The Minus Scale
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The Minus Scale

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The Minus Scale, like so many bands in the current musical ecosystem, is hoping not to be pigeonholed. They have crunching guitars and fast drums, but they aren’t necessarily punk. They aren’t pop, but damn do they have catchy, instantly familiar melodies and tight harmonies. They aren’t neo pop-punk, but they rock dueling guitar solos.

They prefer to be known as “post-irony” according to AJ Tobey (guitar, vocals). It’s a fitting genre for a band that plays sincere, straightforward music. “Basically, we are a group of guys who miss great, simple rock songs,” Tobey says.

The Minus Scale came out of the gate with guns blazing on “The Trouble With Normal,” an album with all the youthful energy of Sum 41 and pop sensibility of Fountains of Wayne. They’ve been building their sound on the road and now have four full-fledged tours under their belt, the most recent of which lasted just under a month. But they’ve also gone through some changes of late, recently adding Padraig Murphy (keys, vocals) and Pat Griffin (drums) to the lineup of Ryan Levasseur (vocals, guitar) and Mark Tobey (bass). “With the addition of the two new members, we are tighter, better, and having more fun than ever before,” Tobey says. They plan to release more demos in the near future with the stage set for a full-length album in 2006. - The Wire (11.9.05)


A pushing, moving mass of head-bopping fans develops at the front of the stage at Minus Scale shows, singing every word. Bassist Derek Archambault and frontman Ryan Levassuer are screaming into the same microphone, while guitarist AJ Tobey hunches over his guitar, his back to the audience. Drummer Pat Griffin’s sticks come from fully extended arms above the drums for every hit, and keyboardist Padraig Murphy’s forehead is only an inch or two above the keyboard he’s abusing.

Exeter’s The Minus Scale might be your favorite band. Or perhaps they are the guilty pleasure you don’t talk about with your indie rock snob friends. If you’re one of those few left on the Seacoast who hasn’t heard of them before, that’s sure to be remedied soon.

Each song in the band’s catalog of three-minute bliss sessions, with a sound reminiscent of “The Get Up Kids” and “The Anniversary,” is crafted to outdo itself.

Recently the band recorded a new four-song EP titled “For Lack of Lights,” and with new members Archambault (of Alcoa fame) and Griffin, they are out to let people know about it.

“We promote the band by giving away the music,” says 24-year-old guitarist/singer Ryan Levasseur, who grew up in Somersworth. “They’ll hopefully come to a show, buy a T-shirt, and tell their friends to come to the next show.”

The band opted to post the songs from their new EP up on their purevolume.com site for their fans to download for free, rather than print a run of CDs. PureVolume, much like MySpace, is one of the free music sites of choice for up-and-coming indie bands.

“We’re good at selling T-shirts,” says Tobey, 25. “They’re cheap to make, we get our money back, and we make money from venues when we play. Pressing a record could only hurt us.”

Then PureVolume chose The Minus Scale a few weeks ago to be a “Pure Pick,” one of several bands featured on the PureVolume homepage. Bands are chosen as Pure Picks by Web site staff for how much buzz surrounds them, meaning that they favor bands with new releases, frequently updated profiles, press releases, and large numbers of profile views. So there they were, on the site’s tidy front page, and the subsequent shenanigans were slightly unexpected and only a tad short of miraculous.

As an unsigned band, their profile “views” and “plays” went from a couple hundred per week to 6,000-8,000 plays and 1,000-2,000 downloads per day, making them the site’s number-one downloaded band among unsigned bands for that week. Also, with 1,500 profile views per day, there was at least one download per person who looked at their site. People weren’t just listening; they were taking something with them.

The band members look like they sound. Levasseur is the sort of frontman you’d expect, with intentionally messy and slightly overgrown hair framing the perfect skin of a handsome face, from which emerges bell-tone clear vocals. Tobey seems completely preoccupied with his own overgrown locks as he continually sweeps the hair away from his face, the length of which makes his highly enthusiastic stage presence that much more effective as it whips to and fro with his playing. Both Griffin, 23, and Archambault, 24, defy gravity with their slender physique. It would take a team of scientists at MIT to discover how they keep their pants up with the absence of hips. Murphy? He’s a 22-year-old Irishman. ’Nuff said.

