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The best kept secret in music


"It Was Really Hott"

Breaking attendance and beers-sold records each successive night, Hottfest proved exactly how deep the musical talent runs in Knoxville. Each band seemed to kick their proficiency and personality up a notch to show their worthiness of being in such talented company.
Each night began at amazingly humane hours—9:15 p.m. Thursday, and by 8:20 p.m. on Friday and Saturday—and only fell 15 minutes behind schedule at any point due to the lightning-fast stage crew led by Tim Lee and festival organizer and Independent Recorders engineer Don Coffey Jr. Bands shared amps and monitors and a glittery orange Huston drum kit to ease the transition on and off the modestly sized Corner Lounge stage.
Crowds peaked at the expected hours, but no band played to an empty club, and ticket sales at the door indicated that even as some were leaving, others just kept coming in. On Thursday night, former Guided by Voices guitarist Doug Gillard performed his GBV hit “I Am a Tree” to a rapt crowd after sets by Mic Harrison and the Tim Lee Band filled the room to a capacity never before experienced by the Corner Lounge crew.
Several bands unveiled songs from forthcoming albums recorded or mixed by Coffey, who physically coaxed hesitant fans to stand closer to the stage to observe the surreal mind-meld undertaken by the Rockwells during their set on Friday.
On Saturday, Bennett Hirschhorn’s brainchild Sci-Fi Lovestory made its live debut with Tim Lee on guitar, Senryu’s Wil Wright on rhythm, Susan Lee on bass, Coffey on drums. Hirschhorn occasionally slapped some chords on a keyboard, but mostly he threw himself across the stage striking rock poses. His physical enthusiasm was matched by a fan wearing a beige suit and a huge straw cowboy hat who stood stage-side and encouraged each band with whoops and vivacious strutting.
A stripped-down lineup of Senryu featuring bassist Emory Barnett filling in for absent drummer Steven Rodgers, Wright on guitar and Lori Maxwell on keyboards introduced several new songs that flash with wink-wink humor and danceworthy beats. The Westside Daredevils continued its evolution from tight, three-minute pop songs to elongated miniature rock operas, stirring much anticipation of the band’s new disc.
After 15-plus hours of music, ears were ringing, heads were pounding, and it was impossible to recall every moment worth remembering. But the grogginess was completely worth the pleasure of seeing so many great bands share one stage and experiencing just a slice of the scads of talent saturating our music scene.

- The Metropulse

"Local Talent in "A Bath of Broken Glass""

On Thursday, Senryu played at Patrick Sullivans in Knoxville. But if you missed this full out show, you can still catch the band playing acoustic at the Disc Exchange Saturday.


Of course, you might even be wondering who this band called Senryu is. This local talent has recently released its sophomore album, "A Bath of Broken Glass." Wil Wright, Seth Barber and Steven Rogers have produced a stew of unusual melodies.

It's difficult to describe just what sound the band carries. There are a lot of sappy but somehow genuine lyrics. "The Morning After" track probably stands out the most of all the songs on the album. It's filled with intense emotions.

That's not to say the other songs are lacking in musical or lyrical expression. The album's melodic sounds draw you in with its overall relaxed rock. In "A Bath of Broken Glass," the Senryu combines conflicting sounds and produces a pure, original sound of its own.

The album is even a polished piece for the most part. It has very good quality for being an independent release, and overall the album is a strong effort.

The band will be playing at the east Knoxville location of the Disc Exchange at 5 p.m. on Saturday. If you like what you hear, the new album is available at both Disc Exchange locations in Knoxville.

-Ashley Smith - The Oak Ridger

"Senryu primed to explode"

Somebody get Wil Wright some Ritalin. The boy apparently needs it.

Wright, one of the founding members, singers and guitarists with the local experimental pop-rock band Senryu, has more irons in the fire than most musicians twice his age. He's so busy he's still wondering what happened to 2004, and it doesn't appear he'll get a break any time soon.

All that productivity and creativity makes Wright the local music scene's answer to Mark Kozelek, the prolific songwriter who's juggled occasional acting gigs alongside a tribute album to John Denver, a solo career and two bands, Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon.

``None of it even really feels like it's happened yet,'' Wright told The Daily Times this week, looking back at his long list of 2004 accomplishments. ``It's like I'm still waiting for it to happen. But in a way, that's how life is -- you seem to always be waiting to walk across that threshold to whatever happens next. For me, it all stays pretty surreal.''

