Signals and Alibis guitarist Brian Carter can’t sleep. Well, it isn’t that he can’t sleep. He’s just not very good at falling asleep.
“I’ve had insomnia for years,” he said.
A malady that drives many people insane serves as an artistic muse for Carter. Instead of staring at paid programming on late night TV and praying for sleep (or sweet death), Carter noodles around on his acoustic guitar.
“From those ideas I would start playing them on [electric] guitar with a bunch of pedals or bass and start layering the sounds,” he said.
Those late nights and a love of post-punk and shoegaze music were the foundation for Signals and Alibis and still play a major role in Carter’s creative process. Originally a four-piece, the band’s current lineup is a duo consisting of Carter playing guitar and keyboards –– using effects pedals and looping –– while Rebecca Jozwiak handles vocals, drums, and melodica, a small wind-blown keyboard.
With no real prior experience behind a drum kit, Jozwiak said the duo has had to make slight changes to its sound here and there to accommodate the lack of a dedicated rhythm section.
“That’s when we slowed down some of our earlier songs,” Carter said. “Rebecca learned to combine playing drums and singing at the same time, as well as me incorporating the looper, and using that as a live tool instead of just to record with.”
Jozwiak’s fascination with the looper prompted her to buy one for herself, which turned out to be the inspiration for the band’s 2016 EP Looks Like Rain.
“I never had one before, and I was blown away by what it could do,” Jozwiak said. “All five songs from Looks Like Rain were written in about a week-and-a-half. I’m not sure we will ever make anything that sounds that electro again.”
The pair agreed that while the new wave leaning Rain was more of a one-off EP that captured where they were as a group in a certain moment, their wheelhouse is somewhere between the post-punk and shoegaze sounds that Carter grew up on.
“We have a bunch of slow-core songs that are slow and sad that we could never play live,” he said. “We want to record and release them somehow. But we are at our best writing and playing the music that is influenced by the bands we love, and for me that is bands like Slowdive, Ride, and Swervedriver.”
It was this sound that attracted Year of the Bear drummer and Dreamy Life Records cofounder Robby Rux. After seeing the band perform, Rux told Carter and Jozwiak he wanted first dibs on releasing their next recording.
“Robby has been really supportive of us,” Carter said. “It’s amazing to be on a label with Wire Nest and Stumptone, bands whose members have been in the scene for a long time and we really respect.”
As successful as the duo has been at writing music together, they would like to add another member or two to fill out the live sound. The key is finding players that not only click with the current lineup, but also have the ability to add to the depth of the band’s songs.
“It’s not easy finding someone who can play drums that can also play something else,” Carter said. “We would love to find someone that could play drums on a few songs, keyboards on another, some guitar here and there.”
With the two of them wearing multiple hats within the group, it makes sense that they would be on the lookout for something more than just a one-trick pony. But the pair is in no rush to add to their current lineup.
“The nice part is, we can handle all of the songwriting, playing, and recording ourselves,” Carter said. “It’s making it sound the same without pre-recorded tracks that presents the biggest challenge for us.”
Jozwiak isn’t fazed.
“I love that challenge,” she said.
[box_info]Signals and Alibis – Evenings at Westside
Sat August 13 w/ Crystal Furs at Westside Unitarian Universalist Church, 901 Page Ave, FW. $10