Bands come together in many different ways. Sometimes individuals will aspire to be a solo performer and acquire touring musicians as they come and go. Sometimes a group of friends will start learning music together in hopes of finding fame and fortune. And sometimes it’s just meant to be, with no clear explanation.
The story of Columbus alternative rockers Gelatinus Cube goes back to a camping trip years ago. Guitarist Tim Swanson and vocalist/guitarist Pat Chase were on a Boy Scout campout when they realized they wanted to be in a band together, they said.
“Our friend was in a band at the time, a popular ska band, and we were like, ‘Oh man, we want to do that too.’ So Pat and I decided we wanted to form a band,” Swanson said.
“Throughout the two-week campout we were on, we wrote I don’t know how many songs.”
The pair said that the first Gelatinus Cube recording was the best.
“It’s a shame it’s lost forever,” Swanson said. “It was recorded on the sound recorder on Windows. We made it like 20 seconds into the song before it’s a complete disaster. And then you hear my brother in the background yell, ‘Hey Pat, your mom’s here.'”
The group has advanced beyond amateur recordings since that time. The band’s discography and list of previous members are both rather lengthy.
Drawing its name from “Wayne’s World,” Gelatinus Cube has drawn a number of different musicians on a number of different instruments over the years. One bassist only played a single show before deciding he wasn’t interested, Swanson said.
“This is the closest to the original lineup we’ve had in years, but the amount of people who have been in this band is kind of staggering,” Chase said.
The current lineup includes Chase and Swanson, saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Sean Castanien and drummer Mike Daull, who lives near Cleveland.
“He’s probably put on maybe two or three thousand miles going back and forth,” Swanson said.
The band’s material is recorded by Mike Hayes, who has recently been standing in for an out-of-town bass player.
“I don’t play in the band. I’m filling in to be kind and gentle. But I’ve recorded from ‘Gelanarchy’ on,” Hayes said, referencing 2005’s full-length album.
Over the past eight years, the group has released four studio albums, four demos and two live CDs.
Gelatinus Cube has also traveled to New York to play shows. Chase recalled a discussion he had with a friend about the topic.
When playing in New York, “most people are listening to the music while they’re at the bar,” Chase said. “When you’re here it’s like background music, you’re playing and there’s just people drinking, so it’s a different thing.”
Though the audience in New York was more interested in checking out new styles of music than Columbus, Gelatinus Cube says it has never planned to play a specific genre.
“We don’t really have anything we’re going for,” Chase said.
Some of the group’s catalog features straight Ramones-style punk rock. Other songs are along the lines of Frank Zappa’s experimental concept rock.
Titled “Whaleplane,” the latest album that was released last year, shows off a wide variety of musical styles.
Swanson sounds like a Velvet Underground-era Lou Reed in “Letters From Mars.”
Castanien’s saxophone adds a jazzy flare to the album and has always been an unusual aspect for the band, considering it isn’t necessarily a jazz outfit.
“Back in our hometown by Cleveland, there was a thriving ska scene, so in order to be a part of the ska scene I guess we added a saxophone,” Castanien said.
“ETA 930,” one of the last songs on the album, came about from a recently created band tradition.
“Since ‘Whaleplane’ I think we’re going to do this,” Chase said. “We released it on Sept., and we’re releasing another album on that date this year, which is what we’re working on right now.”
Gelatinus Cube isn’t very concerned about selling albums but would rather focus its efforts on getting the message out.
“We give away lots and lots of copies of our albums. We have physical copies that we charge for but we don’t do that nearly as much as we just give them away,” Chase said. “We actually have one more copy to give away and we’re on our 666th.”
Looking forward in 2010, Chase said the group hopes to keep “gigging, touring, making albums and giving them away, while selling some of them.”
Gelatinus Cube is performing at the Scarlet & Grey Café on Friday. “Whaleplane” can be downloaded at myspace.com/gelatinuscube.