There’s definitely something to be said about a band that’s both self-sustaining and has a sense of dogged perseverance. In fact, there’s a whole story to tell about one of the few that meet the aforementioned traits, Denver Colorado’s own, Synthetic Elements. Although the punk-based fivesome, which played its first show in April 2001, has deftly maintained its strident, do-it-yourself mentality and attitude, its fourth album, “Trashed Out Paradise” is finally finding the band getting just a little help from its friends.
Originally hailing from the small farming and factory town of Fort Morgan, Colorado, the band consists of Todd McMullan – lead vocals and electric guitars, Kyle Hernandez – backup vocals and bass, Brett Carson – drums, Johnson (just Johnson) – trombone and percussion, and Mike Blecha – backup vocals and keyboard and acoustic guitar and trumpet (and anything else the band can think of). With an immediate music scene that was dominated by two styles – country and hip-hop, the only method of survival for the band was to take things on their own terms.
That meant spending its formidable years figuring everything out, from recording to touring to self-promotion and songwriting. Though they were just an hour outside of Denver, life out in the plains was decidedly remote from the big city.
Todd and Kyle, amateur competitive skaters, started the band as a reason to do something during the snowy wintry months. Skateboards were traded for guitars once the pair heard ska-punk acts like Mustard Plug, Goldfinger, and LessThan Jake which they heard on the soundtracks of the video games they played. They were quickly hooked and immediately put their future band plans into action.
“The first two years, we were really young,” recalls Todd. “We were 16 or 17 when we started. After a short while, we went on the road frequently for two and a half years straight, living in our van and trailer in Wal-Mart parking lots. It’s a tough life, but a remarkable experience.”
Doing it all indie was the only way Synthetic Elements could make their dreams of a full time band come to fruition. Realizing that the old cliché of being discovered by “that guy”, signing the huge record deal, going on MTV, and living the rock star life was an unrealistic business plan, the band became even more self sufficient by starting their own record label, management company, and booking/promotions company.
The label came to life as “Filthy Beast Records”. The label has worked well for the band and has had success in signing several other Denver area acts. The management company became “Sockout Entertainment” and has grown from humble beginnings to a fully capable logistics and business management, and has grown to include a fully capable recording studio. The booking company is “Kinnon Entertainment” which has exploded from a simple booking agency to booking for this band and many others, promotional activities both internet and “out in the world”, and a sound/lighting production company that is still rapidly expanding and growing.
But because of the bands commitment to touring, the act had a difficult time making a name for itself and generating a following in its own vicinity.
“We’d have big shows in places like Indiana, Louisiana, and Alabama,” Says Brett. “We could pack the house in other cities, but we couldn’t bring the crowds to the home venues.”
With the release of the band’s full length album, “Standing Still”, came some local radio support and more respect in the Denver music scene. Consequently, Synthetic Elements opted to increase its focus in the home area, eventually becoming one of the frontrunner bands in the Denver area.
For the latest album release, “Trashed Out Paradise”, the band chose to record at the world famous Blasting Room recording studio. As it turns out, the studio was in the bands back yard (Fort Collins, Colorado). The Blasting Room is owned and operated by Bill Stevenson of “Black Flag” fame and a big icon in the punk music scene.
The album was written and produced by Synthetic Elements with help and advice from Bill Stevenson and the crew at the Blasting Room. The intimidation factor of performing in that studio with a guy like Bill Stevenson listening and critiquing each take was intimidating to say the least. “It gave us a little bit of that extra kick, I’ve never played my trumpet as well as I did during that session,” says Mike.
Since the album was released, the band and company has produced two music videos. The first, “How Far”, was done in a three day shoot by a professional film crew and was posted to Youtube for free access by all. The second video was “The Fire”, also produced by a professional film crew in Denver, Colorado, was also release to the public through Youtube.
The bands success continues to grow and new opportunities come frequently. “It’s like going from a lemonade stand to a restaurant,” adds Todd, “because now, a lot more people are going to get to hear our music. And that’s just cool!”
The Bouncing Souls with The Menzingers / Luther / Synthetic Elements
@ Summit Music Hall (Denver, CO)