Music News & Reviews

September 12, 2012

Spirit of the Stairs to celebrate release of 5th CD

For a band that doesn’t sing, Spirit of the Stairs talks just fine.

For a band that doesn’t sing, Spirit of the Stairs talks just fine.

Gathered around a table at The Anchor bar drinking nothing stronger than iced tea, the band’s five members have no trouble explaining why they’re an all-instrumental rock unit in a world used to songs with words.

“I’d rather the music be the inspiration, rather than the words,” guitarist Torin Andersen said.

Drummer Kyle Hupp said fans use their imaginations when hearing the band, much like the reader of a novel “sees” the action unfold.

“They tell us about it,” he said. “It’s kind of interesting to hear what they see when they hear our songs.”

On Saturday, Spirit of the Stairs celebrates the release of its fifth CD, “Lambo Doors,” with an all-ages show at the Orpheum Theatre. The Travel Guide, a fellow Wichita band, and Appleseed Cast, from Lawrence, also will perform.

Spirit of the Stairs formed 9 1/2 years ago with a completely different cast of musicians. Andersen has the longest tenure of current members, having joined the band after the first two shows. Guitarists Zack Roach and Paul Anop and bassist Ben Wells round out the group.

Through the years, Spirit of the Stairs has played in a number of different configurations, at one time consisting of two guitar players, two bass players and two drummers. Members say all departures of band members have been on an amicable basis, with several songs on the latest CD co-written by former members.

“It’s always been based around friendship rather than trying to put together a supergroup of the best players in town,” Roach said.

The band draws influences from classic rock and heavy progressive music, although other genres make their way into the mix.

One thing Spirit of the Stairs is not, at least on the CD, is a jam band. The nine original tunes on “Lambo Doors” are tightly structured, with layers of guitar rising and falling over precise, punchy drumming by Hupp. “Computer Falcon” sounds like an instrumental interlude from an old Rush album, “Cobbler” could be an arena band’s latest hit (minus the words), and “10 Years” has a moody Coldplay-like feel. “Smooth Yazz” is anything but smooth jazz, although it could pass for jazz fusion.

Spirit of the Stairs recorded the CD itself in Anop’s basement studio.

“We pride ourselves on doing everything ourselves,” he said.

Most of the songs are collaborations, with one member bringing a riff to the studio and everybody else building off that.

“This is probably the fastest one that we’ve put together,” Anop said.

Andersen said the band picked the Orpheum for its CD release show because members have enjoyed playing there in the past, most recently for a well-attended show with Gooding. This is the band’s first time as a headliner at the historic theater. Pre-show ticket sales are going well, Andersen said.

Like most of their fan base, the members of Spirit of the Stairs are all in their late 20s to early 30s. They prefer playing all-ages shows because they have a lot of younger — and older — listeners as well.

“It’s weird that an all-instrumental rock band does well with grandparents and their grandkids,” Wells said.

Making it as an all-instrumental band has been a challenge — “I’m not sure why,” Hupp said. But the band has kept busy gigging, appearing at many local festivals and on the first season of the “Wichita Sessions” show on KPTS — “an amazing experience,” Andersen said. They’ll play at Barleycorn’s Oct. 20 as part of a fundraiser for the nonprofit The Bike Cave, and reprise their always popular post-Thanksgiving show at Lucky’s Bar again this year.

Members of Spirit of the Stairs say they’ve never been seriously tempted to alter their approach.

“The closest we’ve come is clapping,” Roach said. “Kyle has wanted to sing in a band, but he sucks at it.”

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