music (2005-33)

Skippy and the Bellbottoms go bare-boned

THIS THING ON? Jeff Maynard makes clever music under a goofy moniker.

by Ellen Mallernee

Jeff Maynard is a floppy-haired boy with his guitar, singing plaintive songs. At a recent Corner Lounge performance, the partially assembled Skippy and the Bellbottoms (for the evening, the drummer and bassist are absent) gather beneath the venue’s ruched, tie-dyed tapestry, stapled to the ceiling around a cluster of carmine-colored spotlights. Twenty-four-year-old Maynard is framed by Nathan Tipton and Rhiannon Coloumbe, a young woman who sits expectantly, her hand cupped around a harmonica, her round face at peace. Tipton wears a tilted fedora atop his head, he plucks his electric guitar strings sparsely, lets them reverberate under his fingers. He bangs down on his keyboard, and Maynard opens to the microphone.

The gig is one of the band’s first, and Maynard is both at ease and a bit ruffled. That’s because for the past five years, he’s been playing with his heavier-sounding indie-rock band Next to Never, which also includes Tipton. Maynard assembled the Skippy songs a year ago in an effort to slow things from a gallop to a trot.

“I didn’t want to sing really loud anymore. I wanted to play something more acoustic sounding,” says Maynard, a pizza delivery guy who says he does little else other than hang with his girlfriend and make music.

Though Maynard’s the first to say his lyrics aren’t confessional, they’re far from innocuous; instead, the sure-footed tenderness in his voice strips him barer than a brazen lyric ever could. The folks in back of the bar lower their voices to accommodate a sudden intimacy. There are no candles on the tables, but there should be. After all, there’s a boy on stage and he’s playing his guitar purposefully and singing about something important, even if we’re not sure what it’s all about exactly.

“[Jeff] writes songs about situations around him,” says Tipton. “It’s social commentary, in a way. His music’s not very self-involved at all. It’s more about looking at a situation from the outside. That’s how he once explained it to me anyway.”

When Maynard nudges the decibel of his voice up a notch, he could pass as a Ben Folds, or a Ben Lee, but most often, Maynard’s got his voice dropped down and slowed down to a moany whispery tone that implies introspection, though his cryptic lyrics belie that. Maynard sings about things that don’t make much sense logically, when spelled out, though they click sonically and emotionally.

For a band that takes itself so seriously, Maynard specifically named his band with unbridled goofiness. He’s had the idea of Skippy and the Bellbottoms as a band name for a couple of years. He says, “I knew nobody would ever do it with me, so I had to do my own thing and call it that.”

Maynard and Tipton’s musical partnershipbegan many years ago. “[Nathan’s] been my best friend for, like, five years,” says Maynard. The two met selling soft-serve ice cream at Dairy Queen, explains Tipton. “I had a fake nametag on, and it said my name was Jonas, like the Weezer song. Jeff comes up to me and is, like, ‘Oh, you like Weezer.’ And that’s how Next to Never formed.”

Because Maynard’s moodier, slower-tempo songs couldn’t work in Next to Never—or the other Tipton/Maynard venture, a surf-rock band called The Weekends—he branched out to form Skippy and the Bellbottoms. “Those are all subsidiaries of Next to Never,” says Tipton, explaining that a song that doesn’t work with Next to Never often gets divvied out to Skippy or The Weekends.

Once thing’s for sure though. The Skippy songs don’t sound like leftovers.

Maynard soon had enough of them to formulate an album, and with the help of local producer Arrison Kirby’s self-made music production company, El Deth, he’ll soon host his upcoming CD release party. Kirby mastered and recorded the album, adding peculiar sound effects as points of interest: running water, twittering birds, distant sirens. Maynard now has plans to tour the country, maybe even traveling to some international locations.

“We’re distributing [the album] throughout the U.S.,” he says. “My goal is to find out what cities they’re putting it in and go there and play.”

When Skippy and the Bellbottoms wraps up its set at the Corner Lounge, Maynard climbs into a booth with his friends. He watches the next bands play and drinks Blue Moons lugubriously. It’s hard to tell if he’s sad that it’s all over for the night, or just sad.

 

What: CD Release show for Skippy and the Bellbottoms w/ The Rockwells and David Davis of The Red Cloud When: Thursday, Aug. 18, 10 p.m. Where: Barley’s How much: Free

© 2005 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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