Since the beginning of 2004, Wright has toured in support of Senryu's full-length album ``Bath of Broken Glass''; signed with local label Disgraceland Records; endured not one but two lineup changes; recorded with local producer and Superdrag alumnus Don Coffey Jr.; released an EP with Senryu of songs he wrote with his sister as a child, titled ``Down with the Sugarpills''; recorded a solo album (titled ``Easy Go'' and tentatively scheduled for release in March or April); toured solo and with Senryu; recorded the bulk of a forthcoming Senryu full-length with Coffey; and played two shows in two hours at a recent tsunami benefit held in the Old City.

But Wright is quick to caution that he doesn't want to boast. In fact, he's about as humble a musician as you're likely to meet, an indication that he's open to different ideas yet driven by a quiet commitment to do what he loves. It's what's kept Senryu going for so long, earning the band comparisons to such diverse artists as The Cure, Jeff Buckley, The Smashing Pumpkins, Interpol and The Smiths. The band first formed in 2001, out of the ashes of another group called Roof, and Wright hooked up with keyboardist Steven Rodgers and drummer Seth Barber to form the backbone of Senryu.

It was Seth's departure after a tour supporting ``Bath'' that precipitated a new phase of Senryu's existence.

``Seth made the decision to finish his degree, and it turned out really nice, because it wasn't a decision made with a lot of turmoil,'' Wright said. ``He'd just reached the end of what he could do. So we did a little tour of our favorite places to play together, and Seth left the band. Steven moved from keyboards to drums, and we hired some new people.''

The new lineup fell together seamlessly, and the band jumped into the studio to record ``Sugarpills'' with Coffey. It was the first new Senryu material since the band had signed with Disgraceland Records, started by Todd Steed of Smokin' Dave and the Premo Dopes and Paul Noe of The Judybats. The label re-released ``Bath of Broken Glass,'' and in order to get new Senryu material out there, Wright turned to his childhood imagination.

``My sister and I grew up in that nether-void between Knoxville and Nashville, in the mountains, so we didn't really have neighbors,'' Wright said. ``In fact, there's not really much there at all, so it was sort of a situation of entertain yourself or don't be entertained at all. And at the time, we thought the perfect name for a fake band would be the Sugarpills.

``Over time, my sister and I accumulated this short catalogue of really funny, surreal pop songs, and I thought it would be nice to document that. I've obviously moved on and have a pretty strong rock ensemble to do those songs with, so we orchestrated them out and recorded them, and they turned out a million times better than I thought it would. It's a real sing-along album.''

Wright at first thought the record would be for his own amusement, something Senryu fans would pass by. Instead, the band has sold out of Sugarpills once and had to go back for a second pressing. In touring to support ``Sugarpills,'' however, the band lost its keyboardist and bass player.

``This was the first real band they had been in, and they sort of ran out of energy pretty quick,'' Wright said. ``As it turned out, our new guitarist was actually much better on the bass, so we took on a new girl on keyboards, and this new lineup has been much, much stronger. Everyone seems to be on a better level as to how much they can contribute, and I do ask a lot.

``The good thing is, with all these people leaving the band, it's always on really, really good terms, and with the members who have left, it turns out to be an extended network, like a family.''

In the meantime, the new lineup has gone back to the studio, working on hammering out a new album from the 30-plus songs Wright wrote last year.

``I don't know where the time came from to do all of that -- probably from skipping meals,'' he said.

After meeting with Coffey, each band member expressed an opinion about the direction of the new album. The ideas were often diametrically opposed to each other, and it fell to Wright to make the final decision. The end result, however, is a project still in the works that may surprise everyone.

``Everyone had a completely different idea of what the album should be, and we were all really passionate,'' he said. ``But even though everyone was really steadfast in their passion about the material, it was a very mature discussion. I let them all hack it out and decide on it as much as they could, and the three people who were in the band besides me came to some common ground on four songs, and I went ahead and convinced them of the rest.

``I tried to pull from everyone's list. And the album as it stands is a really schizophrenic mix of sounds, but despite the fact we do all these genre experimentations, Don has put it together in a way that I think is going to work and in a way will be easy to listen to. I didn't think, going into the studio, it would come out like this, but I think this is definitely our darkest record -- but it's also fast and danceable.''

