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"Whatzup- Spins, CD review, Jason Hoffman"



When the moons aligned and bassist Doug Roush and drummer Keith Roman at long last formed a musical venture, they decided to keep guitars out of the discussion and see how much noise they could make with only drums and bass. To remind themselves that this was all just for fun and to keep the mood light they settled on the name Catbox. After a couple of years of practicing and playing and writing and ranting they did what any “keep it light” band would do: They recorded a progressive sci-fi rock opera about the invasive meddling of a global genetics corporation.

With just two instruments, instruments normally relegated to second-string rhythm section status, one is forgiven for wondering if these two Columbia City boys are able to fill out the sonic spectrum. The answer is a resounding ME-OW! While many bassists are content to confine themselves to five frets, Roush is all over the neck, picking, slapping, popping, strumming chords and generally making more noise than a bassist should be allowed to make. The closest comparison I can make is to Les Claypool, but Roush is much less into repetitive technical displays for their own sake, preferring instead to weave strong melodies into his awe-inspiring technique. As for Roman, well, he’s got a drum kit bigger than a VW Bug and fearlessly coaxes a rich breadth of jazzy sounds from every inch, keeping a steady beat while adding unorthodox fills and patterns to bounce off the complex bass patterns. Not only do you not miss having a traditional guitarist in the mix, but you’d be hard pressed to find where he could add anything of substance.

As you might expect, the songs have a unique sound. At times, as with “The Furnace of Dreams Part 1,” Catbox flaunt a syncopated rhythm, ringing harmonics, a barrage of crashes and interest-perking sound effects, while in “Guitar Zero,” a song about the worthless distractions that fill our lives with empty hours, you might almost think you’re listening to a regular rock band. The gutsy bass of “Remember When” underscores the humorous lines of “Do you remember when people loved each other / Families stayed together / And we didn’t lock our doors … I don’t either.” Some songs, like the eerie “Nothing to Luz,” incorporate the mandolin for some Spanish flavor, while “I’m Not Alone” alternates between gossamer, dream-like passages that are barely there and gritty, low thumping rhythms that jolt you awake. An album highlight is “Someday is Today,” a track calling for change, for those stuck in the world of SleepWake to arise from their slumber. The song culminates in an upbeat jam between these two monsters of rock as they lock into a thunderous groove. There is no doubt that these guys know how to write a solid, albeit somewhat unorthodox, tune.

Catbox are far from your standard issue classic or modern rock band, which unfortunately will turn away many would-be fans. Fortunately for the mildly curious, however, Roman and Roush must be on catnip because they are offering the ability to download the entire magnificent album, either with or without narration, for free at No playful yarn balls of string attached. Give SleepWake a try and see if it doesn’t leave you purring with delight. (Jason Hoffman)

Copyright 2010 Ad Media Inc. - Whatzup Magazine - Ad Media Inc.

"CatBox: Composing Outside the Box"


The members of the Columbia City-based prog rock band CatBox think a little differently than most musicians. So it’s no surprise that the two-man band – just bass and drums, thank you very much – have decided to temporarily chuck the idea of plucking away in coffee shops and take on the most ambitious rock genre of them all. That’s right. CatBox wrote a rock opera.
“When we started this band, I suggested the name CatBox, just so we would never take ourselves or the band too seriously,” drummer Keith Roman says. “But you don’t take on a rock opera without taking yourself pretty seriously.”
“SleepWake,” a science fiction rock opera, tells the story of a man named Stigg Vesbern, an assistant “genomist” at a company called GeneSys. Vesbern is haunted by dreams of a lost love, Adelle. (“… a vision of a woman larger than life.”) To avoid these dreams, he begins hanging out at a 24-hour bar and grill, where he meets a line cook who has been genetically altered to no longer need sleep. But the cook is only one of the first to be altered. Eventually, GeneSys alters everyone else, too.
“Any good science fiction is a social commentary on present events,” Roman says. “The hero of the story is glad he no longer has to sleep because he no longer has to dream. But he’s disgusted by the way the world works around him. What should’ve been a benefit to mankind – extending everyone’s life by one-third – isn’t. People fill their extra time with more fighting, more virtual experiences. And you see a lot of this today – people going for the virtual experience, rather than putting in time and committing to the actual experience.”
The band – Roman and bassist Doug Roush – spent the summer creating both the opera’s songs and the narrative (which will be read during performances by Steve Briggs). But the idea to embark on a rock opera in the first place happened spontaneously, Roman says.
“One day, I just started wondering: What would it be like if people didn’t sleep?” he says. “It’s just where my mind goes sometimes – to stupid stuff like that. I’d always wanted to do a larger concept, rather than playing just a series of songs. And Doug thinks as deeply as I do. I brought up the idea and he just started building on the concept.”
A rock opera without guitars and keyboards (or, indeed, a full brass quartet), seems like a radical choice. But the decision to focus solely on bass and drums gives the band a unique sound, a sound Roman describes as a “combination between Pink Floyd, Primus and Ben Folds Five.”
“With Doug on bass, it’s all we need,” he says. “From time to time, we talk about adding somebody else, but we both agree it shouldn’t be a guitar. Bagpipes or something, maybe. Just to avoid that cliché.”
Performed live, the rock opera will be supplemented with a slideshow – dozens of photographs and quotes by famous thinkers, projected behind the members of the band. Roman hopes this addition will transform the show from a concert into “a total AV experience,” he says.
“We’re still learning as we go,” he says. “I’ve got plenty of other ideas for further projects. But let’s just see if this one flies or falls flat on its face first.” - Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette


SleepWake: a rock opera by CatBox, available for free download at



"A band with just bass and drums, how in the heck does that work?" is the question many ask when CatBox is described. Just one listen to Doug Roush's absolutely mindblowing abilities on the five string Tobias at a CatBox show, along with Keith's room-filling rhythms on the big Gretsch kit, with occasional sprinklings of mandolin, and they are convinced that no other instrumentation is really necessary. Combining the best elements of prog from the likes of Pink Floyd and Rush, with the frenetics and humor of Primus, along with the modern Jazz elements of Ben Folds 5, a CatBox show consists of short, funky songs, structured prog pieces, and spontaneous funk/jazz jamming. In large venues, CatBox will bring its full audio visual experience - a science fiction rock opera, called SleepWake.
Formed in Columbia City, IN, from a couple of jam sessions, Doug & Keith decided to call the band CatBox so they wouldn't take things too seriously. A full 70 original songs and a rock opera later, they realized that didn't work. There was initially talk of adding a 3rd member, but they were not sure what instrument it would be, or if they would add anything to the sonic spectrum.
CatBox recently recorded SleepWake, their rock opera, and it is available for free download here: