berch: melody is king

Photo by Chet Smith, Copyright 2011, all rights reserved
by Tamara Styer

     On March 18, Springfield, Missouri band Berch announced that two of their members, Matt and Daniel Potter, bassist and guitarist, would be parting ways with the band. When breaking the bittersweet news Berch wrote, “We are very excited about the opportunities Matt and Dan have but we will miss having them around. There is no doubt that we will miss their musicianship, but more importantly we will miss what they brought to the band as people and as great friends.”
    The memories Berch have together are full of fondness and laughter. Even in his song, “Brothers,” singer Colin Elmore writes lyrics that could be applied as a homage to the friendships formed between these band mates: Oh brother where do I go now / Thought I was going north but I got turned around / And the stars I’m walking under / Have led me far enough to discover / I need my brothers.”
     Before the news of the split, Deitra Mag got the privilege of hanging out with Berch. Elmore is telling the story of how the band got together as the five members huddle together in the back parking lot of the Outland Ballroom in Springfield, Missouri.
     A few years ago, Elmore showed Matt Potter some songs he had written and the two decided to start a band. Then Elmore, Matt Potter, Paul Bowen, Daniel Potter and Brian Campbell started playing music together. 
    “That was a beautiful basement, wasn’t it?” says Brian Campbell, drums. “We played in this place called Campus Courts right near MSU, and the basement was like the side of a small garage. It was unfinished and it flooded a lot, and the first practice we had, Colin didn’t have a microphone stand, so he had to hang a mic over a plumbing pipe.”
     Elmore laughs loudly, “Yeah! HA HA HA!”
     “That was two years ago,” continues Campbell. “It was the day Blink 182 got back together.”
     The group laughs.
     “That’s how we knew we were going somewhere,” Paul Bowen, keys and sax, joked. “Right before rehearsal Brian was like, ‘Guys, guys, guys! Blink’s getting back together! It’s a special day!’”
     “And everyone else said, ‘I don’t care!’” Campbell laughs.
Photo property of Berch, all rights reserved
     Their laughter and collective sarcastic humor is infectious, seeming to be the only thing keeping everyone warm, seeing that they have all left their jackets inside. But it is obvious these guys are good friends.
     “We are!” says Elmore. “We’ve had lots of good memories. We’ve almost died twice.”
     “We’re in Jefferson city,” starts Daniel Potter, picking up the story, “at some sketchy pool hall, playing a semi-acoustic show. It was kind of a strange show in general, but we’re outside and there’s this man that’s like probably at least 104 years old, with a giant white beard and a rocket launcher.”
     The circle of people listening is laughing already at his story.
     “It was a rifle of some sort, not a rocket launcher, but we’re loading up the jeep, trying to get the heck out of there, and he just like, he shoots the gun!”
     “BAM!” Elmore yells out.
     “In the middle of the capital!” laughs Daniel Potter.
     “And we just hear a gunshot,” Elmore says. “We didn’t realize he was shooting in the air.”
     “No,” says Daniel,  “He shot it straight out.”
     “He did?” says Elmore.
     “The smoke was coming out of the barrel this way.” Daniel gestures. “You wouldn’t know, you ran like a girl.” The group laughs. “And then me and Matt are standing at the back of the jeep, and we’re holding this stuff… and all the sudden we just head back inside. Colin and Paul ran off, and we didn’t see Paul for at least 25 minutes!”
      “There was this closet in the back of this pool joint,” explains Bowen, “And I was like, ‘you know what, if he comes in a shoots this place up, he’s not going to look in the janitors closet!’ So I just hung out in there until everything was going to be cool!”
     “When we came back [home after the tour],” continues Daniel, “someone told me that guy’s like a legend in that city. He does it all the time and gets arrested all the time. He was like, ‘Did he have a dog with him?’ And we were like, ‘Yep, that’s the one!’”
Photo by Chet Smith, Copyright 2011, all rights reserved
     Berch's sound is unique, standing out among the alternative rock bands in Springfield, Missouri. Fans, musicians and media have all been thoroughly impressed by their polished freshman effort, Before and After the Fall.
     “It’s not a concept album,” says Elmore, “but the reason we named it that is because the songs all deal with ‘pride comes before the fall.’ So it’s kind of a look at songs for my life personally that deal with what comes before a fall. “Magician” is a song about pride, because it’s about Harry Houdini. He said he could get punched by anybody and live through it, and he died from that, so that’s kind of an example of it. It’s basically what happens before being prideful and then what happens after a fall.”
     The focal point of Before and After the Fall is Elmore’s songwriting and compelling vocals.  artistic manner and comfortable expression that belongs center stage. Their live show is professional and energetic, performing fan favorites with strong hooks and smart lyrics such as the powerful “Aurora Skies”: (You’re over aurora skies with me / I can feel the plasmic activity / You’re love is rushing inside of me / No longer are northern lights blinding / And now I can see).

Photo by Chet Smith, Copyright 2011, all rights reserved
     Berch will be starting a new album in May, according to Elmore. “We’re going to go to Memphis again, which is where we recorded most of our last one. We are kind of taking a different approach.”
     “Our first album,” says Campbell, “we’re very proud of it. It was something we put a lot of work into. But realistically, it’s a compilation of songs. We have songs on that album that span from Billy Joel piano bar to alt-rock. So there’s a huge span, and then we have folk-sounding stuff. So we’re really trying to find a parameter, but not necessarily cram in the middle of it. We will still explore the outsides of the parameter, but not too far in any one direction.”
     “My favorite albums are albums that have a distinct feel to them,” says Elmore, “and one of the ways you accomplish that is by limiting your instruments, and limiting what you can use in an album. So we’re going to try to do that. It’s more raw and less driven, more melodic. I would say our music, like Before and After the Fall, was progressive alt-rock but with a lot of melody, because I love melody. And I think we all feel that’s important, so we’re going to try to make that a little more of the king. Melody is king.”
     “One of the cool things as you start to play a whole lot together,” says Bowen, “especially after two years, you really start to mature together, and your musical tastes and what you want the band to become are really starting to align. It’s making practices a lot more enjoyable, and it’s making writing a lot more fun because we’re all kind of headed in the same direction now. And it takes a little time to get those wheels on the bus.”
     “Yeah, there’s still ground to cover,” says Elmore, “and I’m sure in two years we’ll be even more in sync in reading each other’s minds than we are now. I’d say the first album was like a glimpse. It was like a picture in time of where we were and where we’ve been, and now we’re going to be able to move forward. I think we’ve really gained a lot of ground as far as being on the same page and knowing what we’re going for. So I’m really excited.”
Photo by Blake Sellers, BS Photography, Copyright 2011, all rights reserved
Before and After the Fall is available on iTunes and at http://www.berchofficial.com/. Get a free download of “Aurora Skies” at http://www.berchofficial.com/.


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Copyright 2011, all rights reserved

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