Davison’s most intriguing Internet flash may be his off-the-cuff solo acoustic version of “The Ongoing Horrible,” which has received a staggering 103,000 hits on YouTube. Manipulating a hollow-bodied six-string placed horizontally across his lap, Davison’s hand-tapped percussive nuances and mellifluent mid-song re-tuning embellish a delicately strummed trinket inspired by the self-sufficient flamenco guitarists he witnessed when visiting Spain. Elsewhere, he girds Maps & Atlases’ finest endeavors with rich dulcet tones peculiarly generated from agile bottleneck guitar fingering.
“Along the lines of influences, we have intersecting tastes,” Davison advises. “But when we first met, we’d always listen to Ornette Coleman, specifically The Shape Of Jazz To Come. The kind of stuff we first worked on was definitely rock. We were getting a feel for playing together. But we never wanted to be jazz musicians. We just wanted to take elements of Shape that were so incredible. There was a free flowing consolidation of ideas. That was the beginning. Then, we were in that discussion of how to do it.”
Upon hearing the Coleman comment, bassist Dada yields, “I hadn’t thought of that in a long time. But it’s true. Furthermore, there’s definitely a melodic edge to what we do. I like pop music. It’s the stuff that’s fun to listen to and it’s more accessible. And we try to incorporate that fun element into it.”
Dada, whose straight-laced family discouraged a music career, learned bass at age 11, discovering metallurgists Iron Maiden and AC/DC before getting in deep with punk dynamos the Descendents, whose deft art-damaged finger-pickin’ melodiousness, combined with a desire to replicate Jamie Jamerson’s euphonic Motown groove, inform the nimble dark-haired Chicagoan.
Similarly, band mate Hainey, a fellow Badger State “cheese-head” like Elders, was never formatively trained to be a rocker. Clasping two splintered drumsticks a half-hour ahead of stage time, Hainey explains how he was taught jazz and samba techniques, name-checking flamboyant drummer-composer Gene Krupa and acknowledging another respected virtuoso, Buddy Rich. In high school, Hainey configured enormous drum sets from sheet metal objects and discarded scrap, a trait I had previously associated with ex-Skeleton Key skin basher Rick Lee. Securing a forceful, shifting back-beat and strengthening the band’s cleverly algebraic stop-and-start perplexities, his expeditious acrobatic clatter gets judiciously scattered above and beyond the snazzy detailed interior.