Tom Catmull's Last Resort
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Tom Catmull's Last Resort

Missoula, Montana, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | SELF

Missoula, Montana, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2016
Band Americana Rock




"Paste Magazine"

Hometown: Missoula
Members: Tom Catmull, John Sporman, Travis Yost
Current Release: Evergreen (2014)
Tom Catmull has been around the Montana music scene quite a bit. He’s fronted bands like Tom Catmull and the Clerics, performed solo, and now his latest effort, Radio Static, is making its mark. Based out of Missoula, Tom Catmull’s Radio Static harkens back to the vibe of old-school, ’60s classic rock just as much as it sounds truly original and unique. Tom’s cohorts on this project, bassist John Sporman and drummer Travis Yost, provide an invaluable backbone and rawness to the band. Over the past couple months, they’ve been gradually releasing new songs via Facebook, which add up to a full-length—and completely free—album by the end of the summer. - 50 States Project

"Tom Catmull releases low-key solo album, revamps live act for rock"

November 11, 2013 6:00 am • By Cory Walsh(0) Comments
Missoula musician sees outpouring of support after thieves steal instruments

The thieves weren’t educated musicians, but they knew enough to take Tom Catmull’s cherished rosewood Gibson J-45 Vintage Sunburst guitar. Read more

'Nosferatu' gets live score courtesy of Missoula musicians
When Count Orlok, the first vampire ever committed to celluloid, creeps onto screen next Thursday at the Roxy Theater, there won’t be a canned… Read more

Soundcheck: Live music in western Montana


CD release concert Friday

Tom Catmull will host a CD release concert for his new album, “Words & Malady,” at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8, at the Crystal Theatre, 515 S. Higgins Ave. The first half will feature new songs and musicians from his solo disc. The second half will feature Radio Static, Catmull’s new band. Tickets are $12, available at Rockin’ Rudy’s only. Seating is limited, and doors open at 7:30 p.m.

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Check Tom Catmull's Facebook page for upcoming performances
For a decade, Tom Catmull and his band the Clerics have been a reliable live presence in Missoula’s music scene.

After an enviably consistent run for a local band, big changes are underway in Catmull’s world. He’s released a darker-tinged solo album, “Words & Malady,” and the Clerics have morphed into a rock direction after pedal-steel player Gibson Hartwell left the band.

The new solo record’s 12 songs are, Catmull admits, a little more somber than his previous output – born of a several years-long “personal speed bump,” he said.

He’s always written fictional tunes, “but they’re coming from the same well, so it’s not too far away from me,” he said. “These are a little more close to the bone, I would say.”

Many of the well-crafted tunes are what Tom Waits would classify as “weepers” – we’re hearing Catmull the singer-songwriter, not Catmull the Union Club dance general.

“Return” admits the act of songwriting is about as futile a defense against future heartbreak as any other gesture. (“I’m gonna drive my car/just about as far as fumes and pride will get me/past the curb,” he sings in his familiar Texas tenor.)

“Another Heart,” provides a bit of levity – the narrator ticks off everything he’d do if he had a second blood-pumping organ. (“Surf the web cause life is short,” “go drinking evening/order stiff and neat martinis.”)

It’s funny, but still a little sad in its yearning for an impossible situation.

“I always feel like tragedy of any sort – and I’m using that pretty liberally there – all you have to do is turn it just a tiny little angle and it’s relatively hilarious,” he said.

“One of the main things for that song to me is, you get inside yourself and your situation and struggling, struggling, struggling, and you get outside of it or beyond it, on the outside of it, and you realize that maybe you’ve forgotten personally or temporarily that the whole world is struggling,” he said.

A few tracks, “Trickle Drain,” and “Anymore,” trim the instrumentation down to just vocals and a banjo or slide guitar, while others enlist a range of familiar names from the local music scene.

Album opener “Be Mine” is propelled along by bowed bass lines from longtime Cleric John Sporman and minor-key horns from Amy Martin; cellist Bethany Joyce (Stellarondo) provides an ominous undertow on the story-song “Roger Wilburn”; and Caroline Keys (also of Stellarondo) provides a sweet duet partner on “Some People.”

