When you're a tribute band paying homage to one of the great New Wave bands of the late '70s/early '80s, what do you wear for a Halloween costume?
It seems predictable, almost, to dress up as members of the band to which you're paying tribute. Besides, fans expect that anyway. And local rock group Same As It Ever Was is all about defying expectations.
"When we first started the band, it was definitely about the music first and foremost," founder Curtis Geren told The Daily Times this week. "We try to have some visually stimulating things going on. The guys wear costumes at every show, and we keep it in the vein of New Wave garb. But from everyone's experiences, I think it's incredibly energetic.
"It came together very organically. I'm originally a drummer, not a front man, so from the beginning we were flying by the seat of our pants, and the energy just presented itself. Most people don't leave our shows until the band stops playing."
The group came together in concept three years before getting off the ground in June 2005. Geren, a jazz student at the University of Tennessee, tinkered with the idea of a Talking Heads tribute band with his brother, but it took a while to gather the necessary resources to recreate the Talking Heads experience.
(A quick history lesson: Talking Heads came together in 1974, fronted by charismatic singer David Byrne. The band fused punk sensibilities with pop and funk and cerebral, intelligent lyrics to create a New Wave sensation, especially given the assistance the band received from early MTV video play. "Burning Down the House" and "Once in a Lifetime," the lyrics from which Same As It Ever Was takes its name, were both in heavy MTV rotation, and the band's Jonathan Demme-directed concert film, "Stop Making Sense," remains a hallmark of the genre.)
"We knew from 'Stop Making Sense' that we would need a backup singer or two, just for the functionality alone," Geren said.
Why the Talking Heads? Geren remembers watching the band's videos when he was a child, but it wasn't until his teenage years that he rediscovered the band's music again.
"I respect the fact that they discovered a way to move the body and the mind at the same time," he said. "It's very conceptual and very profound music, and at the same time it gets people dancing. It's fun — very creative and very surreal at the same time.
"At first, we were just excited to play the music itself, and anything else that might have come out of it remained to be seen. I think it was meant to be a really good ode to the Talking Heads, a really well-done tribute."
What it's become is one of the most innovative groups and fun shows not just in East Tennessee, but all over.