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VISITING ACT ‌ Organ Grinders

Col. Knowledge's lo-fi pop-rock packs a soulful punch


Col. Knowledge & The Lickity-Splits
w/ The Explorers Club, The Bedrooms, Ecstatic Sunshine
Fri. Jan. 13
10 p.m.
Village Tavern
1055 Johnnie Dodds Blvd.

"Some people think I sing real high just because I can, but in fact, I sing really high just because that's the key a song is in when I hear it in my head," says Tim Schreiber, the shaggy-headed frontman of Athens, Ga. bomp-rock quartet Col. Knowledge & The Lickity-Splits. "I was thinking today that I probably have the ghost of an old black soul sistah inside of me somewhere, duking it out with my Anglo-elf people ancestry ...sort of like Irma Thomas versus Barry Gibb or something."

Vintage rock, pop, and soul music of all sorts float through Schreiber's head every hour. When the 23-year-old guitarist isn't spinning dusty vinyl at home, recording ideas with his colleagues on 4-track and 8-track tape machines, checking out live bands at the local clubs and keggers, or tuning in to the local college or oldies stations, he busies himself with the task of tracing one popular music act to another — from the 2000s to the early '50s and back.

Schreiber moved to Athens in 2001 from Ypsilanti, Mich. to finish college at UGA and try his hand at putting a garage band together. His first proper effort, The Sugar*Shakers, kicked up in 2002, just as he started hosting the weekly '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll specialty show Who Put the Bomp? on the local college radio station, 90.5 FM WUOG.

"WUOG kicked my ass out when they found out I had graduated eight months earlier," he laughs. "But I loved doing Who Put the Bomp? for the two-plus years that I did it. It gave me something inspiring to do every week."

That immersion into the deep rock 'n' roll underground sparked more than a few musical ideas. Inspired by a slew of Nuggets-era U.S. garage and '60s pop bands, obscure British Invasion groups, and contemporary retro-popsters (many from the notorious Elephant 6 gang), Schreiber formed the Lickity-Splits in late 2003. In 2005, the band signed with Alive Records, a "brother company" to legendary garage label Bomp! Records. The Farfisa-driven debut album, Fall in Love All Over Again With Col. Knowledge & The Lickity-Splits, was recorded at home on a vintage cassette 8-track and released nationally in May '05.

"I'd say the music on our record is stylistically specific to each song that we play," says Schreiber. "For example, the first song ["Someday There Will Come A Time"] is very inspired by early-'60s R&B vocal groups in the over-amped hissy production stylings and the weaving harmonies, syncopated soul-beat, and freak-out organ solo. However, some songs owe more to a certain whimsical effervescence that might imply some sort of psychedelic sensibility. But really, I find it hard to pin any of the songs down stylistically because I feel like each one is composed of ingredients that may or may not be present in any of the other tunes."

Fall in Love... twists and jives with more than enough trebly rhythm and raw soul. "Someday There Will Come A Time" has enough organ and twisty beats to keep the biggest Swingin' Medallions or ? & The Mysterians fan happy. The carnivalesque organ work on "Fallin' Off the Depths" is about demented as anything Mark Mothersbaugh did with Devo before 1977. On the other end of the musical spectrum, the sock-hop pop of "Furthest Cloud in the Sky" and CBGB-style pop-punk of "Comin' On Fast" provide a more comfortable shuffle for the teenage romantics.

The current lineup — Schreiber, bassist and horn player Aaron Jollay, Farfisa organ player Andrew J. Steck, and Mercer West on drums (who recently replaced original timekeeper Jeremy Beck) — is already putting the finishing touches on a follow-up collection ... one that will surely utilize a scratchy, lo-fi sound and an even more confident performance.

"Aaron sings superb falsetto harmonies, and also plays cornet and trombone occasionally," says Schreiber. "Andrew plays organ and harmonizes with his fist in the air. Our new drummer Mercer has got a loose, energetic, freewheeling style that fits us quite well. The new energetic live material has become looser and incorporates more guitar rave-up improvisation while at the same time getting more heavily into harmonizing and creating tension and release ... more dynamic, I suppose."

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