When New Transits bassist-guitarist left on friendly terms last year to focus on raising a family, frontman Sean Hatton faced a major problem.
The Boise rock/alt-country band had made a local splash in 2011 after releasing a fairly spectacular debut album, One. New Transits rich blend of rootsy rock guitar, pedal and lap steel, and folksy vocal harmonies instantly made it one of Idahos best bands.
Hatton, 35, is lead singer and guitarist, but Adam Gates contributed those near-constant vocal harmonies a staple of New Transits sound. Finding his replacement wasnt going to be as simple as finding a new guy who could play a little bass.
When you have two people singing together as much as Adam and I sing together, that other person becomes a frontman as well, explains Hatton, who will showcase the latest New Transit lineup at an album-release party tonight (Oct. 11) at the Sapphire Room. I had a huge hole to fill ... It wasnt getting filled with anyone else besides another frontman for the band.
Local singer-guitarist Todd Sloan recently had ended his own band, Low-Fi, an alt-rock trio that toured successfully and saw its music featured on televisions Showtime and CW networks. Low-Fis style was a long shot from New Transits prairie-infused, Uncle Tupelo-friendly sound. But Sloan says hed become weary of the indie-rock world of penning young, adolescent songs and appreciated New Transits more grown-up approach.
So when Hatton reached out, Sloan was receptive. Hed already admired New Transit to the point of imagining what it might be like to be in that band.
Nearly a year later, New Transits new Frontman B says he does not miss his former role as a Frontman A.
Sean surrounds himself with great musicians, Sloan says. Its fun. Its a pleasure to play with these guys.
Adds Hatton: Honestly, I love sharing the load with somebody on stage. Its more fun for me.
New Transit added a new bassist, Jamie Vink of Audio Moonshine, this summer. Along with original New Transit members Dave Manion (pedal, lap steel) and Louis McFarland (drums) full-time working musicians who play with other acts the group has settled comfortably into its incarnation as a quintet.
New Transits second album, Country Music Dead (review, page 17), is a transitional work completed over 18 months with contributions from both the soon-to-exit Gates and just-appeared Sloan.
The album title is a play on the idea that nobody seems sure how to pigeonhole New Transit even if, in the eyes of most music critics, steel guitar and vocal twang automatically qualify a band for the alt-country category.
Hatton doesnt care all that much about labels, he says, but ultimately prefers Northwest rock.
I grew up listening to America, Neil Young, Bread, the Grateful Dead, he says. Everything from heavy rock n roll to 80s pop, so theres a little bit of all of that in the music, and there is some Western or country or Americana influence. What do you call that nowadays, anyway?
I like the Northwest rock approach. We are in the Northwest of the United States. And its really rock n roll, but it has these other influences in it.
New Transit album-release party, 8 p.m. Oct. 11, Sapphire Room, Riverside Hotel, 2900 W. Chinden Blvd., Garden City. Opening: Hillfolk Noir, a.k.a. Belle. Tickets: $10 at Record Exchange and Sapphire Room; tickets still available at press time.