Every good band has a story, something that marks their territory in the landscape of worthwhile artists, and deepens their connection with their fans. Southern California-based American Catapult has been living out their story in unlikely places over the last few years, choosing to take their music to any place that would give them permission to play, and even a few that wouldn’t.
from Mark Deming, All Music Guide:
"Californian alt-country band American Catapult are an act willing to do things their own way, including doing a tour without booking any dates in advance. Formed in 2003, American Catapult features four veteran musicians with impressive chops as both musicians and songwriters and an eagerness to be heard. AmCat recorded a self-distributed album in 2004, Home of the Brave, which showcased their passionate but down-to-earth roots rock, and it was followed with a 2005 EP, Excess Falling. But AmCat had trouble finding venues interested in their music in Southern California, so they set out on what they called "The Tour of the Brave," in which they roamed the California coast for several days and stopped wherever they could find a crowd willing to hear them play, with locations ranging from a laundromat to a highway rest stop to an airfield, with a small camera crew recording the adventure for posterity. The stunt helped boost interest in AmCat, and after initially releasing their second full-length album Trees Of Mystery themselves, they signed a deal with the respected independent label Cooking Vinyl, who reissued the set in 2007. American Catapult continues to tour, though usually with shows booked well in advance."
AmCat, as their friends call them, reside happily on the outskirts of Americana music. Their influences include R.E.M, Son Volt, Wilco and the Eagles. Years of playing live for surprised strangers and invited guests have made AmCat's set strong and engaging. Lots of non-comm radio play throughout the U.S. and Canada has confirmed the band's appeal to a wide range of age and taste. You can currently hear AmCat on CinemaSounds at theaters across the nation, and catch them in an important scene during season 3 of Friday Night Lights, currently on DVD.
AmCat's live show is as timeless as American music gets, as free and optimistic as a scene from Athens in the ‘80s, and instantly accessible. AmCat plays for the love of it, and would be happy to oblige, even if that means playing in your front yard or parking lot.
Rescue Records/5 Alarm (licensing), Further South Recordings & Cooking Vinyl USA (CD releases)
For band booking & publicity, contact Further South – firstname.lastname@example.org - or call Shawn at DWC (562) 652 4125.
John Gregorich - Bass
Mike Bock - guitars
Shawn Winters - Vocals, Drums
Tom Townsend - Vocals, guitars
All This Distance (CD, 2010)
Permission (EP, 2008)
Trees of Mystery (CD, 2007)
Excess Falling (EP, 2005)
Home of the Brave (CD, 2004)
Tour of the Brave (DVD, 2005)
AmCat Trees review 1
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American Catapult is a band that truly has the soul of the American landscape running through their ...American Catapult is a band that truly has the soul of the American landscape running through their veins. Not only does the Southern California quartet play songs which attempt to capture the experience of being young, free, and in the midst of wide open spaces (both geographically and emotionally), but the band has literally brought their music to a wide range of settings which dot the horizons of many who live in the lower forty-eight. The band has professed to having played everywhere from abandoned airfields and rest stops to the local coin laundry. “We have found over time this incredible difficulty in finding decent places to play out,” says vocalist/guitarist Tom Townsend, in a press release. “It became our mission to get out of our little rehearsal space and find an audience, any audience even if that meant playing during the spin cycle at a local Laundromat full of strangers.”
Based on the results displayed on Trees of Mystery, the members of American Catapult have presented these strange and ordinary locales with a straight-ahead, uncomplicated sound that draws from the earthy guitar jangles, country overtones and pop sensibilities of early R.E.M., Son Volt, and even the early-to-mid ‘90s vibe of such radio friendly bands as Gin Blossoms and Toad the Wet Sprocket. The band is secure and strong in their sound, displaying an understanding of what a professional rock and roll album should sound like.
On their second full-length offering (the group has also released two EP projects), the band initiates a string of consistently likeable, easily approachable rock songs with “This Time”, an opening salvo which sets the tenor and pace of the album to come as well as any opening track could. A melodic slice of contemporary pop/rock with one foot planted in rootsy traditions, the track establishes Townsend as an Everyman ready and able to guide listeners through the band’s musings. With a voice that in many ways resembles the unadorned, regular guy delivery of Jay Farrar, though less gruff or baritone in timbre, Townsend fits the part and accomplishes the task set before him, amiably and effectively putting himself and his band in a position to strike a positive chord with melodic rock enthusiasts.
