Archive for Category Five

Category Five – a retrospective

Posted in Bands that died, Recommendations with tags , , , , , , on July 8, 2010 by stevenreedkelly

How could I not do a post about my old band?

It’s been roughly 10 years since I started playing music with Justin Stewart, Blake and

In the fall, Blake's moving from NYC to Boston and attending Harvard Business School! He always was the brains behind the band.

Colin Boeh in Category Five.  We called it quits in the summer of 2004, so I guess it’s been almost exactly 6 years since we played our last show.  Seems like all the places we used to play have since changed hands or closed down completely – which is a little sad.  Hell, even the websites we used to maintain have closed down (mp3.com has been gone for a long time and I lost our homepage domain when I graduated from Penn State – we still have a Purevolume site though!).

I know the chances are that if you’re reading this, you already knew the band.  I guess at the end of the day, I wanted a place to share and post the music – and to post some of the demos that you never got a chance to hear!

Nervous & Worried (click to download the album)

Colin grew out his hair and his beard - depending on the season you can find him in Maine or Idaho. Usually somewhere away from crowds.

Shortly after joining Category Five (formerly Exit 3) in 2000, we started looking for a place to record an album.  At this point, we were opening for the Buzz Poets at Banana Joe’s in the Pittsburgh Strip District and playing with other kids at the Cyber Golf (a mini golf course that used to be a movie theatre) in Butler, PA.

When we finally started tracking at Soundscape Studios, we were really wet behind the ears.  None of us had any idea how to record an album.  I think we blew through almost $10,000 making the album – we even had Justin’s dad take out a $5,000 loan to finish it up.  I remember at the end of the recording process, we won a battle of the bands at Club Laga that afforded us the ability to record two new songs for album – they ended up being “Freezing Rain” and “White Houses”.

One of the things I’ll always remember about the studio was hiding in the vocal booths and writing the music for “Lucky Summer Sky” on an acoustic guitar.  In the dark.  It was a really emo time in my life.

When the album was finally finished, Justin and Blake drove to Canada to pick up the albums from the manufacturing plant because it was somehow cheaper than getting all the boxes shipped to us (we pressed 1000 copies).  I remember them tracking me down in the halls of Seneca Valley when they got back to school and dropping a copy into my hands.  I don’t think I had ever been more excited about something in my entire life!

Justin quit vet school - and at the ripe old age of 30, he still spends most of his time traveling to video game conventions.

These days, I can pick the songs apart a little bit.  Our songs sounded very similar to each other.  The single guitar parts, the lack of depth in the bass, the way Justin interchanges “she” and “you” in “Lucky Summer Sky”, making for a somewhat confusing lyrical experience – they all drive me a little nuts.  We were young though, and I’m still extremely proud of this album.

Low Tide (click to download the song)

We recorded this song at Mr. Smalls Funhouse in Millvale – I want to say in late 2001.  This was for a local Pittsburgh band compilation that we had a chance to be a part of – and I think it just provided us a good opportunity to get back into the studio and record something new.  Aside from that compilation and shows – I don’t think we ever posted this on our website or Mp3.com or anything.  I think this was in our transitional period where we were in the middle of trying to find a second guitarist to fill out our sound.  We did eventually re-record it, although that version was never completed.

2002 Demo Tracks (click to download the EP)

As we were starting to play better shows (we got to play Warped Tour in 2001, opened for Billy Idol – and played at the Pittsburgh rib and wing fest!), Joe Seles (who was a stage manager at Club Laga at the time) asked if he could play guitar in our band.  Having tried a couple other guitarists in the past, I think we were all a little weary, but Joe actually showed up to the first practice with parts written to most of our songs.  He was an technically savvy guitarist and it actually allowed Colin a little freedom to start exploring different chords and riffs and improve his own playing (although I would say it took a while for Colin to feel comfortable with another guitarist in the band).  Shortly after Joe joined, we moved our gear into his basement in Pittsburgh and drove out to his place 2 nights a week for practice.

