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Anchorage band Medium Build makes its mark with blunt lyricism

  • Author: Zakiya McCummings
  • Updated: January 4, 2018
  • Published January 4, 2018

Rock band Medium Build includes, from left, James Dommek Jr., Nick Carpenter, James Glaves and Chad Reynvaan. Photographed on December 14, 2017. (Photo by Marc Lester)

A Medium Build performance is nothing short of a spectacle.

At their Dec. 29 show at 49th State Brewing Company, frontman Nick Carpenter came out wearing a cowboy hat and brown, bob-length wig, shimmied like Elvis himself and took time to do a quick costume change in the middle of the 90-minute set.

A pretty normal occurrence when the four-piece band gets onstage.

Medium Build's history started long before their first show last year. The project began as the solo endeavor of lead vocalist and guitarist Nick Carpenter. Carpenter was going to school in Nashville and decided to start recording tracks on his own following the breakup of his previous band. After some trial and error, Carpenter homed in on the sound he was looking for. He wanted something raw, lo-fi and unpolished.

"I had never really played (my solo songs for other people). I was just making these songs for me," he said.

Carpenter, originally from Atlanta, briefly lived in Anchorage from 2009-2010. He moved back last summer after two major life changes — a breakup and graduation. Itching for a chance to be onstage again, he started playing open mic nights at the now-defunct Spenard venue Tap Root. "I went there every week, hoping someone would discover me," Carpenter said.

That's where Carpenter met local musician and producer James Glaves, who was hosting the open mic.

Carpenter "had Dockers or khakis on, kind of looked like some guy who'd just gotten off work as the assistant manager at a True Value Hardware. He didn't look like what you'd expect," Glaves said.

Impressed with his live performance, he introduced himself to Carpenter that night. A week later, Carpenter approached him again. "He said something like, 'Hey, I looked you up on the internet. I see you record bands and stuff, let's make a record,' " Glaves said.

"Anytime as a recording engineer you see someone who's talented in music, at least for me, your first reaction is like, 'I want to record that. I want to help them sound awesome.' "

After Carpenter shared nine rough tracks he'd recorded in his bedroom, Glaves was anxious to get a full band behind his voice and had a couple people in mind. He called bassist Chad Reynvaan (The Chromies, The Sweeteners) and drummer James "Junior" Dommek (of Whipsaws fame). After playing a few songs together, everything seemed to click.

Rock band Medium Build rehearsed at an Anchorage home on December 14, 2017. Nick Carpenter sings at center. Chad Reynvaan is at left, and James Glaves is at right. (Photo by Marc Lester)

It was a relief for Carpenter. His bandmates not only understood the sound he was going for, but the importance of his blunt lyrical style.

"As a kid I had a best friend, and we would try and write songs together. He was super flowery; it was all smoke and mirrors. I was never good at that," Carpenter said.

"So I just started writing simple songs. At first they were really emo and punk-y, kind of just … crass. I feel like I've gotten better at being more conversational."

Medium Build describes themselves as pop-rock, with Carpenter's achingly honest lyrics taking center stage. His emotive vocals are amplified by the clever, theatrical instrumentals.

When it comes to being onstage, Carpenter is a showman. "My dad texted me after (a show) and said, 'You set yourself on fire, and people gather around to watch it.' "

"Even if I'm dancing or screaming or I'm weeping … you can forget that you're at a sh—- bar in Anchorage for a second, forget about your homework, forget about your boss and be like, 'This is fun.' "

Having already released the EP "Falling Apart," Medium Build is currently finishing up their second album. Carpenter described the sound as "weird."

"I think there's a little more hope, though," he added. "I'm not as depressed."