Other contributors to “Malady” include Hartwell on five-string tenor and longtime Clerics drummer Travis Yost, who recorded the whole album at his studio.

“Recording with Travis specifically has been really fun, just because we know each other so well,” Catmull said, explaining the process is more about the engineer than the gear at his age.

There’s less “filtering” of what’s coming out of you, he said.


At Friday’s CD release party (see box), Catmull will be joined by all those collaborators to perform the new material. The second set, meanwhile, will feature Radio Static, his new band.

The core Clerics group had been together 10 years when Hartwell left, and the remaining three decided to take on a new name and a new direction.

“We don’t want to just grab somebody who just kind of sounded like Gibson and continue on,” Catmull said. “It was a pretty unified decision that we needed to take this opportunity to do something different.”

It has a heavier, rock sound – Catmull is playing electric guitar for the first time in years, and there’s more frequent use of the eighth-note rock beat versus the country feel from the Clerics.

He, Sporman and Yost have all developed as musicians over the years, but “some of it was useful to the Clerics and some of it was not,” he said.

And so the parts that weren’t come into play in Radio Static.

Sporman is playing the upright bass more frequently, but usually only with a bow. His electric bass, meanwhile, is often fed through a deck of effects pedals in an atmospheric but tasteful manner.

Sporman and Yost both play Alesis Micron keyboard synthesizers, and Yost has an iPad loaded with a few apps – Animoog, a surprisingly customizable version of the classic analog synthesizer; and Mellotron, which also squeezes an iconic sound (think “Strawberry Fields Forever”) into a gig-friendly device.

It adds a bit of a power-pop to refresh the sound, but it doesn’t change the core of the group.

“It’s still Tom,” said Yost, who compared the new experiments to an “overlay.” Some tracks are still played acoustically, but have a different energy. On “Roger Milburn,” the arco bass and drumming help build to a startling climax that doesn’t seem likely before.

Tellingly, both Catmull and Yost said there’s more uncertainty during their sets these days.

Before, Yost said a few times a night he’d try to do something different to keep himself entertained.

“That’s like the whole night for me now. I’m literally running out of ideas, finally,” he said with a laugh.

Catmull compared it to his own experiences seeing a younger, fledgling band.

“Half the time, they’re still wrestling to put it together, and in a way I feel like we’re putting together a show right now,” he said. “It’s more uncomfortable than it has been in awhile because the Clerics were so consistent. But at the same time it’s much more exciting than it has been in awhile. It’s a little yin and yang.”

Yost said it’s good to be nervous and excited again after 10 years in a band, which is more than can be said for many jobs or marriages.

“I’m just happy about that,” he said. - The Missoulian

"Rising up Tom Catmull's newest shines light into the dark"

By Erika Fredrickson
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It's not that Tom Catmull never writes dark songs—his 1998 solo album, East of Opportunity, is far from devoid of minor key chords. But even dark-themed titles like "Addiction" and "Getaway" are the kinds of songs you can drink your morning coffee to before heading out the door, whistling contentedly. Catmull's new solo album, Words & Malady, is decidedly duskier. You might drink your coffee to these tunes, but you'll probably feel the need to idle in your chair, letting the words soak in. You might tear up. You might wish you were drinking whiskey instead.

"I went through a personal rough patch—not being too specific," Catmull says. "It's nothing that other humans don't go through, but it was definitely something that was a struggle. Most of these songs are written during that time. So I was a little darker on this one than I have been." He laughs. "I'm a pretty light-and-poppy, happy guy and I think a lot of my songs over the last 17 or 18 years have kind of reflected that. And this one is a little less so."

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Missoula Independent news
Tom Catmull
In fiction, poetry and songwriting it's never safe—or fair—to assume that the writing is autobiographical. The landscapes of Words & Malady reveal stories about heartbreak accompanied by acoustic guitar. They are neither pedestrian—as some earnest songwriting can be—nor are they the straightforward, tear-in-your-beer George Jones types. The opening track, "Be Mine," begins with what sounds like electric feedback before a lonely trumpet, played by Amy Martin, wails. Catmull sings, "It started out as innocent as hearing lovers kiss in darkened taverns/ while minding your own./ But when your ears fill twice with chance encounters, a charming third and you'll someday find it, stained to your bones./ It is particular about company and it sparks the flame of jealousy/ in those you hold close./ And it has no fear of poverty, the bottle or solace/ you see, you are what it needs most."