“I think the band now is really an amalgamation of all of our personal styles and tastes,” says Murphy. “If you listen to the Minus Scale a year ago it’s a completely different animal now, and in my humblest of opinions, a better band. As far as my personal contributions go, I’m not really a keyboardist and I approach my role and instrument as a guitar player.”

Crazy hair and lack of hips notwithstanding, the free downloading and word-of-mouth method of promotion has worked out well for the boys. Because of both their high energy hook-laden pop sound and their Internet-based methods of marketing, the band has become popular among a younger crowd of listeners. That, too, is by design. According to Levasseur, the band ultimately doesn’t seek to write anything more complicated than the minimum of what it takes to make someone dance.

“I feel as though I’ve never grown up, and I identify with the kids who go to our shows,” he says. “If our sound attracts younger listeners, then that’s the way it is. I’m fine with that.”

Even in a blizzard a few weeks ago, 86 enthusiastic listeners paid the cover at Sad Café in Plaistow. A couple of them came all the way from Bangor and Portland to see bassist Mark Tobey’s last show with the band (he’s leaving to pursue his work as a teacher). They’ve recently played sold-out all-ages gigs at The Dover Brick House as well, with those T-shirts flying off their merchandise table at the back of the room. And word is spreading. Pockets of fans in places like Michigan and Wisconsin have developed, and when the band is on tour, they’re more likely to s - The Wire (03.08.06)


Discography

Hotter (2008)
Your Friends And Mine (2007)
For Lack of Lights (2006)
Captain (2004)
Apathy! Apathy! (2003)
The Trouble With Normal (2002)

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Bio

Armed with incredible talent and a stage show that could knock you over, The Minus Scale has skipped over the usual mediocrity of most other rock bands. Refraining from typical rock star antics, the band has been recognized for their constant interaction with fans, doing whatever it takes to sell records on the road with their warm and fuzzy demeanor. With their newest demo, they've proven again that they are a timeless example of a band that resists feeding off only what's hot right now, but drawing influences from classic rock, nineties alternative and post millennium retro rock to create a sound that is truly and uniquely their own.

Without rehashing what theyve learned from their influences such as Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Gin Blossoms, and Matthew Sweet, The Minus Scale has paid careful attention to the college rock scene of the eighties. You can hear the result in their songs with tunes reminiscent of bands like the Pixes, REM, Husker Du, and the Smiths.

Using simple, yet genuine and heartfelt, lyrics, The Minus Scale ensures that the audience walks away not only singing their songs in their heads, but feeling the emotion in their hearts. Witty and biting lyrics help The Minus Scale create a wall of sound with lead singer/guitarist Ryan Levasseur, basist AJ Tobey, Chris Delisle on guitars, keyboards and backing vocals and Pat Griffin on Drums.

Touring relentlessly for the past three years, The Minus Scale has had the privilege to share the stage with many fine bands including, but not limited to, The Adored, All Time Low, Amber Pacific, As Tall As Lions, Backstabbers Inc., Bayside, Blackpool Lights, Brighton, Catch 22, Cute Is What We Aim For, Damiera, The Fold, The Finals, The Forecast, Forgive Durden, Gin Blossoms, The Graduate, Junction 18, The Killing Moon, Limbeck, Lost City Angels, The Modern Day Saint, Monty Are I, Near Miss, No Trigger, Permanent Me, The Pink Spiders, Powerspace, Punchline, Quietdrive, Read Yellow, The Receiving End Of Sirens, Wheatus and Yo La Tengo.

When it seems as though bands these days are bent on making millions and selling albums, The Minus Scale throws a curve ball into reality as their genuine love of music and loyalty to their fans rank high on the top of their lists.