Bridging the chasm between rock and hardcore ..

I'm implementing a new policy when writing band profiles. I won't write about a band that hasn't been together for at least a year. I put this new requirement in place, because every time I interview a band, one or all of the members says to me at some point, "We are the hardest working band around. We're totally dedicated and we're going to make it work." A band will utter these words to me with such heartfelt sincerity that I am nearly brought to tears. Lo and behold, a month later, this hardworking, committed band has kicked out their lead singer, is looking for a new drummer (only sometimes due to spontaneous combustion) or their bass player has up and moved to California with his pregnant girlfriend. And while breaking up is inevitable for some bands, it always puts my Underoos in a bunch when I find out that a band I just wrote about is no more.

I don't have time to write about bands I don't enjoy, appreciate or recognize potential in and, therefore, when I write about a band, I will write nice things about them--something along the lines of, "I like this band. They have something special. I'm sure they will be together for a very long time." Feh. Hence, the one-year rule. If the band has been together that long and then breaks up after I profile them, they are probably as surprised about it as I am. So, when I learned that Ripchain has been together almost two years, I was sure a profile of them would be perfect.

I met with the four members of Ripchain at a bar one of them frequents. Dave Ford, who plays guitar and sings lead is tall with long, wavy hair, a pierced eyebrow and is quick to laugh. Guitarist Joff Stone has short hair, a kind face and looks a little like a soccer dad (with three kids, it may not be far from the truth). Bass player and backup vocalist Dan Garrett is a big, friendly guy who wears his black hair long and straight down his back (sporting a thick black beard and mustache, I have no doubt he's been nicknamed "Bear" at least once in his life). And, finally, drummer Ryan Anderson--he's cute, quiet and has the longest hair of the group. (Note of interest: Anderson invents car parts and then sells them online for a living.)

Soon after meeting them, I was struck by two things: They are four of the nicest guys I've ever met (sorry if this messes with your tough-guy image, dudes) and these guys are a little older than a lot of the other hard-rocking bands in town. I was curious how their age would translate into their music and their attitudes.

Over a round of 20-oz. beers and Journey on the jukebox, I asked if them if making the big time was their ultimate goal. The answer was a resounding yes. The musical influences they look to for inspiration have all become quite successful and the men in Ripchain would be happy for even a portion of that fame and fortune. Stone strums like Zakk Wylde, Ford channels his inner James Hetfield, Anderson rocks a Lars Ulrich/Tommy Lee vibe and Garrett emulates Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler. They treasure their friendships with local bands like 12th of Never, Factory Air, Xex, Frantik, OCD, Black Tooth Grin, Mark of Kain, Thoughtless People and many others. They draw from all of areas of their lives for their music and work together to blend rock, metal and hardcore to create a sound that has familiar elements but is wholly unique to them.

I went on a weeknight to listen to them rehearse in their rented space at the Bomb Shelter. They are very disciplined during rehearsals and set up and play just like they would at a live show. The acoustics are, of course, a little different, and performing in an 11x16 enclosed space to posters of naked women isn't quite the same as head-banging in front of a screaming crowd that includes actual women, but they make as if it is.

They played their entire set list for me, which included seven original songs and two covers. They have taken the Crue's "Looks That Kill" and dramatically slowed it down. Garrett adds a rich, deep baritone to the chorus and their version of the popular tune totally kicks ass. They also do a great version of Prong's "Snap Your Neck." (Note: Ripchain has been asked to open for Prong in February when they come through Boise. Yes, Ripchain is pretty damn excited.)

Each original song they play follows a metal/hardcore song formula but is still completely their own. Ford writes all of their music, but no song is finished or makes it on to their set list without a full group consensus, which is how they do everything in their band. This ability to work so well together and understand each other comes from a genuine feeling of brotherhood among them, but also has to do with the fact they are all in their 30s. They know that the minute one of them acts immature or tries to control the others, it's over--if they want to make the whole band thing work, they have to work together as a whole. Just as I decided that these guys are merely a phone call away from a record contract, I found out Anderson has only been with the band since April. Technically, that breaks my one-year rule. But, after meeting Ripchain, I've decided to hell with rules. If this is what hard work, dedication and talent sound like, I guess it doesn't matter how long a band has been together. What matters is that they stay together and I have a really good feeling about Ripchain.

Thursday, November 10, 10 p.m., $2, with guests The 3hundred, The Loft, 622 W. Idaho St. (upstairs).

Tuesday, November 29, 8 p.m., $1, The Bouquet, 1010 W. Main St.

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