I’m an avid fan of local music, because culture, community, and identity are steeped in it. Years ago, north of the monuments that decorated the National Mall was a neighborhood known as Uptown. It was a place where art, poetry, and music thrived in spite of its time; it still does. Today it’s simply known as “Shaw”, and one of it’s own is in a basement making sweet, sweet art, reminiscent of the time ahead, and behind, simultaneously staying true to “Right Now”.
Drive TFc is an Alternative-Indie-Rock band with a Folk soul that will make your shoes move, with your feet in them, or not. Sonic authenticity is strong with this band, who formed under the umbrella of the DC organization Flashband, where musicians of all ages and skills join forces to create temporary, or in this case, a permanent band. Each member of this band has a distant style reminiscent of a time before, or a background that somehow feeds into a central theme. Sara, AJ, Jamie, Erik and Amber all gather in the center, and what they create is beyond exciting, it’s painting with chords and notes. Almost two years ago, I was lucky enough to see Drive TFc’s first show, when they were simply known as “The Creeps”, a Flashband Halloween Showcase band that sang poignant songs about fear, excitement, and, well… the will to be behind the wheel. It’s no surprise that they just dropped one of the hottest albums of the summer.
This heat be damned.
“Weema Dam” is a lyrical masterwork. I’ve been listening to music for as long as long as I can remember, and you’re going to be hard pressed to find an album with as many well written words as this, it’s poetry to music.The album opens up with “80 Days” and a guitar riff that will transport you back to 1997. Before you get your bearings, you’ll hear a flute, that’s right, a flute. A sheet of silk that we’ll simply call “The Bass” drops over you, and your serenaded into a not so subtle opening over a crooning vocalist, replete with the backing vocals of a very capable ensemble.
The car might have hit a speed bump, because “Surf’s Dead”, track number two, hits you with a twisted Surf-Rock riff brimming with slap-back-delay and reverb, but what catches me are the lyrics – an eerie tale of a woman who wandered off into nature to get some peace and quiet, only to realize that she wasn’t alone. It’s a horror movie… seriously. This is not what I usually hear from local bands. You will need a dictionary when you sit and listen to this band, I promise you.
This subjectivity is not commonplace. These are not songs of flip cup, parties, love lost, and kitsch memes lost in a sea of telephone pixels- this is poetry in motion; poetry with a manual transmission.
“Summertime Unkind” gives me a brief pause from the tenacity and overdrive of the previous two, but just as I settle into the subtlety of the flute, I’m pushed again into the left lane. “Going Round” keeps the same fury alive, but the car seems to have found its stride, and for the first time, a new lead voice jumps out.
I suppose the road empties, and the Sun’s on the horizon somewhere over highway 81 as the journey continues, “St. Fusem’s Pyre” is a cathartic song that makes me think about what it takes to let it all go. Like all the others it’s masterfully written. And yet again, somehow, I’m surprised with the shift, and we drive deeper down the highway.
The car has slowed, perhaps even stopped, as the song trails off the album tarries off into a drum solo that carries it slowly, yet precisely to the next track. I suppose my wee-Weema Dam ride has camped out for a moment. “Fire Saved the Day” is fabulous; it trips me out. It starts out like a drum circle, spinning a jazz infused trance, only to be hooked with an anthemic jump. This is the skillful transition that only the most gifted musicians can pull off. It’s what only those in the deepest pits of their own “fun” can often seem to find, because it requires humility, grit, and authenticity. Drive TFc is devoid of stereotype – what you see, what you hear, it’s what you get. That’s real art – not the cookie cutter frame you buy at Kirkland’s and Marshall’s.
But it’s time to get back in the car folks, “Pocket Bitters” hits like an alarm. It’s time to go. Between the screeching guitar riffs the lyrics flow through effortlessly, heartrendingly. They are aptly in the eye of the storm as the journey moves on. “District Bends” is hands down my favorite song on the album. It’s poetry, like everything before it, and probably the most literal of the songs so far. I listen, as I’m on the tale of a day and night in the city, replete with landmarks, locations, and decisions that we’ve all had to live with, good and bad. The District Bends indeed. I too promise that I will finish in the morning.
“Help Me Breathe” is a beautiful guitar ballad that will get stuck in your head like a chart rising pop song. Ablution was rampant in the songs that preceded it, yet there is more to share, more to release, and it’s easy to see why as a new vocalist takes the center stage. What I start to realize is this band’s sense of community. There’s more than a front man to Drive TFc, there’s a whole gang with thoughts, feelings, and different ways to express them – and it’s in this moment that I start to understand, Drive TFc is a car, a full car, and it’s on one hell of a ride. Everyone’s got a turn at the wheel.
“Saline Deep” is a hidden gem that I am glad is the 2nd to last t rack on the record, because you’re going to have to commit to the LP to hear it, and that is exactly what this song demands. It’s haunting, and absolutely brilliant musicianship. Pay special attention to the outro solo and make sure your headphones/speakers are wired in stereo, because what you get is a guitar solo in each channel, both similar, yet different enough to be heard in their own light.
“Ode to Dan” is flat out hilarious. I want to tell you all about it. I wish I could. I’ll tell you this, everyone in this band take a moment here to thank you, take a big ol’ bow – and tell a few jokes. Even after the longest of rides, who doesn’t like a good joke?
I can’t say enough about this band, or this album, you should just stream it, buy it, or just go see it live. At this point… I’m steeped in peated whiskey, it’s late, and I thank my maker that I’m not behind the wheel. Knowing full well that when I am it will be to the soothing sounds of Drive TFc.