Continuing in this vein, the album’s title track follows a pleasing chord progression and medium tempo which frame Townsend’s vocals well as his voice crescendos without becoming overly dramatic. The band’s work is always measured, never wildly digressing from the strengths they possess instrumentally. Other highlights include “Crooked Straight” and “Stingray”; although these are musically some of the finer moments on the record, each track includes lyrical maneuvers which attempt to connect with the audience but overreach and simply come off as awkward. Late in the development of “Crooked Straight”, Townsend tries to be too clever for the song’s good, singing “Maybe this is clockwork / It seems a little orange / And I know, I know that you would like it if I could find a rhyme with orange” while “Stingray” dispenses with the retro references to the point of seeming like the band is trying just a little too hard. The mellow tones and slower (though not quite to the point of being labeled a ballad) pace of album closer “Disappointment Is” gives off a reflective vibe, fitting with the themes and moods represented on Trees of Mystery . Ending in a gently cascading chorus of “hey"s, the song joins “This Time” as arguably the record’s two strongest cuts. Though the entire album is solid, the fact that nothing in the heart of its tracklisting approaches the quality of its first or last song is an issue American Catapult might want to address on their next effort.
Throughout the course of Trees of Mystery , it becomes clear that nothing revolutionary or earth shattering will occur over the span of these eleven selections. While the band’s effort is certainly enjoyable and proves American Catapult as a band worthy of mentioning in some of the omni-present listings journalists love to create featuring bands queued up to take their place near the forefront of their respective scenes, the band’s work here will give a warm and familiar feeling far more often than it will overpower the senses or blow the listener away. Like the laundromats and rest stops the band has played, many of the places they take the listener to are likely places they’ve been before. However, in an age where quality, accessible rock is difficult to uncover, perhaps the world needs more bands like American Catapult. The band is likely to resonate with a wide demographic and cross section of music lovers—and rightly so.
AmCat Trees review 2
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Southern California's American Catapult (known as AmCat to insiders), with their emphasis on chiming...Southern California's American Catapult (known as AmCat to insiders), with their emphasis on chiming melodic guitars and no-frills, straight-ahead, crunchy rock, have been compared to early R.E.M., and there's some validity to that. Singer Tom Townsend's phrasing, not always but occasionally, is not unlike that of pre-major label Michael Stipe (without the marble-mouth), and there is a similar forward-motion forcefulness to the band's approach. Lyrically, Townsend appears to harbor an obsession with lost time and bygone innocence — he's neither the first nor will he be the last to do so — and when he's not expressing regrets he's quite often wallowing in nostalgia. Still, there are a few fine musical moments: the record gets off to a promising start with "This Time," with its piled-on guitars, and the title track, whose evocative lyrics and thundering rhythm section offer great promise for what's to come. But it soon bogs down in unoriginality, the initial promise never fully delivered — too many songs begin to sound samey, and only the few acoustic-based tracks (notably "Crooked Straight" and "S.O.S.") offer enough personality to distinguish the band. There's potential here for sure, but American Catapult needs to find its own voice and something substantial to impart before that can be realized.
AmCat Trees review 3
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The new release from the Southern California quartet American Catapult is a fairy straight ahead alt...The new release from the Southern California quartet American Catapult is a fairy straight ahead alt/country-americana disc. Nothing on the CD strays too far from this style. Their "Garage-Band" homepage says they sound like Son Volt, Counting Crows and Wilco. In fact, the band name apparently stems from the Counting Crows song "Catapult." The band has released several CDs the past few years, but has spent the majority of the time touring. Vocalist/guitarist Tom Townsend says in a press release that the band has had great difficulty finding decent places to play, and in trying to find an audience have played in all sorts of "arenas" including a laundromat, rest stops and an abandoned airfield. That's a band dedicated to touring and reaching new fans! They deserve our attention just for that!
Of the eleven cuts on Trees of Mystery I especially liked the rockin' opening cut "This Time" and the closing cut "Disappointment Is", one of the slower songs on the CD. "Stingray" and "Find Another Way" are also good listens. I enjoyed the disc more with each listen, yet if American Catapult is to grow and reach a wider audience they will likely need to develop a wider songwriting style for a bit more diversity while keeping their Americana Roots (play on words intentional!).
AmCat Trees review 4
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If jangly Americana be your thing, southern California's American Catapult has captured the sound th...If jangly Americana be your thing, southern California's American Catapult has captured the sound that defined the new spirit of American music for more than a decade. Leading off the 11-song set with "This Time," singer/guitarist Tom Townsend's Michael Stipe croon - albeit less strident and easier on the ears - quickly assumes the focal point. In fact, if the band's sound is as easy-on-the-ears as it is innocuous, Townsend propels ordinary sounding tracks like the title track, "Goodbye" and one of the disc's strongest tracks, "Find Another Way," into powerful, anthemic pieces. The more laid back "Easily Distracted" taps the next generation of American indie bands, conjuring the expansive, pastoral Wilco/Son Volt sound.
