Super XX Man
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Super XX Man

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It’s a pretty rare thing for a Super XX Man song to start with guitar feedback, but that’s just what this upbeat singalong from Super XX Man’s brand new album, Vol. XI: A Better Place, does. It breaks from leadman Scott Garred’s penchant for mostly acoustic lullabies, bringing in a momentously repetitive piano right off the bat and stringing a meandering, whiny guitar through the whole song. This track’s musical vitality is only rivaled by the sincerity of its lyrics and the poignacy of Garred’s repeated claim, “I am with you,” which is softly, gorgeously echoed by drummer Alison Wesley.

The once-four-piece band is now a trio (guitarist Zach Boyle departed to work on solo material and play with another similarly mellow P-town indie-folk project called A Weather), but Vol. XI successfully moves Garred’s songwriting to the next level despite the loss. I can’t help but speculate that Garred’s growth, evident in this track’s carefully arranged layers of sound, thoughtful delivery and beautiful vocal interplay, has everything to do with his newborn son.

As the band’s new press photos attest (Garred is pictured above with his pianist/accordionist wife, Michelle, and their son, Cy), this is an undeniably cute family affair. But Garred tackles subjects that could come off hokey (brainstorming baby names) with such gentle earnestness and warm honesty that, damn it, you just can’t help but love this band and all the warm fuzzies (apparently including a family line of winter hats!) that come along with it. - Local Cut - Willamette Week




[March 22nd, 2006] The streets of Austin during South by Southwest look like they've been overrun with Hyde look-alikes from That '70s Show. Twentysomethings with intentionally greasy hair and oversized shades line the streets looking for—or trying to be—the next big thing. Then there's Scott Garred. Though Garred's been around the music block more than a few times—as singer-guitarist for former Austin favorite Silver Scooter and as the core of Portland's Super XX Man—you'd never guess it by his humble demeanor and elementary-school teacher looks.

He's down in Austin for the annual music industry festival with Super XX Man, the current band he shares with guitarist Zach Boyle, accordion player and wife Michelle Garred, and flutist-drummer-vocalist Ali Wesly. Since Michelle is, as Scott put it, "mega preggers" (due in May), Scott has recruited two past members of Silver Scooter—bassist Shawn Camp and drummer Tom Hudson—to help him out in Austin. I joined this resurrected combo of Silver Scooter and Super XX Man, one of 18 Portland acts amid the 1,300-plus bands playing SXSW's 20th birthday. What I found amid a sea of music-industry shmoozing and hipster posturing was a reunion of musicians, friends and fans centered on one binding force: Scott Garred's songs.

THURSDAY, March 16, 4 pm, Super XX Man practice at Music Lab studios

Scott, Zach, Shawn and Tom—who've known each other for 15-plus years—are about dive into a three-hour crash-course practice session intended to whip them into shape for the three shows they've got lined up over the next two days. From the offset, it's clear that Garred—who's wearing a severely faded Hush Records T-shirt—is not used to singing with a full, electric band, and it takes a few songs for his vocals to adjust. There is a friendly tension, a definite push and pull between players who want to rock and a singer whose subtlety is often his strength. When the band takes a crack at "You Dream Fast"—a upbeat pop tune with a contagious, reeling chorus—Tom asks, "All right if I use [drum] sticks on this one?"

THURSDAY, 10:30 pm, the Long Winters at the Parish II

After post-practice enchiladas and a few margaritas, Zach and I both end up at the Long Winters show, where singer-guitarist John Roderick is sporting long hair, a mustache and orange-ish glasses—again, that sort of '70s indie-rock pedophile look. When told the PA isn't loud enough for the audience, the Seattle musician quips, "We leave those down so you can hear yourselves talk shop about the music industry."

THURSDAY, 11:30 pm, the Twilight Singers at Friends

In line for the Twilight Singers, Zach and I are told we will not be getting in despite our media/band badges. Zach heads back to the Parish, but I stick it out and eventually make it inside. Leadman Greg Dulli instructs the club to turn the lights down before playing "Martin Eden." When he sings, "You know how I love stormy weather," the digital camera flashes against the dark stage eerily mimic a lightning storm, which alone makes the wait so worth it.


