Missoula rock quartet Boys have released a slew of songs in their three-year life span, and played myriad shows – both here and on numerous outside gigs, including a 3 1/2-week tour.
Their latest three tracks, part of a split cassette with King Brat, most clearly captures their live sound and inventive guitar work.
Vocalist and guitarist Kale Huseby's ear-worm melodies are embedded in or give way to washes of kinetic, shimmery guitar work courtesy of Nickolas Hawksley.
They're serious about their pedals and guitar tones, and it shows.
"Still Myspace After All These Years" has quiet verses backed by an insistent bassline, before turning over to a descending guitar line that Built to Spill fans will savor; "Trouble in Moonlight" contrasts layered vocal recordings with laser-beam guitar lines. The fastest song, "Magic Mirror," uses swirling effects to comment on the lyrics.
The three tracks were cut in Missoula at Black National Recording Studio with Chris Baumann, who's recorded all of their work thus far.
"Every time we record with him, it sounds better," Hawksley said.
Huseby said Baumann, who built the studio from scratch, is constantly getting new equipment and experimenting with different techniques.
Huseby and drummer Justin Haider formed the band in 2012 as an outlet for Huseby, who was a self-described "creatively oppressed" bassist in his previous group.
In short order, they added Hawksley on lead guitar. Like Huseby and Haider, he came to Missoula from Great Falls, where they said there was a tight-knit and active high school rock scene. Hawksley described it as "four- or five-year hot spot" where "every teenage kid was in a band."
Their first recordings, 2012's "Shy Shirley," reflected the fixation on garage rock running through Missoula's music scene at the time.
Huseby said they quickly strayed from the garage-rock template, and you can't hear any hint of that genre's blues tinges in their current work.
"I struggle to knuckle down and write in one genre. I find myself recycling and repeating ideas too much if I try to put blinders up and just be like, 'Oh, I want us to be a garage rock band,' " he said.
Bassist Neil Gavigan joined in 2013, shortly before they embarked on a long tour around the U.S., quickly learning to add fills and flourishes, Hawksley said.
"Justin's just a solid drummer," he said. "He's not too flashy and I think it's to his – and our – benefit."
For their part, Hawksley and Huseby love their pedals – reverb, delay, chorus, Boss Equalizers, Big Muff fuzz boxes.
The compressed sound of "Kamikaze," their 2013 collection, reflected a peak interest in distortion – one that begins to fade into more clarity with the handful of songs they've released in the past year and a half, all available on the their Bandcamp page, hoseboys.bandcamp.com.
Later this month, they'll make their third trip to Treefort, a Boise, Idaho, music festival. After that, their plans are relatively uncertain, as a few members prepare to graduate from college.
Hawksley said they'd still like to achieve the watermark of an indie band: a 12-inch vinyl album, put out by a label.
"I think if you have a record like that it means that you view your music as art. And you want it to be presented in this certain way. I want that," he said.
"We've been DIY the whole time. Made our own CDs, made our own everything. Done everything ourselves as much as we could. Booked our own tours. We've had to do all this stuff on our own. Everything we've done is because we work really hard to get it done. We've made good friends, we've made good connections. I think we've come to the point where we should."
If you're wondering about the "ungoogleable" name – which Huseby has explained myriad times before – they needed to come up with one quickly before their first gig.
He didn't want a name as complicated as his previous band, called the Lion, the Tamer.
And once you've toured with a name, he said, you're stuck with it.
Besides, it's a "short, snappy band name."
"When we chose that, I was 22. It's funnier every birthday that I'm in a band called Boys," he said. "If it's still a thing in a couple of years, I'll be like, 'Oh, 28th birthday. Still in a band called Boys.' "
Boys will perform Friday, March 20, at the Ole Beck VFW Post 209, 245 W. Main St., with Missoula groups Magpies (indie-rock), Catamount (indie-rock), and Eat Strike (electro-clash/post-hardcore). Doors open at 9. Cover is $2 for 21 and older and $5 for ages 18 to 20.
Divers, a Portland, Oregon, four-piece, have said they're too indie-rock for the punks and too punk for the indie-rock kids.
Listening to their new album, "Hello Hello," you can sympathize with their plight – it's either heartland rock filtered through the smokey haze of a punk dive bar, or punk filtered through the haze of a Midwest rock bar.
The two genres are merged so cleanly, it's impossible to tell which side they came from.
They play it live with enough conviction that their hometown press has dubbed them one of the best live acts in the city, so perhaps it's best not to worry about labels.
In addition to winning listeners over live, the album shows off their prowess as songwriters and arrangers.
The four – Harrison Rapp (guitar and vocals), Seth Rapp (guitar), James Deegan (bass) and Colby Hulsey (drums) – keep the sound dry, like a classic 1980s rock recording. Guitars are often clean or minimally overdriven; Harrison aims for a haggard desperation, whether nearly whispered or shouted.
The song cycle, about bank robbers making a getaway, works as individual tracks in an impressive range: a hushed introduction ("Getaway"), chugging '80s rockers ("Listen Teller"), and desperate ballads ("Great Escape.")
They aim for singalong anthems more than a few times and succeed – the album sounds great on headphones and likely better on the highway.
Divers will play Thursday, March 26, at the VFW Post 209, 245 W. Main St., with Buddy Jackson, Velvet Handlebars and Eat Strike, 8 p.m., $3 for 21 and up, $5 for 18-20.