By Courtney Harrell
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If Nathan McGarvey and Stephen Till had had even the slightest inclination that their casual collaboration would morph into a nine-piece band, perhaps they'd have come up with a different name. But forming a group wasn't part of the plan when the pair first convened in the summer of 2005 to work on songs that Till had written during his time with Black Black Ocean and Roper.
"When I quit [Roper], I told myself that I was going to stop playing music and just take a break and be married," says Till between customers as he mans the window at a drive-thru coffee shop in Westminster. "But I had accumulated all these pop songs that nobody had wanted. So I just started recording them myself, and then I got Nathan into it. We compiled a handful of fun songs, and then we realized that we have all these friends who play all these instruments, so we thought, why don't we create a band?"
Next thing you know, the project became a full-time endeavor for everyone involved, including both of Till's brothers, bassist Jonathan (whose artwork adorns JapanImplosion.com and many of Denver's higher-profile releases) and guitarist Matthew, as well as Stephen's saxophone-wielding wife, Leanor (who, as a former member of Five Iron Frenzy, is no stranger to large ensembles). The outfit is rounded out by guitarist Dan Craig, drummer Stephen Brooks, keyboardist Justin Croft and PD, who plays trumpet.
While Nathan & Stephen doesn't have Polyphonic Spree's numbers, its nine members still create one hell of a traffic jam on stage. Logistically, Till knows, that may pose some challenges when it comes time to tour -- so there has to be some sort of known potential before the act commits to hitting the road. "It's not like we can really go out and tour and make no money and make a name for ourselves that way," he notes. "The joy of the Internet, though, is that we really don't have to as much."
Till's not being glib with that last statement. Before the band even started playing out, a buzz had already developed based on a handful of tracks posted on Nathan & Stephen's MySpace page. Last summer, fans were drawn in by bare sketches of songs like "Stand Back Up," a cut from the act's dazzling Morning After Records debut, The Everyone EP. Then known as "New Song," the number has since been given the full-band treatment, complete with gang vocals, violins, keys and horns. The progression of the music is simply stunning, even to Till.
"It's far exceeded my expectations so far," he says. "Now it's just fun running with it -- well, now I'm just trying to enjoy running with it. I tend to overanalyze things too much. I get too ahead of myself, like I want to move the band too far ahead too soon. So we're consciously trying to pace ourselves."
Fair enough. But it's a safe bet that as soon as folks lay ears on the group's boisterous indie-pop songs -- ably driven by McGarvey's husky baritone -- the demand will accelerate that pace.