Gathered around a picnic table on the patio of Thomas Street Tavern, the five members of Charlotte indie-rock band Transmission Fields are joking with each other and knocking back a few beers.
The guys are relaxed — maybe not what you'd expect from a group that underwent a minor lineup change earlier this year and then signed a deal with Charleston, S.C., label Spectra Records.
It's been a long road to this point, but it's also a fresh new beginning that all five are eager to absorb. After a handful of lineup changes, core members singer/guitarist Lee Neitzel, bassist Jason Weiss and drummer Jason Perkins found guitar player Neil Hunter back in 2008. Hunter replaced Jay Garrigan who, oddly enough, rejoined the band in January of this year.
"When I was in the band before, I really enjoyed it," Garrigan says. "I felt really bad about leaving, but we've remained friends. I was asked to join as a keyboard player, gave it a shot and it seemed to work."
Garrigan wound up reuniting with the band shortly before a Spectra Records showcase at the Neighborhood Theatre.
"They asked us to play at this battle of the bands event, but I don't like playing battle of the bands," Neitzel says. "At the time, the Neighborhood Theatre was closing, so I thought it would be the only way we'd get to play there."
They were signed the next day and Garrigan was once again a full-fledged member. His addition has added a keyboard element to the group and also another layer of guitars. Neitzel pulled back some of his guitar parts to allow for more room for Garrigan, who takes comfort in being on the sidelines as compared to fronting his own band, Garrigan.
"I've been a front man for a while and it was good to not have the front man responsibility," Garrigan says. "I always remind these guys what Lee is going through — the pressure he's going through to sing and deliver a song. It's good for me to just enjoy the music and look forward to live shows. I'm lucky they give me freedom in this."
Since signing with Spectra, they've finished off their upcoming album — remastered and reworked songs from their previous two EPs — and been able to spend more time focusing on the dynamic of their live performances. The normal shoe-gazing indie-rock style of the band has been given a shot of adrenaline, thanks to the energy of Garrigan. The band members now feed off of his energy and push it right back to the crowd.
"It wasn't until this last year that our live show really started to gel," Neitzel says.
Now that the album is hitting the streets, the label will send it to radio stations and interest will determine where the band will tour. Until then, they'll continue performing in the Carolinas, gaining fans at each stop with an energetic-yet-focused live show and songs with catchy choruses and heartfelt lyrics.
That doesn't mean the band has stopped working on new material. Their collaborative process allows for each member to contribute while also allowing for constructive criticism.
"With Jay and Neil in the band now, we are able to fully realize what this band's music is meant to be," Weiss says.
Neitzel agrees, saying, "I think we're all artists and give each other the room to be creative. We also pull each other back. We'll get into a groove and keep looping things until one of us switches things up and we start to develop a song. It's hard to say who writes these days because it's a very collaborative process."
Adds Garrigan, "The changing point in this band was the moment we've really started writing together. We give Lee the room to write the vocal melodies. It's a really cool situation for those of us who are artist/songwriters instead of just looking for someone to tell us what to do."