FRIDAY, March 17, 1 pm, Super XX Man, Peek-A-Boo Records Day Party at Bella Blue Boutique

It's a cool, breezy afternoon, and the free beer is a-flowin'. Scott and Zach warm up (they're playing first on their own) as photojournalist Kelly West tells me her Silver Scooter story. "They were my favorite band in college," she explains. As a student photographer for the University of Texas' Daily Texan, she was determined to shoot one of their shows. Once she did, it led to her touring cross-country with the band in 2001. We pipe down as Scott covers the Roger Miller tune "Where Have All the Average People Gone?" He holds his ukulele high near the microphone and strums thoughtfully, eyes closed and a twisted smile on his face. When he's finished, he lightheartedly plugs Super XX Man's upcoming 10th release, X, as the band's "greatest hits re-recorded." The album is a collection of songs spanning Super XX Man's oeuvre, re-envisioned by the current lineup and sporting a cute portrait of the band by Hush Records founder Chad Crouch on the cover.

SATURDAY, March 18, 1 am, Centro-matic, Misra Showcase at Maggie Mae's

Zach claims that SXSW is special because "the bands aren't just on tour playing for the crowd; they're playing for their peers, too." During Centro-matic's set, I notice Long Winters bassist Eric Corson rockin' to my left, Okkervil River drummer Travis Nelsen head-bobbing to my right and David Bazan (Pedro the Lion) dropping a beer off for Centro's keyboardist, Scott Danborn. The Denton, Texas, players drive Zach's point home by playing every single song like it's their last.

SATURDAY, 11 pm, Super XX Man at Molotov

This is it: Super XX Man's last show at this year's SXSW. The bar is slick—it has those icy strips that keep your drink cold—and vast, but among the crowd are the warm, familiar faces of a friend from Tokyo who housed Silver Scooter on tour once, Peek-A-Boo peeps, ex-Silver Scooter members and girlfriends. Unlike the Peek-A-Boo day party, though, the chatty bar doesn't accommodate Garred's solo lullabies like "Up, Up, Up" very well. When Super XX Man employs its full-band capabilities on the rollicking chorus of "You Dream Fast," the dramatic build of "Hey Louise" or "Steamboat Jean," it's clear why Garred enjoys coming back to Austin: It's damn fun.

SATURDAY, 1:15 am, late-night grub at Magnolia Cafe

In between bites of yet another enchilada, Scott says, "I've done SXSW a lot, and it's never as good as it was this week." He relays a story about playing an Irish pub once on St. Patrick's Day: "Playing a ukulele over a crowd of people drinking green beer is really hard to do." I ask Zach to describe Scott in three words. He says, "Genuine, sincere and loving." Scott's thoughtful for a moment, then says, "I'm the quality of the people I surround myself with." And he is. - Willamette Week




[April 26th, 2006] I've consumed an awful lot of Mexican food with Super XX Man's Scott Garred, which has a lot to do with spending three music-packed days with him in Austin during annual music festival South by Southwest (see "Super Double SXSW Man," WW, March 22, 2006). Just one of the festival's 1,300 bands, Garred's Portland-based folk-pop group stood out to me for one simple reason: The man can write songs. After our Austin trip, I began to understand the inspiration behind those songs: good company.

Over enchiladas on our last night in Austin, Garred told me, "I'm the quality of the people I surround myself with." In Portland, that group consists of his wife and accordion player/pianist, Michelle, longtime friend and guitarist Zach Boyle, and the band's heavenly voiced flutist/drummer, Ali Wesley. On Friday, Super XX Man will celebrate the release of its 10th album, X, a collection of songs Garred has written over the past decade. But this collection is more than a retrospective, it's a reimagining.

Take X's version of Garred's seemingly lighthearted personal anthem, "Usual Way." The original, from 2004's My Usual Way, has a nice, shuffling beat and lo-fi sound, but, played with the careful consideration of his current band, a new depth is revealed. When the song breaks to reveal only Garred singing over Michelle's drawn-out, eerie accordion, the quietest part of the song—a biting order: "Don't doubt my faith/ Don't doubt my savior/ My grace/ Don't doubt my outcome...my outlook...my place/ In this life"—easily becomes its loudest. It's this respect for Garred's songwriting that makes the songs on X special: If love had a sound, this would be it.

Opening track "Collecting Rocks" (from Collecting Rocks, 2003) is a strolling conversation between lifelong partners. The refrain, "Oh, my darlin', darlin', darlin'" is repeated in Garred's reedy, earnest voice until Wesley chimes in, singing, "Remember, boy, they're heavy," in an angelic, knowing tone. All the while Boyle plays a bubbling, fluid guitar part that mirrors the ebb and flow of waves crashing on the beach.

