AOR with ADD

The Coke Dares take a minute to rock you
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  August 14, 2008

0815_cokeIN
TIGHT BRIEFS? With 82 percent of their songs running less than a minute, the Coke Dares are ahead
of their time — by about 40 seconds.

It’s not that I can’t appreciate “Stairway to Heaven,” “November Rain,” “Free Bird,” “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” “Thick As a Brick,” and, uh . . . classical music — but I spent my childhood watching sugar-cereal commercials. Then I upgraded to MTV. Now I have high-speed wireless Internet that enables me to check my seven e-mail addresses in seconds, once every 10 minutes. If any shiny objects are within eyeshot, my interest is as good as lost.

I’m told there’s an epidemic of shrinking attention spans, yet our demand for rock remains unchanged. With 82 percent of their songs running less than a minute, the Coke Dares of Bloomington, Indiana, are a band ahead of their time — by about 40 seconds.

“There are so many classic-rock choruses with terrible verses or bridges, but the good parts of those songs are so memorable, you’ll listen to a whole song just to get to them,” says Jason Groth over the phone from Bloomington. “So there’s this idea that we can be more efficient.”

If there is a scientific formula that will maximize the volume of rock per second, the Coke Dares are on the cusp of its discovery, and they make it look as easy as sticking a simple idea to proto-punk hookage and ’70s rock riffology, with gusto . . . and brevity. Any ol’ idea will do — assholes at AutoZone, an offhand remark from a co-worker or stoned person, trucker speed, or a dream about broken hand bones. But the Coke Dares are no joky-ha-ha band. They’re serious musicians, so the reductive policy yields a ton of songs.

“Some of our songs have to be 15 or 20 seconds while maintaining a sense that they’re actually songs, not just fragments,” says Groth. “I think we don’t always succeed, but we spend as much time learning them as we do standard two-and-a-half-minute songs.”

The band’s 2005 debut album, Here We Go With . . . (Essay Records), was recorded for $90 in three and a half hours; it detonates 32 songs in little more than 30 minutes. Their newest, Feelin’ Up, takes it to the next level: 33 songs in just over 20 minutes. Groth: “We’re not just trying to be ridiculous, but we are trying to see how far we can push it. Maybe the next full-length will be 34 tracks. I don’t know if it will be shorter, but if it is, we’ve done our job.”

There’s not much wiggle room in their schedule, so perpetual efficiency comes in handy. Groth (vox, guitar), Mark Rice (drums, vox) and Pete Schreiner (bass, vox), all split time among the Dares, the far tamer Magnolia Electric Company, and day jobs. Groth and Rice also play in the Impossible Shapes. The Coke Dares can’t grace us with their presence often; ergo, Friday’s bill at the Mideast upstairs — with Black Helicopter and Ketman — is a rare opportunity.

Given their name and their penchant for getting shit done on the quick, it’s surprising that Groth has but once suspected that an undercover cop was eyeballing him during soundcheck. But they’re not legitimate cokeheads, crossing state lines far too regularly for those shenanigans. (Thank goodness for the enduring legality of caffeine.)

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