Rockface Barband is 'kicking it up a notch'

Friday, January 28, 2011
Members of Rockface Barband are, from left, Jeff Bell, Cecil Haley, Brad Moore, Matt Sanders and Ben Grayson.

More and more original music is showing its face in Cape Girardeau, and one group that is leading the pack is Cape Girardeau's own Rockface Barband.

The band features Jeff Bell on lead vocals and guitar; Matt Sanders on bass guitar; Ben Grayson on drums, guitar and vocals; Cecil Haley on Moog synthesizer and auxiliary percussion; and Brad Moore on drums.

The Rude Dog Pub will host Rockface Barband at 9 p.m. Saturday as the band celebrates the release of its debut album, "Breaking Free From the Clutches of Rockface Barband."

The full-length album features eight original songs from the group and will be available at the show for $5. The band recorded the album at Echo Echo studio with Brandon Drury.

"He was able to get us a nice raw, rock 'n' roll sound that really fits with our band," said Sanders, who by day is the Southeast Missourian co-managing editor.

Grayson agreed, saying Drury stayed true to the band's natural stage sound.

"He didn't try to change our sound or anything, he just wanted to capture the essence of what we do," Grayson said.

He said the band members were so happy with the recording experience that they are currently recording more tracks at Echo Echo.

Sanders said Rockface Barband is a "no-frills, straight-up rock band," but notes that there is a wide range of influences for the group, from Nirvana to Led Zeppelin to Radiohead to Kings of Leon.

As with many original bands, it's difficult to pinpoint Rockface Barband's style or genre. The group can be put in the rock category, with a lean toward alternative, but its ability to go from dark, driving heavy sounds to pensive, broader light music keeps the band versatile enough to avoid stereotyping.

Sanders and Bell have been playing in bands since they were 15, and Sanders said the 1990s grunge movement with Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains got them into playing.

"That really shaped us as musicians, but influences changed as we got older," Sanders said. "I'm like the world's biggest Radiohead fan, so that influences me a lot, and we got really big into The Beatles, and other classic rock like Led Zeppelin."

As a bassist, Sanders takes a lot of inspiration from the aforementioned rock giants.

"Paul McCartney doesn't get the cred that he should, but he's one of the best rock bassists of all time, and of course, nobody can argue about John Paul Jones," he said.

Originally founded as a three-piece group, Rockface Barband has changed as its music has evolved.

"We started the band in 2006 with Ben," Sanders said.

The intent was to write original songs, and then the members thought it would be fun to cover a bunch of classic rock songs, which gave inspiration to the name Rockface Barband.

As they played, they started covering more modern songs and listening to a lot of things that influenced their writing as well. They found they had changed quite a bit.

Rockface Barband's live shows prove the evolution of the group, as they alternate between the three-piece, four-piece with added synth material from Haley and, most recently, a five-piece -- when Grayson switches to guitar and Moore hops behind the drum kit.

The group recently added Moore to the lineup to offer more versatility in its sound. Though Moore is not on the album, Haley's synthesizer work is on the record on several tracks.

"It's always fun to add another layer and, especially live, we're kind of kicking it up a notch," Grayson said. "With guitar, bass and drums, you can play some pretty [great] stuff, but you're limited as to what you can really do."

The album's title, "Breaking Free From the Clutches of Rockface Barband," comes from the former title of the album artwork, with certain words changed to accommodate the band's name. Beyond that, Rockface Barband feels that it's representative of the current state of the band.

"Something that makes the album title appropriate is that we're sort of having a metamorphosis, where we're changing as well, musically," Sanders said. Sanders relates the "breaking free" to the band's ability to play beyond the name of the group.

"The band's emphasis changed, but the name didn't change to reflect that," Sanders said. "We've always like the fact that people don't know what they're getting into; it's fun to surprise them. They don't expect the band named Rockface Barband to sound like we do."

With its first album now in the books, Rockface Barband intends to continue with the energy that has gotten them to this point. Between writing and recording new songs, the five musicians are reaching out to places like Columbia, Mo., and Carbondale, Ill., to find new fans.

"We do it not to win fans and be famous, even though it's cool to have people like your music," Sanders said. "We do it because we enjoy doing it and it's a creative expression for us."

You can hear three tracks from "Breaking Free From the Clutches of Rockface Barband" on the group's Facebook page at The album is available for purchase at shows, though Sanders and Grayson said it will be available on iTunes soon.

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