Right now, the new album is untitled, but the project is being called ``Never Hesitate,'' Wright added.

``That's the theme that seems to keep coming up, sort of a time-is-running-out theme,'' he said. ``To say it like that makes it seem kind of hopeless, but it's really an excited, aggressive album with really dark themes.''

- The Maryville Daily Times


Lori Maxwell had played a few shows as the most recent member of Senryu, but nothing could compare her for the Jan. 26 tsunami benefit in the Old City. The first time she stepped on stage as Senryu’s new keyboard player was last October at Old City Java. Thanks to the support of fellow band members Wil Wright (also her boyfriend), Steve Rodgers (not to be confused with Captain America’s alter-ego) and Emory Barnett, as well as a bunch of familiar faces in the audience, she didn’t vomit. But she felt like it.

“It was really nerve-wracking, and while I was getting ready for the show, I was so nervous I started to get sick to my stomach,” Maxwell told Knox Bands this week. “We’d kind of kept it a secret I was in the band until that night, and when I got there, I knew some of the people who came, and when they found out I was part of the band, they were really excited.

“They made me feel a lot more comfortable, and Wil and Emory and Steve kept looking at me and smiling, making sure I was doing OK.”
But the tsunami benefit was a different sort of performance altogether. Wright wrapped up a solo set at Java before making the short jaunt up to Blue Cat’s, where Senryu was going on after the Gypsy Hands Belly Dancers, with his bandmates.
“We were the first band to play, and because it was a Wednesday night and it was early, we thought there wouldn’t be a big crowd there,” Maxwell said. “When we walked around the corner, there was a line around the building, and all of us were dumbfounded.

“Now that was really nerve-wracking for me, because it was biggest show I’ve played, and there were so many people I knew there that hadn’t seen me play yet. It was horrible at first, but I kind of thought it was my chance to prove myself, and it turned out great.”

At first glance, the pairing might seem suspicious — after all, Senryu fans know that Maxwell and Wright are a couple. But the two try to put their relationship aside when it comes to the band, which they both see as the greater good, she said. “That was a big, big factor in deciding whether or not I was going to be in the band, because I realize how important this band is to so many people, and I didn’t want to mess anything up,” she said. “Wil and I talked about it, and I sat down with Emory and Steve and said, ‘I’m not trying to take over his life; I’m not trying to pull a Yoko Ono.’

“I think we do a really good job of keeping it separate. He’s really serious about his music, and the really important thing, I think with us, is that we were friends first. Ultimately, that’s what we are, and we both love this band so much, I don’t think either of us would jeopardize it in any way.”

Maxwell’s inclusion in the band solidifies a revolving lineup that’s changed more than the sheets on a bunk bed at the back of Warrant’s tour bus circa 1990. Rodgers and Wright, however, have remained constants, keeping Senryu near the top of the Knox rock heap and crafting a sound that’s earned comparisons to such diverse artists as The Cure, Jeff Buckley, The Smashing Pumpkins, Interpol and The Smiths.

The band first formed in 2001, out of the ashes of another group called Roof, and Wright hooked up with keyboardist Steven Rodgers and drummer Seth Barber to form the backbone of Senryu. After the full-length “Stars and Garters,” the band went from a quintet to a three-piece, and following the full-length “Bath of Broken Glass,” Barber opted to leave and finish his degree.

Another lineup followed, and the band hit the studio to record with Independent Recorders (and Superdrag alumnus) owner Don Coffey Jr. The project was last year’s “Down with the Sugarpills” EP, an album of songs Wright had written with his sister when the two were kids.

It was the first new Senryu material since the band had signed with Disgraceland Records, started by Todd Steed of Smokin’ Dave and the Premo Dopes and Paul Noe of The Judybats. The label re-released “Bath of Broken Glass,” and in order to get new Senryu material out there, Wright turned to his childhood imagination.

The EP was a success — Senryu has sold out of “Sugarpills” at least once — but in touring to support “Sugarpills,” however, the band lost its keyboardist and bass player. That’s where Barnett and Maxwell came on board.
“I’ve been friends with them forever, way before I ever thought about joining,” said Maxwell, who came to Knoxville from Cleveland, Tenn., in January 2004 to attend the University of Tennessee. “I’d go to practices and shows, and I kind of knew the songs, so after they lost their keyboard player, I offered to fill in.
“It started out as a temporary thing, because I didn’t want them to be without a keyboard player, and it just ended up working out. I don’t want to say it was easy, but because we were friends, it was really helpful. They taught me everything I needed to know.”

