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The best kept secret in music



Vocalist-guitarist Jerid Morris claims it’s pronounced “buy-soon”, but he (probably) isn’t serious. That doesn’t even really make grammatical sense (for more on improper umlaut use, see page 31). In fact, Bisön, with song titles such as the AC/DC-reminiscent (in title, if decidedly not in sound) “Rode a Power Chord to Hell,” and “M.” — named for Street Fighter II boss M. Bison — runs serious risk of being dismissed as an exceptionally nerdy novelty act, at least by those who’ve never actually heard them play.

A couple of minutes into their deliberately paced, wordless intro tune, however, you realize this is no joke. The pace picks up toward the end, when Morris’s falsettoed “eeeeeeeh”ing reaches full-on Sigur Rós fury, but it builds from solemn ambience, with each initial chord change allowed the full chime of a funeral bell.

Several short, startling jabs from lead guitarist-keyboardist JC Rodriguez’s tambourine shake the somber vibe, and the audience claps along with “Blood.” Morris’s punk-pitched nasal resonance and uncanny ability to scream in key are made for modern rock radio, and Rodriguez’s sparkling fills on the Fender Rhodes electric piano and David Cantu’s percolating bass line suit the voice. Morris has also mastered the organic disconnect that distinguishes Julian Casablancas’s bargain-bin-baby-monitor delivery, and his disinterest adds an intriguing tension to all the rambling bullshit about challenging Satan to a wrestling match and besting Jesus in Truth or Dare in the aforementioned “Rode a Power Chord.”

And then there’s “M.” “This one’s a hit,” Morris says before they play it. “You should know the words.” And he’s right. Julian Mercado’s driving drum beat is built to be stomped by 40,000 feet in stadium stands, and Morris’s repeated promise to “save my prayers for the ambulance” would sound natural shouted by an audience 100 times the size of the hunched-together Warhol crowd.

Saturday’s show served as a coming-out party for Bisön’s debut EP, Sans Sensation, which the band played in its entirety, and which, following the show, sold more copies than they brought sleeves for. “It’s four songs, and it sounds better than any other band’s CD,” Morris said, and he doesn’t sound like he’s kidding. The rest of his sales pitch is probably a joke, though. “It’s vegan,” he adds. “There’s no animal fat in the ink, but it comes with herpes. I have pink eye, if anyone wants to make out after the show.”
- San Antonio Current

"Herd That"

For SA’s music scene, redemption will always reside in the heart of its — pulsating, albeit petite — resilient core. New permutations of disbanded bands are constantly cutting and pasting members, customizing and cannibalizing their sounds to create something new from the old. Enter Bisön (don’t let the umlaut confuse you — it’s still pronounced bi-s?n), comprising three guys who’ve been around and one fresh-faced wunderkind who’s just getting started. They’ll be joining Casetta, Montauk, Westbound Departure, and another new patchwork formation, In Beds (former members of Make Your Own Maps and Crotch on Fire with new addition and ’09 defector Jonathan Dealy) on Friday, December 19, at Rock Bottom.

Bisön was spawned about six months ago from an idea for a rock opera, a collaboration between former Wholesale Piracy guitarist JC Rodriguez, Muldoon/Great Northern Guns vet Jerid Morris and Reader bassist David Cantu. “I had a plan for a 17-track record that was going to go along with it,” Morris says. Not completely please with the final product, they shelved the opera idea, and instead asked Julian Mercado, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, to play drums for a more traditional ensemble.

How did Mercado get involved with these older scene mainstays? When he was five, Mercado’s parents gifted him a black Pearl junior drum kit and lessons with Bobby Jarzombek— a local drummer who’s worked with Rob Halford and Sebastian. After an introduction to fusion jazz, he became the lead drummer for his school’s jazz ensemble and then the head of the drum line. He’s also the younger brother of former Muldoon (and current Sohns) drummer Lawrence Mercado.

Drawing on their varying musical experiences and looking to the Promise Ring and Spoon — more for their workmanlike pragmatism than specific sonic influence — Bisön has streamlined their approach to achieve a mature sound. Bisön’s songs are spacey ruminations on fate, chuckling at the things we see, hate, and sometimes become. Morris’s guileless, poppy songwriting works well with Rodriguez’s experimental mindfuckery, and Cantu’s malleability provides a flexible pulse for Mercado’s polished, ardent drum work.

