Working on the World
Popular around the Charleston bar scene for their Fleetwood Mac-esque vocal capabilities, neon-lit band name banner, and a repertoire of classic rock, Top-40, electric blues, and A.M. radio faves, Charleston-based rock quartet The Cool are ready to formally introduce their own material to their fans.
It took some time, but guitarist Bill Cool, singer/bassist/keyboardist Christi Smoak, singer/guitarist/keyboardist Fiona Phillips, and drummer K.C. Hazelwood finally assembled a debut album titled Climate Control. They celebrate its official release this Thursday with a five-band showcase at the Plex. Special on-stage guests include keyboardist Robyn Robins (of the Silver Bullet Band) and drummer Henry "H-Bomb" Weck (of Brownsville Station).
"Fiona and I have been playing music together for 20 years," says lead guitarist Bill Cool. "In fact, it's 20 years this summer. We started out playing as a duo and with others in Ann Arbor, Mich. I grew up in Atlanta while she came from St. Louis. We relocated to Charleston in 1987 and were almost immediately hired as the house band at the old Malibu Lounge on Folly Road [where the Oasis is located now]."
After playing for a while as a two-piece, Cool and Phillips began collaborating with other players and the core of what was to become The Cool gradually solidified.
"We got word that Christi wanted to audition, so the band came together, and we started booking like crazy," says the lead guitarist. "We've never really varied from what we did in the beginning. We all come from different musical backgrounds, as far as influences are concerned, and we all bring those to the group. We do a really wide range of stuff. We also realize that people go to bars to spend money, and if you don't get people to come in and spend money, you won't have a gig there for very long."
Recorded over the last few years on Bill's own home audio gear, Climate Control is a documentary of the band's earliest original compositions — more a quirky hodge-podge of demos with a mix of computerized drum tracks and acoustic drum work than an expensive-sounding major studio session (check out the audio from "Working on the World" at the top of the page). Contributing players include drummers Vance White and Scott King; vocalist Amanda Morris; bassist Robbie Bendell (who's recently rejoined), and others.
Phillips and Smoak also perform with singer/guitarist Rachel Pardieck Hazelwood (due on stage this Thursday as well) in the lady-rock group The Sirens — a band that also puts the brightest spotlight on the three-part harmonies and collective vocal range. The Sirens' sets work from a softer mix of classic rock, vintage soul, and the Top-40 lists of the '70s and '80s.
"One of the things I'm particularly proud of is the vocals with this group," says Cool. "It's always been a treat to work with Fiona, who's a great singer, and then with Christi and occasionally Rachel, who are both terrific singers, too. I try to hang in there vocally, when I can. We have the vocal power to go anywhere we want. A lot of bands are very good instrumentally, but they're kind of weak vocally. It's tough to find really good singers who know how to harmonize and how to do their craft. We're very fortunate in that way."
The Cool share the stage with Travis Allison Band, The DaliDrama, TrickKnee, and The Book of Lies at The Plex (2390 W. Aviation Ave., 225-PLEX) on Thurs. July 12. Music starts at 8 p.m. The $5 admission may be put toward the purchase of a T-shirt or CD. The Cool also perform at the Pickled Parrot (8780 Rivers Ave., 377-1517) on Fri. July 13 and Sat. July 14. Check out www.theplexonline.com and www.thecool.biz for more.