Ironically, Maxwell’s only previous musical experience had been in her high school choir. Rodgers, a classically trained musician, educated her about chords and scales, and trial-and-error helped her learn tempos and placement.
But the band has already started working on its next album, also with Coffey, and the baptism by fire in front of a live audience has turned into a studio test for Maxwell as well.

“When we were in the studio last weekend, everybody did their tracks before I did, so all the tracks except vocals were done before I started,” she said. “I was really, really nervous, because they’re all really good at it and they’ve done it before. I knew I was going to mess up a thousand times, but Don was great. he told me, ‘Relax — you’ve played these parts in practice a million times, so just do it, and if you mess up, we can fix it.’ “It turned out really great, and I had a fun time. Now, I can’t stop listening to the unmixed versions, because it’s really unbelievable to know, ‘Hey, that’s me!’”

Wright has described the new album as Senryu’s darkest record to date and “a really schizophrenic mix of sounds ... really an excited, aggressive album with really dark themes.” The working title right now is “Never Hesitate.”
Which makes sense, given Maxwell’s inclusion in Senryu and the band’s leap of faith in her potential

"Senryu with J. Roddy Walston and the Business at Heather's Hideaway"

Johnson City’s beloved rock’n’roll dive, Heather’s Hideaway, offers something a little bit different from the seemingly endless deluge of emo and metalcore on Sunday, June 26. Purveyors of lovingly skewed pop, Senryu, will be joined by the blues infused decadence of J. Roddy Walston & The Business for the Sunday night show.

Fast becoming favorites of Knoxville’s fabled indie rock scene, Senryu mixes classic pop harmonies with jagged shards of guitar to great effect. Sounding something like an unholy coupling of The Zombies, Brian Wilson, The Pixies and Jeff Buckley, the band breathes fresh air into the stale atmosphere of underground rock. While the group’s jangly guitars and seamless harmonies sound sunny enough at first, the sugar coated gloss of California pop belies a subtext of dread that’s difficult to pinpoint.

Senryu’s latest opus, the forebodingly titled Down With The Sugarpills (Disgraceland Records) finds the band at peak artistry and is well worth seeking out at their label’s website, I haven’t quite figured out exactly what the band is getting at as of yet, but the ensuing repeated listens will be well worth the effort. Perhaps paradox is the band’s reason de etree. Senryu is set to release andther album, Psst, in September. Needless to say, I, for one, will be anxiously awaiting this release.

J. Roddy Walston & The Business offer a slightly different take on the usual misadventure of rock’n’roll. Walston’s guttural vocals are sometimes reminiscent of Tom Waits or Dr. John. Coupled with the band’s classic Big Star/Badfinger sound, the dichotomy of the blues’ bestial wail and melodic pop/rock is a bit jarring. Of course, the band’s internal musical struggle provides the friction that makes their sonic output so intriguing.

Touring together, Senryu and J. Roddy Walston & The Business are covering most of the southeast and east coast. Their Johnson City stop will bring area music gourmands some new flavors to sink their teeth into – pop/rock literature that is an excellent counterpoint to the smarmy, Harlequin Romance of emo and the "Tales From The Crypt," comic horror of metal.

-John Sewell



Pink Ice Revolution- 2003
Down With the Sugarpills- 2004


Stars and Garters- 2001
A Bath of Broken Glass- 2003
Psst- September 2005


Feeling a bit camera shy


Trying to pin down Senryu's specific sound is about as easy as stapling jello to a tree. Senryu exhibits a spectrum of influences that range from high-octane dancable rock and roll to Vaudeville, but somehow combines them all into a fresh, unfamiliar sound.

Senryu has been compared to many bands. The vocals have been compared to Rufus Wainwright and Billy Corgan. The music has been compared to Oingo Boingo and a mixture of the Jellyfish with 'Gish" era Smashing Pumpkins.

Knoxville, Tennessee's Senryu has spent the last year under the wings of Superdrag drummer Don Coffey, Jr and re-emerged as one of the most promising up-and-coming pop/rock acts in the North American circuit. Senryu, along with Coffey, are preparing for the September 2005 release of the band's latest Lp 'Psst'. The new ten song release is one that Tim Lee (The Windbreakers) calls "a rarely found fully realized piece of art".