In the late summer of 2002 we started recording a brand new EP of songs.  We re-recorded “Dub Vee” and “Low Tide” and laid down the 4 new songs that we had written with Joe.  Tentatively, I think all the songs were titled “Genitals and Scissors” with a number associated with them (it was an inside joke revolving around a trimming accident) – but most of them were renamed (except G&S1).  We recorded drums for the EP at some place in the Northside of Pittsburgh.  Blake was a champ and knocked out most of the songs a lot quicker than he ever had before.  The rest of the recording was done at our producer’s home-studio in Dormont.

Joe got married... he basically has the ultimate punk rock family. An adorable wife and several pit bulls.

During the middle of recording, I went off to Penn State.  Joe ended up quitting the band in the late fall and we scrambled to pick up the pieces a little bit.  Justin finished 3 of the 6 tracks on the EP, but the other three still don’t have vocals on them, sadly.  When we attempted to get the studio tracks back from our producer, it turned out that he had actually lost our hard-drive.

I still listen to these tracks often – I think they ended up sounding a lot more mature and listenable than our earlier material (a lot of that can be attributed to Joe – and us growing up a little).  It’s a shame that we never ended up with a finished product though.  I still think “Genitals and Scissors” would’ve been a great song, had we finished it.  Fun fact – I have since gotten a HUGE tattoo of the lyrics to “Our Finest Hour” on my chest.  Oh yeah, I’m EXACTLY like that highschool quarterback that can’t let go of the glory days.

Last Songs (click to download the songs)

Tim moved to Florida and started a new band... And I assume took a lot more drugs.

After Joe quit the band, we played a couple shows as a four-piece again (one of them was opening for Brand New and the Movielife at Club Laga) but we intended to fill the spot eventually.  Our friend Tim Lease stepped in and played guitar for us starting in early 2003 (I vividly remember a weekend spent hanging in his garage teaching him the songs and lounging in his hot tub).  We finished out my freshman year at Penn State by winning a battle of the bands and playing at the student run “Movin’ On” festival at the end of the year.  That was a pretty triumphant time for us.  I think we all felt like we could still be a band even after Joe (who was a pretty strong influence on us all) had bailed.

We spent the following summer attempting to write new material.  The result was one song that we labored endlessly over.  I think we may have only ever played it once or twice to a crowd and we never recorded it.  Stew and I were both working for my dad doing construction and it felt like we barely ever attempted to play any shows.  The next year we didn’t do much together – but we did get together and play one last show in the summer of 2004.

As for me, I'm just kinda hanging out. Workin' in New York. Drinkin' too much.

At the end of college, I started to get really into recording songs in Garageband.  So our final opus wouldn’t ever be completely forgotten, I attempted to recreate it in demo form.  I also recorded an electric version of “Lucky Summer Sky” because I’ve always wanted to see what that might sound like.  They’re a little rough, but I’m satisfied with the results.  Maybe not as satisfied as if we had recorded them both as a band.  Who knows what’ll happen in the future though.

Happy 30th Birthday, Justin Stewart!

Posted in Recommendations with tags , , on May 20, 2010 by stevenreedkelly

Justin Stewart foolishly eating a habanero pepper. The results were priceless. Click the picture to see!

Today is Justin Stewart’s 30th birthday.  Yep.  The big 3-0.

For those of you that don’t know Justin (or “Stew” as his friends affectionately refer to him), he was the singer in my highschool band, Category Five, and my roommate during senior year of college.  I consider him a close friend and a mortal enemy.

Some of Stew’s favorite things include video games, desperately consuming fiber and having his desktop wallpaper switched to something grossly offensive while he’s away from his computer.

Recently, Justin has become a certified (and employed) veterinarian.  I guess that’s kinda cool.

In honor of Justin’s birthday, I’m posting a Category Five song called “There’s Ink on My Shirt” that we never really let out of the vault.  It was recorded during our attempt to make a follow-up EP to Nervous and Worried.

Happy Birthday Stew!

