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November 14, 1996 * Vol. 6, No. 46

Deluge of Creativity

Immortal Chorus and Sandbox have dried up, but now there's a Flood

by Mike Gibson

Though they flocked together (at Flamingo's, Mercury Theater, et al) and ruled the same roost (Knoxville), Immortal Chorus and Sandbox were hardly birds of a feather. The late, lamented local troupes shared a penchant for pummeling riffs and shared the marquee on several festival-sized bills. Otherwise, Sandbox's grungy post-punk rumble and IC's brooding neo-Gothic pageantry were set many musical and aesthetic worlds apart.

At first gander, anyway. But if you took the time to peek under IC voxman Steve Britton's enveloping warble, or to strip away the 'box's keening metallicisms, you may have noticed a kinship, a shared affinity for Promethean riffs leavened by textural ether and atmospheric washes of sound.

Small wonder, then, that when attrition took its inevitable toll on the two long-running bands in 1995, Sandbox guitarists Todd Ethridge and Marc Inocco found kindred spirits in IC's John Tipton (bass) and Joel Stooksbury (drums).

Singer Ethridge doesn't believe his new outfit, Flood, bears much resemblance to either of the bands that birthed it. "People assume we sound like a combination of the two," he says. "But other than having the same vocals as Sandbox, I don't think there's much similarity."

For the most part, he's right. Flood is lighter on its feet than either of its predecessors; brighter, punchier, less apt to founder in its own bludgeoning drone. Traces of power pop, pogo, and post-punk pepper the band's otherwise bottom-heavy thump, making for melodic, texturally diverse hard rock with a polished, radio-friendly sheen.

It's a tribute to Flood's collective songwriting acumen that none of its influences figures too heavily in the mix. Inocco calls his music "noise with a direction," and while that description might seem a little vague, it hints at the band's seamless but potent chemistry.

Listen to Flood's new four-song (locally released) cassette, and you'll swear you've heard all of it somewhere before. But as you bang your head, tap your foot, and hum right along to driving modern rock anthems like "Everything" and "Empty Pool," you won't for the life of you be able to figure out where.

"When I'm writing a melody, I think of bands like Cheap Trick; they were really poppy, but they really rocked," says Ethridge, who also pays homage to '80s mood-rockers the Psychedelic Furs. "We've talked a lot about the kind of stuff we like and what we want to head toward. What we're looking for is a good melody but a hard edge—something with some energy and some gut behind it."

What the foursome have held over from previous projects (Ethridge was also a member of longtime local metal stalwarts The Innocent Ones, and Inocco is likewise well-traveled) has less to do with music than with life experience—the battle scars wrought in a decade of fighting in rock's grubby small-town trenches.

"After you've been around a while and had a little bit of local success, it gets frustrating when you can't get to the next level," says Tipton. "It's become an obsession now—I'd really like to be in a band that earned a record contract."

Adds Inocco, "I think we're all at a point where we're looking for something to justify all the work we've done over the years."

Toward that end, Ethridge says the Floodmen now have the savvy to go with the sound. The band wants to build a fan base quickly, so they've kept their egos in check and accepted lots of supporting slots on bills with a guaranteed draw. You may have already seen them open for the likes of D.C. punkers Jawbox, or popular husband-and-wife alterna-rockers Fleming and John. Look for other upcoming gigs with Jason and the Scorchers and Movement, the L.A.-by-way-of Knoxville band best known in these parts as Hypertribe.

"We're looking to play with national acts and local bands who already have an audience," says Tipton. "Headlining doesn't mean anything. I'd rather open a big show with a good crowd than headline in front of 50 people."

Plans are also in the works for a full-length local CD to be released sometime in 1997—and don't be surprised if the disc exposes some new wrinkles in the fabric of Flood's sound. While Inocco played with Stooksbury and Tipton when the band coalesced last January, he didn't join the official roster until late summer. And according to Ethridge, his long-time bandmate's deft, rhythmically-charged guitar stylings are just beginning find a place in the mix. In that respect, he adds, some of that old familiar Sandbox chemistry may yet figure into the fledgling quartet's musical evolution.

"Marc brings in a lot of punk energy and a lot of real unique guitar sounds, so we're probably going to change a little," Ethridge says. "He and I always clicked well together in our last band.

"That's one of the things this band has had going for it from the start—we click well together, like we're all gravitating toward the same style. It's like we've finally found the right pieces of the puzzle."

© Metro Pulse