Rockface Barband has small-town roots and big sound

Thursday, August 27, 2009
Rockface Barband is, from left, Ben Grayson, Matt Sanders and Jeff Bell. Grayson plays drums and provides vocals, Sanders is on bass, and Bell plays guitar and sings. (CECIL HALEY ~ Special to the Southeast Missourian)

Click here to download an MP3 of the original song "Wonderland" by Rockface Barband

In a small town, having a band meant having something to do.

Jeff Bell and Matt Sanders, both originally from Bloomfield, Mo., have been playing together in various combinations since their early teens.

"It was something people gathered around," Sanders said. When there was a weekend night, there was the band and their friends.

Their latest musical incarnation, Rockface Barband, still draws and involves friends. Bell said they found a drummer when Ben Grayson showed up to a party and became part of the crew.

The band started as a power trio in 2006 but recently added keyboardist Cecil Haley for some songs -- including a Cars cover.

"It just seems like he was always at all of our rehearsals," Bell said. "I always wanted to add a keyboard. I said to him 'Hey, why don't you play that keyboard' and he did."

Rockface members cite influences and favorite bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Kings of Leon and Radiohead on their MySpace page, but Bell said he's got no interest in being solely a cover band.

"I never was one to really play a lot of other people's songs," he said.

Giving a snapshot from his music collection, Bell said he listens to Aphex Twin, Black Sabbath and The Life and Times, a band from Kansas City, Mo.

"There are some bands that don't get the type of recognition" they should, Bell said.

Those listening pleasures aside, Bell said when it's his turn to write a song, "Just livin' life is my biggest influence.

"When I pick up the guitar it's just heart, mind and soul and experiences I've had in life," he said.

Rockface has more than 20 original songs and hopes to record them for an EP soon, said Sanders, who as former arts and entertainment reporter for the Southeast Missourian and the current online products manager for semissourian.com admits he's a little uncomfortable on the subject end of a story.

At their shows, there's no catching a breath for the members of Rockface Barband. Each song forces the guys to rock hard with Bell pouring out guitar licks and shouting lyrics, Sanders laying a voluptuous bass body and Grayson pushing the tempo.

The band has gigs booked for Friday at Bel Air and Saturday at Port Cape. They lay low in the spring and late summer and fall because Bell is a farmer and those are planting and picking times, respectively.

"There's obviously certain points in the year I know I'm not going to be playing a show," Bell said.

During the lull, the band wants to do some touring in places like Kansas City, St. Louis and Lawrence, Kan.

"We like playing around here, but we want to branch out," Sanders said.

"It's a community thing. Our friends are almost a part of the band," he said. "We just want to make more friends."

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