Drummer Mike Smith, singer Andy Kelly, and guitarist John Robinson Jr. make up the current lineup of Cityview along with bassist Matt Kuczaj. But Smith, Kelly, and Robinson have been friends ever since they met in junior high school in the mid- ’90s. At Crowley High School, their first band was an aggressive outfit called P.V.K. that was influenced by Blink 182 and Yellowcard. A year after the band members graduated, P.V.K. broke up.
“There was a lot of ambition at a really young age to ‘make it big,’ whatever that meant at the time,” said Smith, now 28. “When we stopped having fun, we ended the band.”
But the young musicians kept in touch. Smith went to the University of Texas at Arlington and joined a band called The Adderallics, while Kelly and Robinson formed the original version of Cityview with Kuczaj in 2003. The friends were in different bands but on a parallel track. Cityview was more successful than The Adderallics, regularly packing venues like The Wreck Room and Ridglea Theater and playing a showcase set for pop-punk powerhouse Drive-Thru Records at the Dallas stop on the annual Vans Warped Tour.
“Cityview went wrong,” Smith said, “when they recorded a few songs but never pressed and released anything. They never spent the money to get their music into the hands of the audience. When you’re going to college and playing in a band and working at Subway, it’s hard to find $3,000 to spend on a recording session.”
Fast forward to 2006: The Adderallics were long defunct, and Cityview was on one of several hiatuses. Members of both bands had gotten married and acquired secure day jobs, but everyone was still jamming for the fun of it. Kelly, Robinson, and Kuczaj found themselves without a drummer and asked Smith to join Cityview. (“Playing drums by yourself is lonely,” Smith conceded). They played intermittent club gigs and private shows for friends and family, who kept assuring the guys they were too good for just the occasional jam session.
Finally the new Cityview lineup decided to get serious about making a recording they would be proud to promote. Last year, they sent an e-mail to engineer/producer Ed Rose at his Black Lodge Recording Studio outside of Lawrence, Kan. Rose specializes in emo/pop-punk bands and has helmed albums by some of Cityview’s favorite artists, including The Get Up Kids and Motion City Soundtrack. They really had no idea if the reclusive producer would agree to work with an unknown commodity like Cityview. But he did, and late last year the Cityview guys packed off to Kansas for a self-financed five-day recording session.
“It was snowing the whole time,” Smith said. “At night, we slept in the loft upstairs and came downstairs early to record. We ate, drank, slept, and lived the recording.”
Smith said that although Rose didn’t change much in Cityview’s rough-edged, melodic sound, he made the band members better musicians by forcing them to concentrate on their music. The resulting EP, Big On the Inside, is a collection of tightly crafted tunes filled with references to Panther City people and places. The CD cover art is an illustration of an old apartment building at Magnolia Avenue and South Adams Street where several band members lived. About 20 percent of the proceeds from sales of the EP will go to Operation Kindness, North Texas’ nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter.
With Big On the Inside now available on iTunes and Amazon, Cityview is prepared to enter a new phase in its career: more relaxed and more mature but still serious about music. They’ll continue to rehearse a couple of times a week and play a couple of shows a month. Plans are afoot to tour clubs around Texas and Oklahoma and record the band’s first full-length album. As they creep toward the big 3-0, the key is less drama and an enhanced appreciation for quality musicianship.
“We’re all busy in our lives [doing other things], but we’re also good musicians,” Smith said. “Right now Cityview is about the music, because if the music is strong and people hear it, good things will happen.”
9pm July 9 at The Moon,