"You wanna see the video?" Michael nods at the thin Mac balanced on his lap.
"Yeah. Wait, your 'Brass Tacks' video that's online?"
"The latest version. We sent it to Bob, but he thinks there should be more live footage in it. So I put some in there."
"You edit video? And wait, Bob? As in Bob Ezrin?"
June 2012. A guy's mixing a few tracks for an Austin-based rock band called Not In the Face. He's chatting with the vocalist/rhythm guitarist of the group, Jonathan Terrell. For whatever reason - details aren't known - he likes the kid. Maybe it's Terrell's genuineness. Maybe it's the way he man-handles a guitar and strangles a mic. Maybe he just thought the kid's rust-red mullet and matching chops are cool. Either way, the dude passes along the musician an email address belonging to a Canadian by the name of Bob Ezrin.
The man who told Jay-Z's peeps that the title for the 17-Grammy-Award-winning rapper's documentary wasn't quite right; Ezrin went on to produce Mr. Shawn Carter's farewell Fade To Black narrative. The man who Alice Cooper calls his George Martin (aka the "Fifth Beatle"). The man who's responsible for producing a white album for a pink band in 1979 resulting in what we know as The Wall.
So Terrell did what any young musician in cut-off jean shorts would do: he emailed Bob, sending him some links to the band's work.
And Bob emailed back.
"He liked 'Brass Tacks,' he liked several songs from the Bikini album. And then he saw some live stuff of ours and he said he was just blown away by the live show," Terrell spouts, hands on his bare knees. "But he thought we were way too small. He doesn't work with bands this small."
Small or not, Not In the Face decided to focus on something else that could have been lost in translation in the email.
"He's a genius; he's a total genius." Terrell trails off, looking straight ahead. "If he sees something there that he thinks can work...that just kind of gives us a little more hope."
Drummer Wes Cargal and lead guitarist Michael Gibson nod in agreement on either side of him.
Weeks go by. Months go by. The band keeps emailing Ezrin.
Nearly a year goes by.
"We bothered the shit out of him. It got to the point where he was either going to do it or hate us for life," Terrell states confidently.
Hate wasn't in the cards. Two days before 2013's month of June, the guys get the answer they've been waiting twelve months for.
"We get an email that said, 'You guys are leaving next week.'" Terrell leans in. "I think we got the email on..." - turning to the faces on either side of him - "didn't we get the email on like, Thursday, and we left on Monday, or something like that?"
"Something like that," Cargel says, nodding.
"It was pretty quick," Gibson adds, elbows resting on either knee.
Three flights to Canada were booked that day.
Not In the Face was never really supposed to exist.
Being an East Texas native, Terrell had always planned on wearing a cowboy hat and crooning country ballads at rodeos. And he did for awhile.
But years of trying to squeeze his dark music tendencies into Texas-country boots began to wear on him.
As a way to blow off steam, he and childhood friend Cargal started jamming together and crafting a sound a bit different from those honky-tonk dancehall numbers. With Terrell's pleads recalling those of Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness, and Cargal's steady and prominent Hives-style drumming, their garage rock noise came across loud, raw and real.
And people listened.
Before long, the two-piece band known as Not In the Face was making a name for itself in the live music capitol, tearing up gigs at Austin favorites like Beauty Bar, Antone's and The Parish.
They put out their first LP entitled Bikini - two-piece band; get it? - in 2011 and dropped a five-song EP, Walk, in 2012. They opened for the likes of Reverend Horton Heat, The Black Lips and ZZ Top. They tore up the festival scenes at South By Southwest and Fun Fun Fun Fest with their shirt-off, roll-'round-on-the-ground, rock-till-you-can't-rock-anymore-then-rock-some-more attitude. They got fed-up with being compared to the White Keys/Black Stripes ("Ohmygosh! You'll NEVER guess who you two remind me of!!"), and added six-string seducer and long-time friend Gibson to the band.
Then last summer, they met this guy who scratched down a Canadian's email address...
"It was rock-n-roll camp," Terrell spouts, eyes set with a glazed-over look.
"Rock-n-roll space camp," Gibson adds with a grin.
On June 3, 2013, the guys took the twenty-two hundred mile flight to Vancouver to spend the next month in music school
heaven boot-camp. With Ezrin as Executive Producer of the project, the guys teamed up with GGGarth (a nickname nod to his slight stutter) Richardson to produce their sound. Richardson's resume is lined with work from Rage Against The Machine and Nickelback to Motley Crue and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The gentlemen of Not In the Face felt an immediate connection to the glasses-wearing, crocodile-smilin' music man.
"The first five seconds I talked to GGGarth, we made some joke and we were just laughing and immediately, okay, this guy gets it," Terrell recalls. "A, he gets the music we're doing. B, he's going to bat for us really hard. And C, he's like a cool guy that I could spend a month with and probably not ever get annoyed with him."
