It’s practice night for the Philadelphia rock band Arc in Round. Walking north on 13th Street, after crossing Spring Garden, I spot the four band members—guitarist/vocalist Jeff Zeigler, bassist Josh Meakim, keyboardist/vocalist Mikele Edwards and drummer Matt Ricchini—leaning against the garage door. They’re puffing cigarettes, clutching beers and cracking jokes, loosening up before work begins.
Tonight’s goal: To perfect the bridge for the song “For Concern” from their self-titled debut album in preparation for Saturday night’s record release show at Johnny Brenda’s.
We walk through the practice room—a labyrinth of cords, instruments and amps—and into the guts of Uniform Recording, the studio Zeigler runs. This is where he has worked on albums by Kurt Vile, The War on Drugs, Lantern and countless other bands. When he’s not touring—as he just was with Vile—or doing live sound at local venues, he’s here. He clocks in about 10 hours every day, twisting knobs to make sure bands go home with top-notch records.
It smells like Nag Champa incense. Zeigler says he burns it to hide the food trash stink that inevitably follows an especially intense session. “You may see a rat run by carrying a burrito,” he says, definitely joking because there’s no visible mess in the control room. Zeigler lives above the studio with a few roommates, including Mike Sneeringer from the band Purling Hiss. We hear Sneeringer monologuing upstairs; he opens the refrigerator and says, “Wine and milk! Woo-hoo! Somebody went shopping!”
We all laugh. Then back to business.
Everyone listens closely to “For Concern.” Edwards wrote it a few years ago, but the band has never played it live. “It’s that one song we’re gonna mess up,” she says. It’s quite complicated. The bridge tempo shifts significantly, morphing from a massive, Mogwai-esque section to a dreamy groove, and there’s a manic climax. They discuss whether Edwards should play the keyboard part, or if they should loop it. They choose the former, but first she has to learn the chords. She quickly figures it out, and they head into the practice room.
They fail the first time—the keys enter too late. And the second—the bass enters too early. “Matt, can you just wink at me when I’m supposed to start playing?” jokes Meakim. “How about you just yell ‘Come on!’” adds Edwards.
They try a few more times. Better, but not perfect. Mild frustration is brewing. “Let’s try it from the top,” says Zeigler.
After the ultra-melodic intro and the blissful second verse, the bridge approaches. Everyone’s tense. Will they fuck up again ? Edwards hits her part, and Ricchini’s hammering the cymbals. Trying hard not to laugh, Ricchini winks at Meakim. The rhythm section locks in. Zeigler casts eerie guitar shadows over the warm groove, and they slam into the outro.
“That’s much better” says Zeigler. “Let’s try it again.”
Arc in Round plays Sat., June 23. 9pm. $10. With Beige, Pet Milk + Tadoma. Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave. 215.739.9684. johnnybrendas.com
PW's Music Issue 2014