Rock ’n’ roll is full of drummers who journeyed beyond their walls of shells and hardware to grab a stringed instrument, step up to the mic, and front a band. In the mainstream pantheon, the lengthy list includes the likes of Phil Collins, Dave Grohl, and Josh “Father John Misty” Tillman. On a local level, there’s Son of Stan’s Jordan Richardson, The O’s Taylor Young, and War Party’s Peter Marsh to name exactly three. Now, with the second in a series of two-song releases that he will eventually compile into a full-length album, you can add Movie the Band’s Jesse Gage.
Gage, 28, has been playing music since he was 12. Drums were his first instrument, and he played in various bands of the ska, punk, and ska-punk varieties in and around his home in Irving. His older brother had returned from the Warped Tour with a bunch of compilation CDs, so the younger’s muse initially came from the likes of Choking Victim and Leftover Crack. His punk predilection led him to blast the beats for a Denton-based thrash group called Wheel Bite and, after that, as part of an experimental outfit called Jumping Phoenix. Besides drums, Gage picked up guitar, and before he was out of high school, he was doing solo shows at local coffee shops. Then he went to college at UNT, and that put the brakes on his songwriter aspirations.
“I just kinda stopped doing them,” Gage said over coffee at Fairmount’s Avoca. “I moved into a house with a band, and it got weird. There were like five dudes in a three-bedroom house, and everyone was going crazy.”
He declines to name the band but he quit shortly before moving out, after getting burned out on Denton’s punk rock lifestyle.
“Being part of the music crowd in a college town was a lot of partying, and I just got sick of it, getting wasted and playing house shows all the time,” he said. “I guess, too, I just wanted a break. I’d been in bands since I was 12. I just wanted to read books.”
He bought a banjo and tinkered with that for a while.
“I thought maybe I’d just be a professor and study ethno-musicology and have banjoes or something,” he said.
In the six years or so since he graduated UNT with a general studies degree, Gage got back into group-oriented musical endeavors. But he never stopped writing songs. And over the past couple years, he’s busied himself with recording them as time and money allowed, playing all the instruments in half-day sessions with producer Britt Robisheaux at Cloudland Recording Studio in Fort Worth and posting them on his bandcamp page.
“Balancing the four different instruments myself beats texting four different people,” he said, chuckling.
Though his songs are fleshed out in the studio on drums, bass, and guitar, he plays them by himself with an electric guitar at live shows. Right now, he’s not that interested in doing a full band.
“Finding a drummer seems to be a problem,” Gage said. “I don’t want to play drums and sing. And I’ve played so much drums lately, I really want to be able to move around with a guitar or a bass.”
Gage’s music comes from a pop-punk backbone, but he lists bands like the Mountain Goats, The Thermals, and Guided By Voices as inspirations for what he is trying to do –– especially GBV’s penchant for short songs.
“They got away with it,” he said. “I can get everything I needed to say out in two minutes.”
He said that while his songs are “super personal,” he doesn’t like to be the main character.
“There’s a song off my new release [Atom Bombs and Shitty Songs] that’s kind of a pep talk to myself, but I directed it at someone else, using ‘you’ instead of ‘I’ because it’s about being super hard on myself about weird stuff,” he said. “The chorus goes ‘The world is full of atom bombs and shitty songs.’ Why would you be hard on yourself for dropping a plate when people are out murdering other people on a mass scale? Like how could not calling a friend back be that bad? I feel like that’s something other people can relate to, and so I guess I directed it to someone else rather than just make it about me.”
Jesse Gage at the Emily Heller After-Party
Fri w/Sealion, Laoafers, and I Happy Am at Republic Street Bar, 201 E Hattie St, FW. 817-615-9360. Free. .