The first riffs from the guitar broke the hypnotic feel of the somber background music that had been emitting from the speakers by the stage, and neon spotlights flickered intermittently, casting shadows on the handful of people scattered around the interior of the club.
Meanwhile, glowing multicolored Christmas lights strung along the rod bars running across the ceiling above the stage bounced off the five-membered band poised to begin their set.
As the first of five performances for the night, Unsound played on Friday, April 19 to a fairly empty Paladino’s Night Club, a 300-person capacity venue that features rock ‘n’ roll tribute and original bands during the weekends.
“It’s always hard for the opening act. They’re usually just as good [as the headliners] but no one goes to a club at 8 p.m.,” said club promoter Bryan Keith, who booked Unsound to play at Paladino’s.
The interlude between the second and third songs is broken by someone, a friend of the band’s, yelling out, “Turn Max up! We can’t hear him.”
When 20-year-old Max Randall joined Unsound as a bassist a year ago, he had never really played bass before.
“They thought I had potential,” said Randall, who is taking a nearly full load of courses at Pierce College. “It turned out that I’m actually a far better bassist than I am a guitarist.”
He started seriously playing guitar at the age of 14. He wanted to learn how to play “One” by Metallica, and had asked one of his friends to teach him. When he couldn’t learn it, he decided to switch over to piano. Then on his 15th birthday, his father bought him a guitar. Randall started getting lessons, but eventually decided to teach himself. Randall met Unsound through a mutual friend who was renting a room with one of the members.
Unsound was formed officially in 2008: drummer Tim Lambert, 29, and guitarist Danny Goor, 31, have been playing together for 10 years; rhythm guitarist Scott Shryack, 32, heard their music through Craigslist and wanted to join them when he got back to the United States from Iraq; and lead singer Chris Guerra, 32, met the members through MySpace.
When the band first thought of naming themselves Unsound–the name was inspired after Guerra had seen an “Unsound” sticker–the name had already been taken by another band. However, that band had a falling out, so they took the name.
“It’s supposed to be like an unsound bridge. You know what I mean? That kind of thing where it’s not exactly stable,” Guerra said. “That’s more or less what we’re trying to convey in the name.”
Randall–who, until that point was strictly a guitarist–would jam with them in their at-home studio.
“There was only one guitar amp, so they would always hand me the bass,” he said.
Randall recalls the phone call that the members made to ask him to join the band:
“‘We just have a funny question–do you play bass?’”
“‘Not even a little bit.’”
“‘Do you want to learn?’”
“I’m their midlife crisis,” Randall said with a laugh.
A few songs into the band’s gig at Paladino’s, Unsound debuted their new song, “Bound to Fall,” and took to interacting with the audience.
“Is it good?” Guerra asked the audience.
“I liked the bridge!” someone hollered from one of the tables.
“That was a great song,” somebody else yelled out.
Unsound is Randall’s first band.
“I’ve been in two small projects where we had the idea of becoming a band, but it never happened,” he said.
The band primarily plays heavy original rock ‘n’ roll.
“My [vision] for the whole project was to keep it darker. I like that dark feel when I hear heavy rock,” Guerra said. “We wanted to keep it melodic. I didn’t wanna do the screamo thing or anything where I’m, like, growling or anything like that. But I wanted to keep the music underneath thick and hearty.”
“Something to float on,” Randall chimed in.
Still, the band has songs that are more radio-friendly anthems.
“Hell, I like to have my own song stuck in my head all day. That’s cool,” Guerra said. “That’s what we’re going for.”
Despite the approximate 10-year age gap between Randall and the rest of the members, the group has a camaraderie that they consider their strongest suit.
“There’s always something going on. I love that about our band, that we could always just stop what we’re doing and start jamming out and actually write music together without arguing and any of that other stuff you have at other bands,” Guerra said.
While the band is trying to make a name for itself, all the members are working full-time jobs.
“Bands are expensive. I wish I had plenty of money and we could do this all day long,” Randall said. “Being rich and famous and living in a mansion is nice, but if we could just support ourselves and play music at the same time, that’s all we’re really going for.”
Even though Randall joined a year ago, the band hasn’t been playing that many gigs because the members wanted to have a recorded CD on hand first.
Right now, the band works around the members’ work schedules by practicing around three times a week at night.
Paladino’s bartender Amber Blomgren, who listens to music from all the bands that are set to play for the club’s newsletters, describes Unsound as a “really good local band.”
“I like their melodic undertones,” she said. “There’s also the fact that I could tell that they were actually musicians, not just rockers.”
At the end of their seven-song set, the band thanked the crowd for coming to see them play.
“Can you like us [on Facebook]? Please?” Guerra asked the audience.
Carla Reyes, 37, came to Paladino’s the day of Unsound’s performance to see Maiden-LA, an Iron Maiden tribute band. Wanting to hear all the bands set to perform that day, she came for Unsound’s performance.
“I would listen to them again,” she said, comparing Unsound to rock band Incubus. “Regardless of the [people in the audience], I’m gonna follow them. I’m not here for the people but for the bands.”
In addition to playing in the band and attending school, Randall is juggling 30 to 35 hours of work weekly. For him, the band is the focus.
“This is the job. It’s more than just fun at this point,” he said.
That’s not to say that being a part of Unsound is all business.
“We’re trying to get famous before next semester,” he said, grinning. “This is like my time to hang out with my friends. It’s not like a job at all. It’s fun, and it gives me a reason to get out of the house.”
Follow Unsound on Facebook at facebook.com/unsoundband.