“Nobody writes like me, good or bad,” says Morris. “I want to write serious shit with a tongue-in-cheek aspect that’s not droll and annoyingly preachy.”

Morris continues to cultivate Bisön’s effective, emotive songwriting that’s steeped in Rodriguez’s clandestinely complex timing — a compromise that often favors instrumental minimalism over buried vocals.

“I’m making much more of an effort to have quiet parts in the songs where the lyrics are fully audible,” Morris says. “ I think there’s an inherent dynamic when people are willing to not play, since we aren’t just looking for that next hook.”

Mercado agrees. “I try to play what comes naturally and wait for my time. I don’t want to cover up anything another member of the band could make better.”

For Rodriguez’s part, Bisön represents a shift away from his previous high-energy apoplectic musical style. “I was trying to calm down and stop jumping like a monkey,” he laughs. “Now, I feel comfortable shaking the tambourine for a verse, and I’m OK with playing close to nothing, or very simple things just to make the song sound good.”

The boys are currently wrapping up recording their debut EP, Sans Sensation, with producer Glory Morris, Jerid Morris’s brother — with whom Jerid has worked on every project he’s completed — and engineer Barrett Walton in Austin at the Wonder Chamber, a private studio owned by producer Brian Beattie (whose discography includes the Dead Milkmen, Daniel Johnston, Okkervil River, and Smog).

Diverging somewhat from the dense, high-minded lyrical meat of Bisön’s past iterations, Sans Sensation balances the heady moments with some lighthearted, purely tactile stuff. Radiating nuances of Braid, the ephemeral-though-pivotal Desaparecidos, and slight sprinkles of early Dianogah, the tunes also emphasize Mercado’s jazz-rock background, as elements of Sandoval, Dennis Chambers, and John Bonham pervade his drumming style.

“M,” “the better song” according to Morris, stretches across the contracting landscape it constructs in dithering three-quarter time, illuminating the proficiencies that form Bisön’s mass, all in the name of … who? That’s right — Street Fighter II heavy M. Bison. In the careening “Rode a Power Chord To Hell,” the boys imbue the premise of the Charlie Daniels Band’s only real hit with a slightly more scathing take on bartering one’s soul. Burrowing into the dueling impulses of naïveté and gall that drive us to accept empty promises, the track triumphs through the sheer force of rock and ultimately exploits the bargain’s loopholes to bamboozle both the Evil One and the father-son team upstairs for a good laugh. Riff-driven “In a Minute” is a jam session confection that’s quite possibly the only song Bisön has written as a unit, as opposed to the usual Rodriguez or Morris’s solo-penned efforts. But the inherent binary opposition between the band’s primary songwriters drives “Really Rocked,” which complains of the “DJ teens littering the scene” hastily producing imitative tracks in a mad dash to become the moment’s next big thing.

Though the band has “changed so much just in the few months since we’ve been playing together,” says Morris, “It’s still the same focus, and we’re still going to the same place with it.” Bisön is simultaneously both a departure from the types of music its members have played in the past and a culmination of their combined playing styles. The balancing act makes for some great music, but maintaining it is difficult.

“It’s a little bit between giving up and gasping for air,” says Rodriguez - San Antonio Current

""Adventure" review"

Attention local bands: want to learn what good song writing sounds like? Then do yourself and everyone else a favor and listen to Stegosaur. Adventure, the follow up to the equally great Sans Sensation EP, is a three song 7" that honestly doesn't have a bad track on it. Opening song "A Headache" at just over a minute and thirty seconds sees the band quickly deliver a full out rock climax. The kind that makes you want to punch someone in the face (in the nicest way possible), chug a beer and sing/scream along with at the top of your lungs. Next up is "Big Breath", the catchiest and most "single" worthy song out of the three. It's the type of song that makes your body automatically tap your foot along with to the beat. And when the Glockenspiel (one of my favorite words) kicks in you can't help but smile inside. Closing out the 7" is "Blood", my personal favorite of the three. The opening mixture of Rhodes and hand claps in the song is so catchy that if I listened to this song while driving I would most likely clap myself off the road. And when you’re not busy clapping along, you're brought once again to the point of singing/screaming with your beer raised high. Adventure is a 7" not to be missed and don't worry if you don't own a record player it comes packed with a CD version as well. But please remember if you decide to drive and listen to Adventure, keep both hands on the wheel when "Blood" comes on. - Backbeat Magazine


Sans Sensation (4 song e.p. 2009)
Adventure (7 inch record 2009)



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