Change Versus Comfort
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Change Versus Comfort


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"Interview with Megan Seling"

Change Versus Comfort
The Epitome of What a New Band Should Be

by Megan Seling

I'm where I need to be, which feels like the middle of nowhere, but is actually the middle of Sand Point, a cozy neighborhood in North Seattle. This is where Strangercrombie winner Change Versus Comfort practice every week. In a small room with pale yellow walls and a surprising lack of show posters, the four young men—keyboardist/vocalist Josh Thomas, bassist Jon Lee, guitarist Derek Hernandez, and drummer James Hollingsworth—bust out a combination of heavy rock and new-school "screamo," but with more spine than any of that 30 Seconds to Mars bullshit.

The vocals play melodically over driving guitar that nods slightly to Minus the Bear's own staccato and mathy structure; the bass is fluid; the drumming is relentless—the turbulent composition calls out posthardcore acts like Jawbox, the Casket Lottery, and Waxwing. It's good, surprisingly good, and to think I'd never have heard it if lead singer Thomas's family hadn't bought him a band write-up in the Strangercrombie charity auction.

Thomas introduces each song before the band plays, giving a short background on the subject matter—for "Tallulah Terryll," Thomas says, "The goal was to start with the climax and work backward." "Reframe" is the latest—it's not even a month old—and it's probably my favorite of the eight or nine songs they play: really roiling and intense. "Angry Stealing" is about the hilarious habit of an old friend who would work himself into a fit of anger and shoplift books from chain stores like Barnes & Noble. Assuming he was just crazy, the staff never stopped him as he walked out the door with an armful of merchandise. He passed away, but the band wrote the passionate song in memory of him.

After about 45 minutes of practice, Change Versus Comfort don't want to bitch about the scene—the pretentious bands, the less-than-understanding bookers, and the too-cool-for-school hipster fans. They are, surprisingly, the epitome of what a new band should be: friendly, patient, and smart with their choices, but ultimately driven by heart. No matter what happens, fame or otherwise, I'm 100 percent convinced that these dudes really mean it when they say, "We just want to play music."

Thomas, Lee, and Hernandez moved to Seattle from Prescott, Arizona ("imagine South Park—it's a little white-bread mountain town," laughs Hernandez), in the summer of 2004. "We weren't looking to make it, but the idea of living in a city that had a vibrant music scene, just the fact that it had activity—clubs and bands, and papers devoted to covering bands—Seattle just made sense."

They originally performed as Fall Out West, but after a slight lineup change, they had to find themselves a new drummer. (It's always the drummer.) Luckily, a friend introduced them to Hollingsworth, whose precision and deftness rounded out the sound. Their first gig was in October 2005 at T¯oST Lounge in Fremont, and since then, they've played about a dozen shows at venues like the High Dive, the Blue Moon, and the Rendezvous, mostly on weeknights. Unless you're actively searching out the newest and most discreet up-and-coming acts, chances are your radar has missed them. Admittedly, mine did too.

But the band has been purposely taking things slow. "Our goals right now are pretty straight ahead—we're gonna make a record in April, we're gonna promote it locally, and we'd like to do some sort of West Coast tour in the next year or so," says Thomas. "Then we'll continue to play locally and build up here."

"You don't have to be a broke musician your entire life," he continues. "You can treat this as a business and still maintain creativity and integrity, and do it on your own terms."

He cites Tool: "They're incredibly big, they're one of my favorite bands musically, and they've basically done it on their own terms the entire way."

"311 is the same way," says Hernandez, a fan of everything from Elton John to Joanna Newsom to N.W.A.

Lee can't name any favorites. "I'm continually surprised and amazed in my life at how much new and fresh and beautiful music is out there to be discovered every day," he says.

I turn to Hollingsworth, the quietest member of the band, who has been sitting silently on the couch with Buster, one of the most adorable and relaxed dogs in the entire world, and ask him about the musicians he admires.

"I don't have the same tastes as the rest of the guys," he admits with an awkward laugh. In his short-sleeved plaid button-up and jeans, it's hard to pinpoint him one way or another, but I assume he's gonna throw out a name like Death Cab for Cutie or maybe something heavier like These Arms Are Snakes—turns out he likes Stevie Wonder and "old Andy Williams–type stuff."

As for local acts, these guys praise the Fall of Troy. On the other hand, during their practice, they played an impressive cover of Phil Collins's "Easy Lover." On top of everything, Thomas is an accomplished trumpet player, and he and Hernandez play jazz around town. All of the members are students in the world of music—drawing from pieces of anything there is to know. But this doesn't mean Change Versus Comfort is a confused collage of various styles.

"I think as a developing musician it's very important to study the people you're into and find out how they write the music they do, but ultimately, if you're writing your own music, it can be dangerous to keep something else in mind," Thomas says. "We listen to a lot of rock bands, but we're trying to branch out a bit more." - the Stranger


"Tornado With a Halo" -2008 self-released
available directly from the band or at iTunes, Amazon, and Rhapsody.



Change Versus Comfort have been writing and playing in and around Seattle for just under four years now. This time period has seen much growth in the unit, on many fronts. They have sharpened their claws locally and are poised to strike at the great american road and beyond.