AmCat Trees review 5
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American Catapult is a Southern California band with two full-length CDs and two EPs to their credit...American Catapult is a Southern California band with two full-length CDs and two EPs to their credit. Their newest, Trees of Mystery, isn’t groundbreaking, but it does offer something that’s rare these days: straightforward, unadorned rock’n’roll. Drummer Shawn Winters hits the drums hard, and guitarists Tom Townsend and Mike Bock set the volume on their amps high enough to make sure the sound is overdriven and dirty. The vocals have a bit of country twang to them, so comparisons with Son Volt and other alt-country bands are probably inevitable, but American Catapult isn’t that predictable. Townsend, who writes most of the songs, likes unusual chord changes and ringing guitar chords that bring to mind the Rolling Stones and early R.E.M., but the guitars have their own bite. Trees of Mystery has plenty of hooks, and it’s loose and danceable. The mix could be a lot cleaner, and the opening of "Avarice" sounds like an amateur recording, but I kept hitting Repeat for most of this album’s tracks. If these guys were about ten years younger, they’d be the next big thing.
AmCat Trees review 6
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Fans of the grungy, countryish Americana rock of bands like Son Volt and Uncle Tupelo might like Ame...Fans of the grungy, countryish Americana rock of bands like Son Volt and Uncle Tupelo might like American Catapult, a Los Angeles band whose unique approach to touring involves just showing up places and asking to play. Although you aren't likely to see them play unless you are in the right Laundromat at the right time, the band's prodigious output (three albums, an EP and a documentary in three years) is available through the Internet.
"Trees of Mystery" is a fine blast of noise, the aural equivalent of a dusty road on the edge of town, just the right proportions of jangling-twanging guitars and lo-fi homespun accessibility.
Although the band occasionally sounds like a Son Volt-Uncle Tupelo tribute band (the words "no depression" even pop into one song), it could be a lot worse. The band could sound like Nickelback or any of the other half-dozen same-sounding hard- rock bands currently popular. That four guys in American Catapult are choosing to go their own way can only be a good thing. With a little perseverance this is a band that could really grow into its own.
AmCat Trees review 7
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There are few things in the world that give people a sense a freedom more than road travel. Somethin...There are few things in the world that give people a sense a freedom more than road travel. Something inside of us crosses over watching the great American landscape change, especially as the low dusty valleys of the West merge with the bountiful environment of the Mississippi River and Great Lakes region.
American Catapult's new album Trees of Mystery is perfect for young warriors checking Mapquest routes to various destinations across the country. It is a quixotic mix both lyrically and musically, with songs that convey a sense of desolation greater than the empty road sign that serves as cover art to the album. Guitarist and vocalist Tom Townsend, drummer Shawn Winters, second guitarist Mike Bock, and bassist Terry Overlin have crafted a sound reminiscent of early REM, when Michael Stipes still mumbled his cryptic lyrics. There is some fine work here, especially on "This Time," "Easily Distracted," "Avarice," and "S.O.S," which all convey the dangers of isolation and desperation. Then, like an SUV heading west on Highway 191 at 85 MPH, the metaphors dissipate like so much vapor in the wind.
The members of American Catapult claim to be residing on "the outskirts of Americana," touring constantly and offering impromptu shows in locations as diverse as Laundromats and abandoned airfields. It's a brilliant strategy because the blandness of Laundromats and the deep quiet of abandoned, weed strewn airfields are the images one gets while listening to Townsend's stellar vocal characterizations. Throughout, Winters, Bock, and Overlin's rhythm supports Townsend's solid lead work and provide a colorful, stippled backdrop to Townsend's word pictures.
The great shame here is American Catapult doesn't have a larger distribution network for this or their first two albums, Home of the Brave and Excess Falling. None of the albums appear on Amazon, and only Trees of Mystery is found on the Internet record store CD Baby. Perhaps American Catapult is selling albums from the back of their van, a la Sublime and aren't interested in more organized distribution. But it would certainly help critics who appreciate their music to be able to send potential fans to other places beyond the bands' website.
But that's not important. Even with their limited distribution means, American Catapult's Trees of Mystery is an achievement many well known groups have yet to accomplish. In many ways, American Catapult is like a mysterious tree one might see on a road trip — weathered a bit from climate changes, but still able to bare some intensely delicious fruit.
AmCat Trees review 8
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While yes, American Catapult are an alt-country band that sings of loneliness, desperation, and big ...While yes, American Catapult are an alt-country band that sings of loneliness, desperation, and big open empty spaces, Guitarist/vocalist Tom Townsend and company keep it real and fresh by adding their own touches. As the good drinker knows, some of the widest and loneliest places are inside as well as out, and the mumbled lyrics and jangly guitars evoke some of the best explorers of this terrain. Rockers like "Easily Distracted," "Avarice," warn of danger and point to the way out. Like early REM, these songs are vague enough that you hear what you want to hear, but still be taken where the band is steering you. American Catapult is a good alt-country band giving you the past and present in the same chord progression; American Catapult knows its heroes, and is on the road seeking new ones to pass on.