Never really thought of myself as a “punchkid” but…

Posted in Rants, Recommendations with tags , , , , , on December 1, 2009 by stevenreedkelly

Punchline - PJ, Paul, Steve and Chris (One of the earlier lineups)

A few weeks ago, I was at a Sheetz in Cranberry Twp, Pennsylvania filling up my car when I walked past Steve Soboslai, the lead singer and guitarist from the band Punchline.  Without really thinking, I blurted out, “What’s up, Steve?”  I quickly realized that he had no idea who the hell I was.  I made some attempt to explain how I knew him from back in my days as the bass player from the local band, Category Five.  It’s been at least 6 years since that band existed, but Steve played along and graciously asked how I was.

A couple weeks later on a road trip from New York to Penn State, I packed a couple CDs for the ride.  I threw Punchline’s 37 Everywhere, Just Say Yes and The Rewind EP in my car.  I was just in the mood for Punchline.  Driving down a very long stretch of I-80, I probably played the song “Castaway” 15 times in a row.  Sometimes I get in melancholy moods where all I can do is put a sad song on repeat and just let it run its course.  I’ve been like that ever since freshman year in college where the song “Megan 2K2 (Even Though it’s 2K3 Now)” by Reggie and the Full Effect basically ruined my life.  Regardless, I got to thinking a little bit about Punchline as a band – and how they’ve been a part of my life for such a long time.

When I was 16, one of my first bands – Fire Crotch Johnson – was asked to play at my friend Jon Patrick’s barn party.  He asked a bunch of local bands to play, including budding local  favorites, Punchline, as the headliners.  I think my band mates and I spent the afternoon trying to convince our fill-in drummer to skip the high school presentation of The Lion King.  We ended up having to cancel our performance, but I did stick around to watch the other bands.  Punchline was the tightest local band I had ever seen – even as a three-piece.  I was so impressed (and jealous) of Chris Fafalios’ ability to jump mid-song with his bass during the well-placed pauses in their songs.  The music just sounded better than any other bands on the bill.  My band mate Alex bought their self-titled album and the hateration began.

Listening to Punchline, I ignored the fact that their music was so akin to everything I had written in my previous bands (but better) and honed in on a guitar hook in the song “Bingo”.  “This sounds exactly like ‘Dammit’ by Blink-182,” I thought to myself.  For some reason, this was unforgivable.  It was the one excuse my wise and intuitive 16-year-old mind needed to dismiss the band as a bunch of hacks, no matter how much they rocked my socks off when I saw them live.

Major Motion Picture

I joined a new band (Category Five) not long after that barn show.  During our long run of about 5 years, there was a perceived rivalry between us and almost every other band in the local scene, including Punchline (although I’m sure they were barely aware of us).  We recorded our first full length at the same studio they recorded Major Motion Picture – their first recording with Paul Menotiades (who really seemed to change the entire sound of the band at that time) and we were able to hear bits and pieces of the album before it was pressed.  Major Motion Picture, despite having questionable lyrics at times (“You know I don’t like sports, so why you playing these games with my heart?” for example), sounded great.  The crisp sound of the drums, the depth at guitar, the dueling harmonies, etc.  Hearing their growth on that album really set the bar for what I thought a good band needed to sound like.  In comparison, our debut album sounded kind of flat and overproduced.  Jealousy abounded.

Here’s a little side-by-side to break the monotony of reading:

Punchline – “Express”

Category Five – “Crash Test”

So the years passed by.  Category Five played some good shows around Pittsburgh.  Punchline got signed to Fueled By Ramen.  I ended up going to Penn State and my band fizzled a little bit.  We actually played a couple shows in the Pollock Commons recreation room at Penn State, opening for Punchline during the later half of my freshman year.  Watching them play live has always been a treat.  They’re so passionate on stage.  I think this is where I really started to open my mind to Punchline again.  I remember downloading the song “Play” from the Rewind EP , figuring out the intro lead riff on my guitar and feeling very satisfied with myself because it was somewhat technical.

