Less than a year ago, the jocular wink-eyed rock of Garage Barrage could accurately be considered little more than an anonymous pastime The four friends that make up the band have spent the last five years or so crammed into singer/guitarist Ian McKenyon’s garage improvising and recording silly songs with no intention beyond trying to crack one another up. They would upload their recordings to a publicly viewable Bandcamp page (listing an astounding 14 individual releases) but had never so much as thought about playing shows. When they jammed, they would plug each of their instruments (including an electronic drum kit) directly into a computer recording interface, hearing themselves only through headphones. They rightly assumed that no one (not even McKenyon’s neighbors) would ever hear their music.
“This music was not meant for anybody else but us,” McKenyon said about Barrage’s discography. “So it’s bad. It’s not mixed –– it’s, like, nothing. It’s all just dry, run straight into a mixer and cut so we could laugh at it later.”
Yet someone did ultimately hear it. As a result, there’s a growing buzz about the band that has forced the unwitting foursome out of their garage, onto local stages, and into a proper recording studio for the first time.
Playing the role of de facto Brian Epstein to McKenyon, bassist Jon Lanier, keyboardist Megan McKenyon (Ian’s younger sister), and drummer Ranger Parrish in the developing Garage Barrage mythology by way of “discovering” them was Jeffrey Lord, host of the Funkytown Podcast, the long-running local music-focused earbud show.
Lord stumbled upon the band by doing what he does: searching for new local artists on Bandcamp. Because McKenyon used “Fort Worth” as a tag on the Garage Barrage page, it fell into Lord’s orbit and he happened upon an album of particularly frivolous covers featuring whimsical gems like Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” and a bit of what the band affectionately refers to as “fast Petty.”
“It’s basically that we just play Tom Petty songs but try to play them as fast as possible,” McKenyon explained.
Lord immediately fell in love with what he heard and reached out to the band. A short time later, he and frequent Funkytown co-hosts Susie Ramone, Joe Tacke (Mean Motor Scooter), and Zachary Zanetich (I Happy Am) visited McKenyon’s carport music lab to experience exactly what Garage Barrage is in person. They all enjoyed the experience so much that they coaxed the four-piece into taking their antics into local clubs and playing in front of people. The group played their first real show in September.
Since then, they’ve played frequently, amusing concertgoers with their unique genre-bending quirkiness, what McKenyon calls “Texas weather music –– ‘Don’t like this song? Wait two minutes.’ ”
Fastforward some 10 months later, and the quartet has released its first official single, “Mr. Wolfy,” with an accompanying music video. The surfy, ’60s B-roll monster movie-vibed track is serving as a tease to an upcoming “debut” studio album due out early this fall. The musicians recorded an assortment of their improv silliness lovingly selected from their myriad garage recordings, which they then recreated at Cloudland Recording Studios. The aforementioned Tacke engineered the sessions while sharing production work with his bandmate in Mean Motor Scooter, Rebekka Elizabeth.
Garage Barrage expressed how bizarre it’s been to become “legitimized.” That’s not to say that in the flip from joke band to actual band they’ve sacrificed any of the funny for the sake of professionalism. Far from shying away from the joke-band label, the foursome still leans into it confidently.
“We embrace it,” McKenyon said. “As long as we’re entertaining, that’s all I’m looking for.”
Entertaining is just what they’ve been – so much so that in just under a year, Garage Barrage has gone from total anonymity to now being nominated in three categories in this year’s Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards: best avant garde/experimental, best pop, and best video. McKenyon is actually involved with three of this year’s best video nominees. His production company, Coffee Pot Films, produced the videos for not only Barrage’s “Mr. Wolfy” but nominated vids for Phantomelo and Mean Motor Scooter as well.
Drummer Lanier summed up the new balance the band has struck now between being serious about the band and not taking themselves too seriously.
“There’s a part of me that never wanted to do anything but just hang in the garage with the guys,” Lanier said. “But now there’s a part of me that’s like, ‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right.’ But the important thing is that we’re still having fun, making each other laugh, and having a good time.”