Loose Talk

The Blackened Blues

With Anberlin putting a hold on its career, two of its members – Christian McAlhaney and Deon Rexroat – weren't ready to put on hold on music as their careers. Now, their former side project – a "blackened blues" rock and roll outfit – has become their main gig.

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Loose Talk is one of the most intriguing underground bands right now. The St. Petersburg, FL-based duo have begun to build a cult following delivering straight-up rock and roll; far from famous, they’re not making gold records but the rock sound drips with something special. Christian McAlhaney and Deon Rexroat haven’t always been part of the underground of the music industry. As both the guitarist and bassist (respectively) of the alternative band Anberlin, McAlhaney and Rexroat are veterans, used to playing shows for millions all around the world. Why Loose Talk?

I have been increasingly intrigued by the duo, especially as they evolve their own identity outside of the Anberlin mothership. Despite the occasional tours and performances said band, the days of them being a full-on career band are gone. Stephen Christian (Anberlin vocalist), Joseph Milligan (guitarist), and Nate Young (drummer) are all doing different things that take up more time, yet, for McAlhaney and Rexroat, the follow-up question stands to reason: What drove them to start a new band?


Both of you live near the Tampa area, right?
Rexroat: Yeah, St. Petersburg, FL.

That being the case, you guys live near your buddy, Stephen Christian.
McAlhaney: Actually, Stephen’s near us.

Rexroat: We were here first.

In your own words, what is your vision for Loose Talk?
Rexroat: Originally, it started out as an outlet for Christian and myself since we were the only two in Anberlin who had never done any type of side projects. It was an outlet for a different side of our musical personality. Once Anberlin ended, it was our main thing. For us, whether it was our main thing or whether it continued to be a side project, Loose Talk – to us – is something that, in a weird way, is our mindset in how we work together musically.

When we started, I think we had what we thought was our vision for the band, but as time has gone on and we’ve written more music together, I think we’ve realized that not trying to force the personality of the band has been the way to go. What Loose Talk has really become is the musical form of our personalities and our working together. We just try to write music that we like, that other people would like, and hope that it’s really rad rock music, I guess (laughs).

How would you describe the sound of Loose Talk?
Rexroat: Christian self-branded us as “blackened blues” a while ago. We have a very tongue-in-cheek relationship with how we view our band. Though we do take it seriously, we do still have fun with it. We don’t take it so seriously that it’s void of humor and personality.

McAlhaney: It’s just dirty rock-and-roll. “Blackened blues” came from the metal scene. If you had a tinge of black metal, people would be like, “Oh, it’s like blackened doom or it’s like blackened death metal.” So, I just took that monicker and thought it was hilarious. It’s grungier, heavier, blues-based rock and roll.

 

Your music definitely has a grungy, blues-infused vibe to it.
Rexroat: We’re children of the ’90s, so I don’t think we could shake that influence of listening to rock and roll and punk rock.

McAlhaney: Ironically, a lot of these songs are written right outside of Aberdeen, WA, which is where Kurt Cobain is from. A lot of times we go to write on the Washington coast. My friend’s family owns a motel out there. It’s easy to detach. It’s just a small vacation town – summer town, if you will – but in the winter, it’s cold and raining every day and everything is closed.

Rexroat: No wi-fi (laughs). I was used to Christian going out there and writing throughout our Anberlin career, so we had the idea of, like, “OK, I’m gonna go join you, and we’re gonna get away and focus on Loose Talk together.” My first trip out there, it was very interesting. I saw the charm and why Christian liked it because it was very easy to detach and focus on what you were working on. It was very easy to pour yourself into your work.

Honestly, I think the most frustrating part for us with Loose Talk was trying to convince people that this was the real deal, at least as far as the way we looked at it.

You guys have a four-song EP. Are you planning on doing a full album?
McAlhaney: We basically recorded another EP’s worth of songs over the past couple of years and slowly got them mixed. Life gets in the way in a lot of different ways. I was working a full-time job, Deon had a full-time job for a while, Anberlin had broken up and then Anberlin was back together, I was doing stuff with Acceptance, Acceptance got back together. A lot of things took precedence in front of Loose Talk; that’s why it’s been so sporadic. We thought we were gonna hit the ground running, but, you know, you make plans and God laughs at you.

We basically got four songs finished and approached this year like, “Well, let’s just release them one at a time.” Throughout that process, we still have other songs that are pretty much finished, so we’re going to keep trying to record and mix songs throughout the rest of the year. The initial plan was to release a vinyl as an “album.” Side A would be one EP, side B would be the other EP. We’re completely DIY. Everything is self-funded. We do everything in-house. Designs. I ship out the shirts. It’s just Deon and myself. Ordering vinyl is kind of a big commitment, so we wanted to build for a while – which we have been doing this year – to make sure that like, if we order 500 vinyls, do we have 500 people who are going to want to buy a vinyl before we collectively spend six grand or whatever? That’s the ultimate goal: to release a record.

