Subject to Loss: Lives Changed
|Photo by Blake Sellers|
Written by Tamara Styer
Sitting down with Springfield, Missouri Rock Band Subject to Loss was like hanging out with old friends. Their easy-going attitudes and appreciative friendships were obvious, along with their unshakeable connections and true, heartfelt respect and admiration for one another.
Their music is rock and roll, even hard rock at times. But their song “Pull the Trigger” is a pure accidental dead-ringer for Johnny Cash, detailing the unhappiness of divorce: My heart is broken / These drinks won’t mend me anymore / This woman she’s the one / She’s taken everything I am / my heart is so broken / These pills are only calming the shaking hands / Of another colorful handful of a downward spiral…
They seem to have an untapped forte in this melting pot more so than the rocker vein. With Dylan-esque lazy voices and strumming guitars, “Pull the Trigger” sings of the alt-rock blues of Beck’s 1994 groundbreaking, Mellow Gold. Which leads one to think if Subject to Loss went further in this direction, they could harness that same ability to find new avenues for dead-end genres, setting themselves apart from the endless pool of rock bands in the Springfield music scene.
“A lot of it is from a very dark place,” says Garrett Kelsay, vocalist. “I hate to say it but it’s a lot of broken hearts. Not necessarily revengeful, but more like I’m stronger because of it.”
“The thing I’m most proud of with Subject to Loss,” says Kuan Calvert, bassist and vocalist, “some things are taken from a standpoint of heartache, but we don’t have one song that’s ‘woe is me, I’m the victim.’ Every song may start out as I’m the victim in this situation, but what did I do to rise above this. Everything comes out with a positive ending. That’s something I’ve always been very proud of everybody involved in the writing process.”
Kelsay and Calvert started Subject to Loss as an acoustic project, playing coffee shops around Springfield.
“You can’t get the response as you can with a full band,” says Kelsay. “With an acoustic band you’ve got to blow them away vocally or acoustically. With a band you can have energy and performance. You can entertain without necessarily the right lyrics or the right melody. You can just be powerful and entertaining, and a good light show will make a rock band.”
As the sound progressed came the need to add percussion, which lead the duo to drummer Shane Habbyshaw.
The band played as a three-piece for a while, hitting the local clubs.
“The three piece days are over,” says Kelsay. “I either wanted to play guitar or sing.” Kelsay made reference to the high energy of local Springfield rock band, Assembly Line Gods. You watch them play, and the guy over here is just at it, the guy over here is just at it, the front man, at it. I was just tied down, to me that’s been a lot of fun, becoming a front man and not being tied down.”
“It’s been a good journey,” says drummer Shane Habbyshaw. “Adding J.B. (lead guitarist, Jesse Newell), we are tighter than what we were, and it’s been outstanding. I don’t regret a minute of it since he came along. He definitely added a lot more spirit to our band. He came along and he put so much more into our music,” says Habbyshaw. “He’s an outstanding guitar player.”
“He can play stuff I wrote better than I can,” says Kelsay.
Subject to Loss then recorded a 4-song EP with Chris Holliday from Springfield group, Break the Barrier, and played at local music venues as a full rock band.
“We’re really blessed through the Ugly Mug,” says Calvert. “We’ve played there so much. And with Break the Barrier, we’ve hung together with them and been blessed in that way.”
“As a musician, just being on the stage is nonstop adrenaline,” says Habbyshaw. “It’s like an addiction.”
“It’s completely addictive,” agrees Calvert. “The first demo I ever cut in my life, I was 16 years old, and to tell the truth, from then I knew why I was alive. And that sounds really cliché when people say that, but that’s really the only time I feel alive.”
But, like other up and coming artists, the band has struggled to find their niche in the local music scene.
“It’s the trenches,” says Kelsay. “Springfield’s got a lot of good artists, good players, but a lot of people don’t find themselves before they write music. You’ve got to know who you are and what you want to accomplish, and in the end result, are you going to be happy with that decision?”
“That’s another thing I really love about Subject to Loss,” says Calvert. “I grew up a punk rocker, just thoroughbred street punk. You should see us, J.B. is a Metallica fan, and Shane is really into heavy rock, like Seasons After, and to see us fight over a cd player… If you were sitting in my car listening to music, and you got in any one of their cars, it’d be completely different.”
