More Than a Touch of Class 

After a three-year hiatus, Middle Class Rut returns to Boise with free show, courtesy of 100.3 The X

The middle class might be dead, but Middle Class Rut is back. On Friday, July 6, the Sacramento, California-based rock duo will play a free concert at the Knitting Factory, presented by Boise rock radio station 100.3 The X. It will be the group's first live show, anywhere, in three years.

Middle Class Rut has always had a reputation for punching above its weight. With just two musicians—guitarist/vocalist Nick Lopez and drummer/vocalist Sean Stockham—the band achieves the precise, layered sound vital for any modern rock group. It first made the charts in 2010 with "New Low," a single off its first album, No Name No Color (Bright Antenna), engineered to manufacture a head-bobbing trance. It features industrial drums marching against layers of guitar played in syncopated rhythms, granting the track a sense of unrelenting acceleration despite a moderate tempo. Since then, the band released a successful second album, Pick Up Your Head (Bright Antenna, 2013) and toured extensively.

Eventually, fatigue caught up with Stockham and Lopez. Stockham moved to the Treasure Valley a few years ago, and told Boise Weekly the distance between Boise and Sacramento made rehearsal difficult. Beleaguered by logistics and tired of touring, he and Lopez went on indefinite hiatus in 2015.

Stockham and Lopez have played together since they were kids growing up in Sacramento.

"It has lasted longer than anything else in my life," said Stockham, adding that, with Lopez, everything comes naturally.

"We don't even need to speak ... We just play music and everything gets worked out that way," he said.

In 2017, Stockham and Lopez announced they would reunite for another record, their third, and that a tour would follow. But getting money from a label was nearly impossible, so the duo went the route that so many veteran bands with a many fans but little capital have gone: a Kickstarter campaign.

Stockham, who described himself as a "worrier," said the whole process was "nerve-racking." He said it felt like the album wasn't the only thing at risk; if they didn't raise the money, Stockham wasn't sure Middle Class Rut would survive.

"We kind of rely on the morale to inspire us to keep going ... our lives are so incompatible," he said.

And the cash started to flow. Ultimately, they raised $30,016 from 562 backers.

"That was awesome," said Stockham. "It really holds you accountable to go through with this idea that you have."

The band offered the usual slate of thank-you perks to its donors: early access to the record, signed CDs, apparel and even handwritten lyric sheets. The most generous fans recieved some rather exclusive items. For $500, donors could "name their reward," (to be negotiated).

Three backers took that option, and their requests ranged from predictable—one fan wanted to play a song with Middle Class Rut on stage at a concert—to flat-out weird. Stockham said a pair of fans from Salt Lake City wanted him to help them lose weight, so they asked Stockham to record a video of himself fat-shaming them.

"It put me in a weird spot because I'm not for that kind of thing," Stockham said. But they asked (and paid), so he did it. "I have 'FOR SALE' tattooed on my chest, so I kind of have to do that stuff."

With the funds, Stockham and Lopez returned to the the studio and recorded a new album, Gutters. It will be available for streaming by the end of August. Two singles, "Gutters" and "No Sale," are already streaming. Neither sounds much different from the band's earlier work. On "No Sale," guitars and drums pound forth while Lopez sings anthemically. On "Gutters," Lopez yells like a straightedge punk over ear-piercing drums and guitar.

In their daily lives, Lopez and Stockham are far from rock stars. Stockham is a carpenter—a far cry from sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

"It's such a strange duality going on there ... I crave a kind of a humble, simple lifestyle, but there's also this weird, strange character," said Stockham. "So, it's fun for him to come out too."

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