Action

The second half of my sophomore year, the start of 2004 was an amazing time for music.  Looking back – that was the semester that gave me Audio Karate’s Lady Melody, Name Taken’s Hold On, Northstar’s Pollyanna and Punchline’s Action.  I didn’t expect to dig into Action like I did, but the album has become one of my all-time favorites.  From the opening 10 seconds of “Open Up”, I was hooked.  Punchline created something that undeniably changed them from a local band I grew up with to a legitimate pop punk staple.  The songwriting on the album really stood out to me too – I dare you to find a song on Action that sticks to the old “verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus” formula.  Every song shifts direction and takes you somewhere new, but they did it with purpose.  It was one of those albums that I just studied.  I remember blasting the album in my car, trying to hit the really dramatic vocal line at about 2:40 into “Battlescars” like it was some sort of catharsis for me.  I had “A Beautiful Green” on my bedtime mix.  I played the intro of “Time in a Picture” over and over until I figured the verse riff on my guitar.  Hell, I even talked to Steve’s ex-girlfriend Angela about what “Getting There is Getting By” was about while she helped book my band’s final show.

I got into Action in a big way.

Sometime before they released their next album, Paul left the band.  For those of you following along, I’ve already admitted that I had been actively following Punchline for at least 5 years at this point.  This was like a huge plot turn in a daytime soap opera.  Paul was a sick guitar player (and at least a year younger than me) and I respected the hell out of him.  Even though I had heard the rumors, in my mind, there was no way could they replace him…

…Then I heard “Flashlight” and I promptly ate my words.  When the band added the track from their forthcoming album 37 Everywhere to their Purevolume player, my jaw hit the floor.  It was tougher and more heartfelt than anything I had ever heard from them before.  The rest of the album took a while to grow on me and I didn’t take the time to really savor it like I did with Action.  Still, songs like “The Fake, the Snake and the Birthday Cake” and “Green Light” didn’t disappoint.

The band left Fueled By Ramen, which seemed like it might be a killer blow.  So many other groups have disbanded after losing label support.  Punchline might be the one exception.  Instead of folding, they started their own media company, Modern Short Stories, and put out their next album Just Say Yes themselves last year.

Just Say Yes

Looking at the cover art, I didn’t know what to make of Just Say Yes.  It’s eerily reminiscent of The Cab’s album Whisper War or The Junior Varsity’s self-titled record, both of which I dislike.  I assumed Punchline had sunk knee-deep into neon and this was where we would part ways forever.  Instead, the album shook loose all my preconceived notions with the opener, “Ghostie”.  It’s proof that Punchline is never going to forget that punk rock scene in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that they helped to foster.  Not many bands are making music like that these days.  Also, Steve and Chris continue to grow and sharpen their songwriting skills – and that’s evident through tracks like “Castaway” and “The Other Piano Man”- and as I get older, I can appreciate that they don’t need to pander to a younger audience to stay relevent.

Night Lights

I’ve been living in New York City for the past 3 years, and my affinity for my hometown grows stronger as time passes.  I’m a huge Steelers and Penguins fan.  I even started listening to the Clarks.  I’m also a huge Punchline fan.  But the love for that band comes from a deeper place than just a shared hometown.  There’s a sense that I’ve grown up with them.  After watching all they’ve accomplished so far, there’s a sense of pride.

Today, Punchline released an album of B-sides and rarities called Night Light.  The sales of this album go to cover the recording costs of a new album the band hopes to record sometime next year (They’ve lost their longtime drummer PJ Caruso, but it appears that Paul is back in the band again!  Awesome!).  This morning, without flinching, I went to the band’s website and paid the full donation to download the album.  It’s full of old songs and alternate versions of classics and its the reason I felt like reminiscing about the band’s entire career today.  I know I started out a skeptic, but I’ll be the first one to tell you that I can’t wait to see what Punchline comes up with next.

In the spirit of the season, I thought I’d throw up one of my favorite Punchline b-sides that’s actually available on Night Light:

Punchline – “Icicles”