July 11, 2012 Review Thee Parkside
For all events
Review by Gaetana Caldwell-Smith
The New Position better known as TNP as described by bassist Suzanne Birrell aka Sassafras is a cross between rock and heavy metal. It is a hard-driving quintet made up of Evol on lead guitar; CRISPy CRUIZeR on drums, Dr. Redbeard on synth and turntable, and the above named Sassafras on bass guitar. Lead vocalist Modest Goddess belts out original lyrics backed up by the rest of the crew.
The band plays mostly original, innovative, creative music. At risk of coming off like a school teacher adding notes on report cards, Sassafras goes on to say that they are “cool, dedicated, responsible, considerate, and highly intelligent.” TNP is a group of like-minded musicians with a great sense of humor who are open for experimentation and have a goal to play out and succeed. She believes that to make it in today’s music world you have to have the right people daring to play their own music at the right time. “The New Position sings about standing up against oppression,” Sassafras says, “as well as tongue-and-cheek fun. It’s about time!!!” Sing against oppression, yes. Rant? No, TNP does not rant.
About the musicians:
David Hughes aka Evol has been playing the electric guitar since high school and has been in the field of sound/music engineering and recording since college. When he and Stephanie Ryan aka Modest Goddess, were out with friends in 2005, she started goofing off, singing few notes. Dave’s friend said she had a good voice, so Dave who had all the recording gear, encouraged her to sing. “He possesses the drive and passion to make music,” Stephanie said, “I love to sing in general, so we started putting some simple songs together. One of our first songs was a pop-sounding spoof on gambling.” She got a referral for a voice trainer and took singing lessons where she learned basic mechanics and techniques of voice control. Now imbued with confidence in her own abilities, she would like to continue learning. Hughes (Evol) says that he and Steph started writing music together a year later. Their first composition was “DMV.” “It was mostly for fun,” he added. They started recording at Shine On Studio and formed their first band, Autonomous Collective. After a brief period on hold, they got serious about writing and composing music.
Dave sought drummers and bass players by posting ads on craigslist and found Christopher Ruiz (aka “CRISPy” CRUIZeR), who joined them in late April of 2011, and they began composing. Dave says, “I knew that we’d started forming a band that could compose music that was unique and provocative.” Without a full band, they performed a lot of electronic synth sounds at the start. Chris demonstrated his interest in their music and picked up anything and everything they threw at him. Ruiz is a multi-instrumentalist who plays bass, guitar, and can deliver on vocals. For over a decade, he’s worked as a composer, amassing an impressive body of work. Still, he claims that his first true love of music started with, “- and will always be the drums,” which he started playing as a child at the age of 3.
Although born with an atrophied arm which tapers off just below his elbow, Chris has performed an eclectic playlist as a performing artist and session musician for various acts all over the San Francisco Bay Area. After many years of being a “hired gun” for numerous bands, working on a solo project that launched in 2007 called CRUIZeR, then a lengthy break from the scene, he renewed his pursuit of a permanent slot in a rock n’ roll band in January 2009. “I joined great musicians in their quest for awesome shows and fun times,” Chris stated, “ Like a true drum machine it is never a rare thing to see me in 3-6 different bands at the same time. I take opportunities as they come, soaking up the glory of the moments,” he added, modestly. This eventually led to an audition that left a lasting impression and gained him a slot in The New Position. “And I’ve been kicking ass and taking names with TNP ever since,” Chris said. Someone who knows percussionists and rock and roll musicians once said of Chris, “The ‘craziest thing’ about this cat – he does it all with one hand. . . . . Rick Allen (of Def Leppard) does not compare to this guy! He is truly a sight to see.” And truly, he is.
Russ (Dr. Red Beard aka Russ Gray-Scratch Rhythm) and Dave, friends since college, had shared many concert adventures. In 2011, Russ came to a rehearsal and gave them the feedback and insight needed to perfect their ouvre. His insight and critique inevitably lead to his joining the band and adding his style of scratching to layer texture on top of TNP’s music. He subsequently incorporated and continues to incorporate the synth sounds in their music. After enduring a few unsuccessful collaborations with a couple of different bass players, another stint on craigslist led to bassist Suzanne Birrell (Sassafras) Sassafras has virtuoso bass chops that have glued the original compositions of TNP into the music they now perform live all over the Bay Area. She was enthusiastic about their music from the start and says she worked really hard to learn their repetoire. “She has been a great asset with her highly skilled background and her willingness to experiment until we all find the sound we like,” Modest Goddess said, adding, “It’s been a really positive and collaborative experience so far and I’d say one of our goals is to keep it that way.”
Sassafras moved to the bay area two years ago. Previously she had played with couple of original road bands, some jazz groups and an ‘80s cover group. When the music scene where she’d lived fell apart, she came with her husband to San Francisco “to find some music.” Surprised that there was not a larger original music scene here, she kept searching, answering several ads, and playing with different musicians but the magic wasn’t there. One day she answered an ad in craigslist and- huge coincidence!- found that TNP rehearsed across the street from her place.
As a bass player, her first requirement is a over the top terrific drummer, and there on the same page, we have “CRISPy” CRUIZeR. “I like a lot of rhythm because it opens up some melody spots for me in playing bass -step in Dr. Red beard on Scratch- yea!” Sassafras says, adding, “ Lots of melodic opportunities while he holds a groove.” Of Modest Goddess she says she likes having another female energy in a band and that Steph has a great voice- “very daring and color coated. Modest Goddess,” she adds, “is one of the easiest and talented personalities I’ve ever worked with. Everything is held together with Evol (Dave) on guitar,”she continues, “passionate, inventive, dedicated, generous of spirit and highly creative.” You can see the delight in Sassafras that reveals how much she loves playing with TNP. “I’m thankful they let me play, too,” she laughs.
Waxing philosophically, Evol adds: “Humans are fascinating creatures and the expression of music is just one way we can connect to the motion of the universe. TNP writes music taken from our own experiences and imaginations. Our music adds an ethereal feeling somewhere in our souls. TNP thrives on the energy moving through our thoughts and seeks to expose the unexplored regions of the mind, heart, and soul. TNP’s music opens regions of existence that searches for a deeper connection to life, each other, and the mother of sound.” To that, I say, Amen, Ohm, or just – Wow!
Do not miss this dynamic, charismatic band! ‘Their next gig is Saturday, July 14, @ 8PM. Live at the Stork Club, 2330 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA. 5 bucks gets you in the door. You’ll be swept away, come away with a natural high, endorphins glowing- guaranteed.