The first week, the Texans got to learn what the word "rehearse" meant in Canada. "Sleep" on the other hand, didn't seem to be in the Canuck dictionary.
"The rehearsal studio we're in, also had a recording studio in it," Michael gestures with his hands. "So every day we'd wake up, we'd go hang out with GGGarth, and we'd run through the songs, and he'd be like, 'Change this, change this; maybe think about this,' and then we'd work on it all day. And then the same place, we'd cut a demo real quick, and then send it off to Bob. And that was basically our every day. And then Bob would come back with notes. And then GGGarth would write us to-do list, go home to his family. We'd stay up all night working on stuff, writing lyrics, rewriting parts, coming up with stuff, basically whatever they left us with. And then start all over in the morning... And that was just the first week."
By the second week, tracking had begun.
Gibson's eyes widen at the mention of this. "This is the first time, definitely, where we recorded anywhere where we just felt, 'Holy shit, we have no idea what we're doing' because these guys are so in control."
A whole army of music militiamen was at the band's every beckoning note.
"We had techs and interns that did everything from restringing guitars, tuning drums, setting up amp combinations," Terrell describes. "They did everything for us. And when you'd give some influences of sound that they wanted, Garth would say, 'Okay, gimme this, this, this and this' and these dudes would literally run - RUN - out there and set up your stuff to have it done immediately."
The Not In the Face men also did their fair share of sweating.
"When we started tracking, " Cargal begins, eyes blinking behind his thick glasses. "We'd get up and get started around eleven or noon, and then put in a full twelve-hour day, and just go back to bed and get up and do it again."
"We'd sleep in a loft above the control room," Jonathan adds, staring intently ahead. "You'd literally wake up to them directly below you with your songs just, 'DOOAH! DOAHH!'; them like tweaking. So it's like, you go to bed thinking about the song that you just cut, and you wake up to that song just being, like, blasted underneath you."
"It was a total immersion into the project," Cargal leans in, hand on his chin. "We couldn't really talk on the phone; it's too expensive. So it was definitely an eye-opening experience... I think by the end of it, I could get used to that."
"You have to be unrealistic to be in a band."
In Vancouver, it's getting a bit chilly at night - the low for next Wednesday is fifty-five; Texas talk for winter. Summer's finish line is in the distance, and Not In the Face is back in Austin - where it's currently one-hundred and two degrees. They've added on a new bass player with Ross Dubois.
"We're smack dab in the middle of shopping for a new label," Terrell nods, leaning back against the couch full of limbs. "It's being kind of passed around, and we're just kind of trying to figuring out which deal's going to be the best deal for us...We have all the time in the world."
The music world seems to be in a rush for the guys, however.
Barely a week out of releasing their first single off the untitled/unreleased EP, Not in the Face is already getting some traction from "Brass Tacks." Music industry goddess/hardDrive radio producer Roxy Myzal gave it a spin on her show this past weekend.
NPR slapped it on its "Heavy Rotation: 10 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing" list for the month of August. The next day, the guys' smart phones and email accounts were bombarded by folks from Boston to San Francisco, ecstatic about this Not In the Face band, and all spewing the same question: When are you coming to my hometown??
"Our main focus is touring and being a really strong band," Terrell says decidedly. "A really strong live band."
"We're going to try and book around here as much as possible: Dallas, Houston, regional stuff," Gibson says as he shifts his knees towards Terrell. "That's really the only thing we're focused on: to bring up our regional draw more and just play a bunch of shows. That's what we like to do. We all have that same common goal."
"What's the goal?"
Gibson's eyes dart ahead, his voice answers in reflex, "Keep playing huge shows. Make this our whole deal. Once we get the platinum record, once we get the stadium tours, once we can go back to our jobs and be like, 'I love you, but I quit.' That's the goal... where this totally, completely takes over our whole lives."
He goes silent.
The new kid, Dubois, has been rather quiet during this group date we're all on. His pupils flicker as his head tilts. His voice starts. "Somebody smarter then me once said that, 'If you're in a band and you're not trying to be bigger than the Beatles, then why the fuck are you doing it?'"
Eyes fix on the face whose voice comes out surprisingly loud and assertive.
"You have to be unrealistic to be in a band," Dubois continues. "We do it because it's what we love the most. But to keep us driving forward, your goals have to be as big as you can make them. Because I mean," he glances to the left at his new band mates with a smile, "Why not?"
Bob Ezrin might need to clear some space on that office wall of his. Not In the Face has some record-selling they're gonna be doin'.
The gentleman of Not In The Face will be performing the second weekend of Austin City Limits Music Festival in October. Go gettcha your wristbands and enjoy their video for "Brass Tacks" below.