Missoula is about due for a full-tilt rock 'n' roll revival. It makes sense. The '90s are back in a fashion, and, fortunately for rock, hip-hop isn't the cutting edge of cool that it was way back then. The revival will come only after the folksy and bluegrassy revivals fade and the dubstep DJ's move onto the next thing London tells them to spin. In Missoula, however, the first salvo of the revival has been unleashed and it can be heard on the wings of a majestic falcon—not just any run-of-the-mill peregrine falcon, though. This is a steel-plated rock 'n' roll falcon armed with a baneful beak and talons built to shred. This is American Falcon.
Former Lazerwolfs bassist Chris LaTray and guitarist Jimmy Rolle started the band last summer with what can only be described as affable exasperation toward the local rock scene.
"I was downtown with my wife at some event watching one of the local bands," says LaTray. "I thought, 'If aliens landed in Missoula right now I would not want them to think this qualifies as a rock band. I texted Jimmy at that moment and said, 'We need to do something. The future of the galaxy is at risk."
After adding drummer and man-about-town Travis Yost (Tom Catmull and the Clerics, Stellarondo, Him & Her) the line-up settled into a power-trio format and the musicians went about picking a name. After a few weeks as El Thunder and the very short-lived North American Blood Falcon, the band settled on its current moniker, suggested by Rolle. "If everybody in the band laughs when you're considering a band name you're probably right on target," says LaTray.
American Falcon is loud. Real. Damn. Loud. It puts the "power" in power-trio. And the members aren't shy about it. When asked whether they are the loudest band in Montana each bandmate casually nods to the other as if it were a forgone conclusion, a known known. LaTray is unabashed in his knowledge that the Falcon is the most stentorian outfit around. "We would stamp it guaranteed; stamp it with the American Flag," he says. But for them there's more to being loud.
"It sounds good loud, feels good loud, it's a physical thing; if the rock isn't vibrating the hairs on the back of your legs, I'd rather not be doing it," says LaTray.
Yost echoes him, albeit in a more inner-13-year-old fashion: "I like the way it makes my face feel."
With song titles like "The Falcon Kills Tonight," "When All Seems Lost (We Shred)" and "Blood Drunk," a cursory glance at a set-list could give potential fans the wrong idea: American Falcon is not metal.
"I don't have a problem with metal," says LaTray. "I love metal, grew up on metal—but we're not metal. I understand why people think we're metal; we're loud and distorted. We wear a lot of denim."
Rolle describes their music as "good sounds played loudly with good tone." And, as it turns out, there is one element of American Falcon's sound that sets them apart from their distant metal cousins and most local bands: The Man Choir.
"One of the key elements of having Travis Yost in the band is the Man Choir," says LaTray. "We do three-part harmonies." The harmonies fill out the sound of the three-piece and provide a counter to LaTray's bluesy wail. It's a source of pride for the band.
"Bands with one vocal mic blow," he says.
American Falcon is definitely a throwback to the stripped-down, blues-based rock outfits of the '70s: The Nuge, Nazareth, Montrose. Rather than refer to their musical genre as "classic rock," the members of AF prefers the term "glory rock." It's not about reinventing the form, they say, it's to remind people that this flavor of rock exists and that it isn't simply a revolving list of the same 45 songs played on classic rock radio. For prospective fans born after 1989, it's conceivable that "glory rock" is unknown to them.
American Falcon's bringing back the fun in loud music, fun which seemed to vanish during the horrific Nü Metal era of loud music's recent past. "Lyrically it's all about Vikings and killing and shit like that," says LaTray. "This band isn't making any statement. 'The Falcon Kills Tonight' isn't really about anything."
That anything goes as long as it is done right and done with spirit is evident in the songwriting process. Yost says, "I enjoy Jimmy bringing a riff and saying, 'Whatever it is, it has to be called "March of the Mexican Death Squad."'
"I don't want to make useless music," he adds. "It's got to be entertaining to more than one person. I like saying we're the loudest band, but it's got to be good."
American Falcon plays the Palace Friday, June 17, at 9 PM with Judgment Hammer. $3/$8 for 18- to 20-year-olds.