Rexroat: Being that we’re building, like Christian said, before we commit to making a bunch of physical copies of something, our point was like, alright, let’s build a fan base first. And then, when enough people want it, we’ll just put our collection together as an album or whatever you want to call it and we’ll put it out. Doing it staggered the way we have been doing it gives us more talking points as a band. Every month or every two months we have something to talk about as we drop a single at a time.

Loose Talk

Loose Talk

Do you plan on doing any live shows in and outside of Florida once things get back to normal-ish?
McAlhaney: Honestly, I think the most frustrating part for us with Loose Talk was trying to convince people that this was the real deal, at least as far as the way we looked at it. Most people were like, “Well, what is this?” Like I said earlier, because of circumstances, we couldn’t really dedicate as much time as we really wanted to, so people were like, it’s just a side project.

The ultimate goal is that we want to be a band. We want to be a touring band. Anberlin, yes, has done some touring and was going to do some touring again this year, but no one is really wanting to do that full-time anymore in the band. Acceptance is the same way; all those guys are in careers. When Anberlin had the conversation of, hey, we don’t want to do this anymore, Deon and I were like, you guys are nuts. So, we were the holdouts of like, no, man, this is what we want to do for a living. It’s our passion, so the end goal for Loose Talk is to try to get this going as the main band.

Rexroat: Our plan is to definitely get out and bring our music to people. We definitely don’t want to just sit around and play locally. It would be great to get out and play in Texas, California, and Seattle. I would love to have a schedule each year of touring with Loose Talk. For us, writing then recording is only half the equation. Performing the songs live is the other part. You get to express yourself in an entirely different way every time you play live. It’s really something that we love. Christian and I play in St. Pete every now and then with some of the blues musicians in town. It’s just fun. Getting out and playing live is one of the best parts of being a musician, in my opinion.

There’s something to me that’s special about playing a song that you had a hand in creating and seeing that reaction on people’s faces. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have done it for so long.

One of our old front-house guys works for a lot of big artists and he was saying that some of them don’t like performing live so they don’t tour much. And it’s like, why go through the trouble of writing a song if you don’t want to play it? It’s just weird to me. It’s a strange concept to me that people wouldn’t want to perform these songs and play them. There’s something to me that’s special about playing a song that you had a hand in creating and seeing that reaction on people’s faces. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have done it for so long.

For those of us who are able, how can we support Loose Talk? How can we help get the music out there?
McAlhaney: More than anything, it’s finding the band and listening to us.

Rexroat: When I love a band – especially now, in modern times – and I’m on Spotify and I find something I like, I go to that share link and I send it to Christian and he does the same to me. We’re always sharing music. I think that sharing, and, obviously, listening to music. I think that, even after this pandemic, the main support will be listening and supporting the artist that way. Going to see concerts when we can again. If someone loves a band and they share it with their friends, that is the best advertisement.

McAlhaney: Loose Talk is at a point where I’m more into growth and exposure than I am in trying to make a buck. More than anything, word-of-mouth. Like, yeah, if you see a shirt design and you like it, of course we’re happy to sell it to you. Or if you want to buy the EP instead of streaming it, that’s actually a lot more helpful. It’s like a fraction of cents when you stream a song and those are all available things; but right now we’re just trying to get as much exposure as we can.

What do you think listeners can look forward to in the coming months?
McAlhaney: We just released a song the same day as our livestream a couple weeks ago. It’s called “Swim Like Stones”. We still have another song off the last batch of songs recorded to release here and then a couple more that just need to get finalized. We’ve been converting my garage into a recording studio, so that’s been the main focus. Once that’s all done, we can get back into the swing of finalizing songs.

What is the weirdest thing you guys have done in quarantine?
Rexroat: I started making hot sauce (laughs). Christian has been my test market because he eats hotter food than anyone I know. I’ve been making pickles for a long time, but one of the batches I did, I just decided to throw some peppers into this brine that I had and I was like I’ll just blend it up. When it’s done, I’ll see what it tastes like. Now it got me really interested in trying all these different combinations.

McAlhaney: I will testify that Deon’s hot sauce is amazing.

My rhythm wasn’t really thrown off that much by the quarantine. Like I said before, I’ve been so busy building out my garage.

Rexroat: I was gonna say, you’ve completely renovated an entire structure at your house (laughs).

McAlhaney: I’m very proud of how that turned out.

Loose Talk was posted on June 1, 2020 for HM Magazine and authored by .