Self-released in '95 on a cassette titled Vol. I, "I Can't Figure Out These Bottle Caps (I'm a Lonely Guy)"—inspired in part by Texas' Pearl beer and a Steve Martin movie—features finger-picked acoustic guitar dancing around lyrics of disenchantment. Yet Garred sounds as if he's smiling on the "Yeah, yeah, yeahs," showing the understated hope present in all his songs.

"Garage Apartment," from '01's Vol. V, displays Garred's ability to combine deep melancholy with a sense of humor. First he begs, "I need another chance/ I want another chance/ To be with you" for a whole minute and a half over Boyle's haunting guitar. But though the song depicts "a lonely way to live," you can't help but smile when Garred repeats the phone number from the "For Rent" sign as not to forget it.

Perhaps the crowning jewel of X, though, is Garred's reworking of "Amazing Grace," simply titled "Grace," from My Usual Way. Wesley and Garred softly sing of music's ability to encompass your whole body: "Lies around my earlobes/ Lies around my ankles," while Boyle's guitar whines in the background and Michelle—who will be eight months pregnant at the band's CD-release show—sprinkles piano all around. The effect is hypnotic and achieves exactly what "Grace" praises—the way a song can take hold of your heart, just as Garred's do. And that's why I keep returning to them, because sometimes all you can do is follow your heart. - Willamette Week


Discography

Discography
Albums
• Volume I cassette (self-released, 1995)
• Volume II cassette (self-released, 1996)
• Volume I & II CD (self-released, 1999)
• Volume IV CD (Peek-A-Boo Records, 2000)
• Volume V CD (Post Parlo, 2001)
• Volume VI: Collecting Rocks CD (Lelp Recordings, 2003)
• Volume VII: My Usual Way CD (Lelp Recordings, 2004)
• Volume VIII: It's a Super XX Man Pizza CD (self-released, 2005)
• Volume X CD (Hush Records, 2006)
• Volume XI A Better Place CD (Hush Records, 2006)
• Volume XII There'll Be Diamonds CD (Tender Loving Empire, 2008)

Singles & EPs
• Volume III 7" EP (Peek-A-Boo Records, 1997)
• Super XX Man & Eric Metronome Home CD (Post Parlo, 2000)
• Volume IX CD EP (self-released, 2005)
• Medication CD EP (Tender Loving Empire, 2008)

Compliations
• From the Bullpen CD (Hey Buddy, 1997)
• Comp-Comp cass (Tape-Tape, 1998)
• The Peek-A-Boo Book of Spells LP (Peek-A-Boo Records, 2001)

Photos

Bio

Tender Loving Empire is pleased to announce that it released the new album by Portland's Super XX Man – Volume XII: There'll Be Diamonds – in fall of 2008.

A marked shift from the gentle folk-pop sound that fans throughout the Northwest have become intimately familiar with Volume XII is, according to singer/songwriter Scott Garred, Super XX Man's "most sonically ambitious album to date."

The new album features thirteen songs "chronicling the lives of persons with mental illness," says Garred, a subject he knows firsthand through his work as a music therapist at the oldest psychiatric institution in his home state, the Oregon State Hospital.

Songs like "Medication" (the lead single from the album), "Little Leaf" and "Crazy People" showcase the world that Garred inhabits on a daily basis, one that he says has "expanded into the substance abusing, schizophrenic drifting world of the mentally ill."

Volume XII: There'll Be Diamonds will be released this fall and will be preceded in the summer by the album's first single, "Medication". The single will also feature a remix and a non-album track.

Garred has been releasing music under the name Super XX Man (pronounced "super double ex man") for 12 years on such reputable labels as Post-Parlo (Bright Eyes, Ben Gibbard), Peek-A-Boo (Spoon, Junior Varsity) and Hush (The Decemberists, Norfolk & Western).

His last two albums, Volume X: Collecting Rocks and Volume XI: A Better Place (both on Hush), have garnered Super XX Man some of their best reviews to date, including kudos from Amy McCullough of Willamette Week ("If love had a sound, this would be it.") and Bob Boilen, the host of NPR's All Songs Considered ("If we're going to choose ten songs every week, let it be Super XX Man.").