The "it" here is a ghost that haunts the record. There is this constant feeling of searching around in the dark with these songs—an attempt to get at the heart of the matter. "My life is a rainbow of all of the colors," Catmull sings in "Blue." "Save the one from a box of Crayola, a divorce of the green and yellow tones." Listening to these songs is like trying to make sense of dreams. The images don't always tell a linear story, but they shake you up in ways that are difficult to pinpoint.

All that said, Words & Malady isn't depressing. There's "Another Heart," for instance, where Catmull sings about his old beat-up truck and how he now has a minivan. "It's got cardboard in one window/ and if it gets stolen, I hope that they know it'll need a series of jumpstarts," he sings. Though even that track doesn't quite escape heartache, as the title implies.

What makes this album not a cry-fest is a thread of goodwill and hope that runs through the lyrics. There are plenty of warm chords, moments of self-deprecating humor, twang, guitar plucking and other signs of life going right. The instrumentation is also key and features local stalwarts. Catmull and Travis Yost, who recorded and mixed the album, have added subtle but effective flourishes here and therethe trumpets being one. All of the Clerics—Catmull's backing band that includes Yost, Gibson Hartwell and John Sporman—contribute to some of the songs and Bethany Joyce adds cello. The anthemic "Some People" is co-written by Caroline Keys of Stellarondo.

New things are on the rise for Catmull. Now that lead guitarist Hartwell has left the Clerics, Catmull's bar band is in transition. He's playing lead guitar now—"It's terrifying," he admits, "but fun"—and the group is embracing straightforward rock over its past rootsy sound. And with a built-in audience, it shouldn't be hard to make the leap.

"It's like an embarrassment of riches," Catmull says. "We're able to put a show together in front of people—and that gets to be our job."

As for solo efforts, Words & Malady might be part of a transition, too. One never wishes hard times on someone like Tom Catmull. But if he creates anything close to the cathartic Words & Malady again, we would all be lucky to hear it.

Tom Catmull plays a CD release show at the Crystal Theatre Fri., Nov. 8, at 8 PM. Doors open at 7:30 PM. $12, available at Rockin Rudy's. - The Independent


Tom Catmull Solo
-East of Opportunity(1998)
-The Sound of a Car(2000)

Tom Catmull and the Clerics
-Glamour Puss(2008)

Radio Static
-Evergreen(digital release-2014)



Tom Catmull’s Radio Static is an exercise in musical evolution. That’s a little vague and mysterious, I know. Try this out. At a show, the sound you will hear is that of a veteran singer/songwriter amplified, elevated and occasionally made more sinister, by the creative musical syndicate of John Sporman and Travis Yost(both formerly of The Clerics). Over the past year, this band has continued to round a stylistic corner, regularly trading in previous Americana-inspired inclinations for the seductive impulse of a sleeker, but more sordid, rock/pop sound.

Last year, Radio Static was featured on the Montana PBS show “11th and Grant” in a stripped down acoustic showcasing of Catmull’s ever-expanding catalogue. They were also spotlighted in PASTE MAGAZINE'S 50 States Project(2014) as one of the top bands in the region.  With an extremely loyal following, Tom has been voted “Best Musician” in the Missoula Independent’s annual “Best Of” for the last twelve years. This summer already has Radio Static slated to cover Oregon, Washingtion, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana for festivals, private events and the occasional gas tank filling honky-tonk show. Two questionable foreign cars will be loaded with acoustic and electric guitars, upright and electric bass, drums, keyboards, vintage and not-so-vintage amplifiers, harmonicas, melodicas and any other noise maker that happens to fit between the seats.

Long story short? This band has found itself in the arc of transition. And that is most certainly by design. New songs. New sounds. Don’t miss it!

Band Members