing me.”

Expression is crucial for Sartain. Although his music is not consciously constructed around subjective experience, he still wants to put an imprint on each song. Sartain says, “The best insights are when I realize where I am in life, where I am going—when I take the time to recognize that I am becoming something that I wasn't aware of.”

In the past, frustration over limited involvement in musical projects has compelled Sartain to seek collaborators who would hear him out.

His role as drummer for indie-pop band Starmy became increasingly dissatisfying as the group headed in new directions. “The overriding goal was to be famous,” Sartain says. That meant adhering to a fixed form already yielding desired results. Fortunately, he found Fetzer and Heath. In Redd Tape, Sartain was able to pursue his love of songwriting. Nearly two years after its formation, the band’s democratic nature has led to each member’s full participation in the song-making process. While the development certainly contributed to Redd Tape’s progression as whole, Sartain craved expansion. A solo project was just what he needed to get his message across. Only there isn’t any ego-driven agenda. Sartain aims for something in between isolation and uniformity.

“I played one show [by myself] and realized that I didn’t want to do that—I wanted a band,” Sartain says. “You can make a lot of money playing by yourself, but I wasn’t really interested in that.”

Beep! took five months to record. Sean Mcarthy and James Perry of Arrogant Hipster Records produced, mixed and engineered the album. They also contributed to four of the nine tracks.

“I started off with drums and classical guitar,” Sartain says. Unhappy with the results, he rerecorded with an acoustic guitar. The result is a stripped-down sound—a perfect accompaniment for slightly melancholic songs. Although Beep! carries no obvious influences, one can’t help but notice strains of Beck-style emoting.

“I totally take that as a compliment,” Sartain says in regard to the reference. He’s hesitant, however, to compare his work to the man responsible for such evocative albums as Mutations, Odelay and Sea Change.

“I know it’s good, but I’m not totally confident to take it all the way—to tour constantly,” Sartain says. “I do want a good label, though. I want distribution for it.” Doubts regarding Beep!’s success aren’t indicative of confidence. Sartain might be humble, but he’s definitely not unsure of himself.

“I could make music with most musicians and feel good about it,” he says. “I would love to do something with Ben Folds—if he was willing to share—and Doug Martsch…if he was willing to share, too.”

Sartain is happiest when performing. A positive reception toward his live show has been especially rewarding.

“I love life deeply. Traveling and being in different places playing music you love,” he says. “It’s so intense.”

Sartain has plans for a western tour starting in February. Charlie Lewis (Blue Hour) and Mcarthy—two musicians for whom he holds tremendous respect—will accompany him on the month-long stretch.

Sartain’s position as a booking agent for Kilby Court affords him the rare opportunity to observe underground talent.

“The Salt Lake music scene is getting better. I'm really trying to get bands together that are similar for some nights, and bands that are different on other nights at Kilby,” he says.”It's important for bands to know what's out there in the city.There are a LOT of local bands that I'd never heard of until I started working at Kilby.“

Sartain understands what it takes to become established—talent, persistence and heart.

“It doesn’t have to be emotional to be good, you just have to feel what’s there,” he says. Soon everyone will be feeling his vibe—just like that other introspective rocker with thin limbs and big ideas.

Sartain’s solo album, Beep!, will be unveiled Nov. 20 at the Urban Lounge with Tolchock Trio and the Downers and Nov. 21 at Kilby Court with Coyote Hoods.
jamie@red-mag.com

 
     
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