AmCat press review
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American Catapult, affectionately known to its friends as AmCat, has a new one in the hopper. That s...American Catapult, affectionately known to its friends as AmCat, has a new one in the hopper. That should come as no surprise to those who know even a little about the Glendora-based band, known as much for its
tenacity as it is for its rootsy take on rock ’n’roll. AmCat has made a name for itself by playing anywhere and
everywhere it can, including some really oddball places. “We found over time this incredible difficulty in finding decent places to play at,” says Tom Townsend, American Catapult’s guitarist and singer. “It became our mission to get out of our little rehearsal space and find an audience, any audience, even if that meant playing during the spin cycle at a local laundromat full of strangers.” Townsend says the Downy-soft band has also gigged at rest stops, abandoned airfields and bartender schools. As a matter of fact, the band may be playing in your back yard right now! Take a look. OK, the guys play plenty of traditional places, too.
Whittier Daily News article
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Band members do it their way By Michelle J. Mills, Staff Writer Whittier Daily News Aug 29 2008 ...Band members do it their way
By Michelle J. Mills, Staff Writer
Whittier Daily News Aug 29 2008
Gigs at laundromats, air fields and rest stops are just all in a night's work for American Catapult. The Americana-rock band just wants to perform - anywhere, for anyone.
"We play what we love and we love to play for people who like what we like," said vocalist and guitarist Tom Townsend. "Even people who don't, we like to win them over. That's why we play a lot of obscure places. If nobody wants us in a club, we're going to find a place to play."
When AmCat, as the band is affectionately called by its fans, tires of the rehearsal studio, they toss their equipment in the back of their truck and drive around until they find a place to set up. Then they play until they're done or asked to leave.
One of the group's "guerrilla gigs" was at the Bartending School in Covina. After being turned down at three other places one night, they decided to try the school because the light was on. They were welcomed. This renegade attitude has been part of how the group came to be and how they keep going.
AmCat was formed in 2003 by Glendora resident Townsend and vocalist and drummer Shawn Winters of Whittier, who have been friends since college. Settling down to record, they called in guitarist Mike Bock of Glendora and bassist Terry Overlin of Sherman Oaks to fill out the sound.
"Recording was a bit of a chore for us in other bands that we had been in and we wanted to just go through some stuff rather than hang on to it for years and years to tweak it," Winters said. "We thought we'd bring in some guys we know and have different guests sit in with us, but the first two we brought in just stayed. It stopped being a project and became a band instead."
Townsend has a degree in music education from Biola University in La Mirada and is the music director at Church of the Open Door in Glendora.
Winters was taught how to play drums in his early teens by his next door neighbor. When the neighbor's parents tired of the noise, he stopped playing and didn't pick up the sticks again until college.
"I was a janitor on campus and I was cleaning the room that Tom's band was practicing in," Winters said. "The drummer hadn't shown up - drummers are flaky people - so I was in there cleaning and they were sitting around waiting for this guy to show up and I said, `You mind if I sit down (and play)?' And I did for about 10-15 minutes and then I went back to work."
A few days later, Townsend found Winters on campus and asked him to join his band. From there, the friendship bloomed.
While working at Biola, Winters also earned a degree in communications. Today he owns a construction company and is married with seven daughters, ages 6-18.
Townsend comes up with the lyrics and structure of the songs, and the other members of AmCat work together to complete the tunes.
"We like to record, so we're writing songs to fit the genre that we wanted to play ... (songs that) we would feel good playing: simple songs," Townsend said.
And the group's creativity flows as AmCat has released two EPs, two CDs and a DVD. They think their latest effort, "Trees of Mystery" (Further South Recordings/Cooking Vinyl USA), has finally established who they are and what they do.
"We're kind of old-fashioned and romantic in the way we look at being part of a group," Townsend said. "We'd like to belong somewhere. We feel like we sit on the outskirts of Americana music; we're not really a rock band and we're not really a country band, we're just something else in there."
Despite this feeling, AmCat has a good following. They have just signed a music licensing agreement with Rescue Records of Pasadena and are at work on a new album. The group plans to tour locally this fall.
Hopefully AmCat's shows will include a lot more clubs and fewer "guerrilla gigs."
SIGHT for SORE EYES
TREES of MYSTERY
ON the OUTSIDE
BE the MOMENT
BAND not the WEAPON
There are no upcoming dates at this time.