“And I pretty much feel that what I listen to, they should all listen to, because it’s the greatest music ever,” jokes Kelsay.
“And I feel like punk rock should be what everybody listens to,” Calvert chimes in.
“Our aim is radio,” says Kelsay. “It’s your typical rock band sound.”
“He’s the first person that has ever gotten me involved in a project where he can say that he wants radio time and mainstream,” says Calvert. “I’ve never been that person, but I’m comfortable with that now. It took some getting over it for me, I always wanted to be kinda out of the box.”
“When the music you like isn’t on the radio,” says Kelsay, “It’s easy for you to be like, ‘Hell with the radio! They don’t play what I like!’ For these guys, there’s not a metal station, there’s not a bluegrass station, so it’s tough. But for us as a band I think it’s just to keep writing those songs and keep pushing it out until it finally works, and if it doesn’t we still have fun and have something to say for ourselves.”
“I’ve always kept the philosophy,” says Calvert, “that you could have the shittiest day ever and put a cd in - I don’t care if you’re a late Michael Jackson fan, it doesn’t matter who you are - you can put in the right music and your day’s going to get better. Or if you’re in a shitty mood and someone’s singing about having a bad day, someone’s sharing where you’re coming from. I always kept the mentality that if at some point I could touch one person, if one person got through their day a little easier, all this was worth it. And when I got with Swift (Kelsay) and we put together Subject to Loss, I started feeling like it was worth it. Because the songs we do are double-edged. A person could be having a bad day, and we will reflect on that, and relate to them. But at the end of it, if it’s that bad, get up, get out, and do something about it.”
“We’re gonna keep things up,” says Kelsay. “This is what we love to do. Sometimes what we do is pissing in the wind. The advertising, driving around for countless hours hanging up fliers that nobody’s going to see… Outside support is what we strive for. At a lot of shows I tell people we live off applause.”
“The feeling that you get when somebody says good job and shakes your hand, and you did well, there’s nothing like it,” says Habbyshaw. “There’s no other feeling in the world like that.”
“Lights and show will do a lot,” says Calvert, “but I think we’ve gotten the biggest response we have out of our heart. And I contribute that to mainly other bands. Most every band we’ve ever played with has always asked us back. We’ve got a great camaraderie amongst ourselves and with other musicians. We’ve been hanging with Break the Barrier since the first show we played with them.”
Being in a band together has meant more than just playing music to the members of Subject to Loss.
“Swift and I are both fathers,” Calvert says. “When you get together, as a parent, and a shared the passion for music… We met at a festival, and we started the idea (of Subject to Loss), and it got to where our kids could play, and it entertained the kids to play, and we could play as adults.”
“It worked,” says Kelsay. “The last band I was in, I asked if I could bring my kid to practice and he said no. And that’s tough.”
“I actually built most of my respect of Swift because he’s such an outstanding father,” says Habbyshaw. “He’s there for his kids. He’s able to handle himself as a single father.”
“As well as the music scene,” says Newell.
“I’ll be the first to deflate his head through the door,” says Calvert, “but he’s the one person I’ve seen that can raise two children on his own, and he manages our band. He does our booking, and he’s the one who got us in with Chris Holliday to do some production for the demo. On the days that I don’t want to do anything, I’m looking at this guy, because he’s a parent, he works for a living, he has two children, and he still has time to get out here and do this. That’s true passion. You don’t see that a lot.”
“I gotta say though this whole experience has been a life changing experience,” says Habbyshaw. “Not a minute of it I’ve ever regretted. “I’ve been in several bands in my life. This one right here, they just took a turn on my life, and it’s just been outstanding ever since. “And for that I thank these guys for giving me a whole new outlook on rock.”
“It’s very fulfilling,” says Kelsay.
“I wouldn’t trade the camaraderie of this band for the world,” says Calvert. “I really wouldn’t. In other projects I’ve been in, I’ve played with talented people, I’ve played with untalented people. You know when you grow up a punk rocker you’ve got three chords and a drummer and you’re a band and you think you’re on top of the world.”
“I’ve been down all that,” says Habbyshaw, “and if it wasn’t for these boys, then I don’t know what, but they were always there to pick me up, they’re the greatest friends I’ve ever had.”
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