Volumen played its first show as a two-piece in summer 1996 with only a drum machine and effects rack. In December 1999, the duo—Shane Hickey and Doug Smith—formed a one-night-only band called Spiders From Mars with bassist Bryan Hickey, drummer Bob Marshall and keyboardist Chris Bacon covering David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust. That lineup quickly became the new Volumen. Ten years later, and after four albums, several tours, hundreds of shows, one one-week break-up, and the usual personal maturation—marriage, children, etc.—the stalwart sci-fi, heavy rock, new-wave band drops a new album, Skipper of Reverses, recorded at Club Shmed.
We sat down with guitarist Shane Hickey and keyboardist Chris Bacon to discuss the secret to the band's longevity and to see how time has—or hasn't—changed its music.
Indy: Now that you're getting older, are you going to start offering senior discounts to those of us who have been coming to your shows forever?
Shane: You know how Denny's is, where you can get the senior specials if you eat dinner at 4 p.m.? We need to have the Badlander have old rocker night where shows start at 7 and they're done by 10 and then you can go home and watch whatever shitty TV show you're addicted to, because you're old.
Indy: What's different about Skipper of Reverses?
Shane: We wanted to strip down our sound. We decided it doesn't count as a song unless two dudes can play it drunk on an acoustic guitar around a campfire. Then we started calling it classic rock from the future but then The Lights [Seattle band] were busting our balls like, "Doesn't that mean present rock, like nü metal?" That's depressing. I'd like to think that classic rock from the future would be like this [album]. I think it's the most cohesive record we've made. We'll see. I always get my hopes up and then I see the first review and it's like "Joke band Volumen makes new joke record," and I'm like, "What the fuck?" We made one joke record. One!
Indy: Are the songs mostly about your wasted youth?
Shane: Not really. Let's see. "Time Travel" is about how if you had access to a time machine you're still going to fuck it up. Every human male in his 20s would use it to go back to that one relationship that he fucked up...It's about somebody who goes back but because he still remembers [the breakup] he ruins it anyway.
Indy: The time machine thing is tricky.
Chris: Yeah. It's never going to be right; you can't fix it.
Shane: Scientists, please read the comics!
Shane, getting back to the new songs: "Meoth" is about if you see something terrible you can't make it go out of your head. I was trying to find my dog and we were in Nashville in 108 degrees. Brutal hot. I finally went to the station wagon and opened the door and he'd been in there the whole time and he had died but he'd tried to claw his way out. His eyes were all bulged out and his tongue was black. That burned in my brain. I was 10 years old and I'm never going to forget that. And there's this dark part of you, you could keep looking for those things and that's dangerous. So, that's a scary story...
Chris: I sort of thought it was more of the candle burning at both ends kind of circular idea—
Shane: It is. It's the moth chasing the light of a candle that's tied to the moth.
Indy: You guys have never shied away from your sci-fi roots. So, Shane, I hear they're raising the level cap to 85 in World of Warcraft (Cataclysm version). How do you feel about that?
Shane: [Laughs] I hadn't heard that....There's going to be a Star Wars one that's going to be the shit. You can be a Sith or a Jedi, and it's back in the old republic. This time I'm going to make the right move and make the bad guy. All the douchebags make the alliance or jedis.
Indy: Kirk v. Picard?
Chris and Shane: Kirk.
Shane: I say that because I want to back up Bacon, but I'm a Picard guy. Are we saying they're fighting? Kirk's a wild card but he might be unbalanced enough that Picard will outthink him. But if it's instinct or pure manpower, it's Kirk. But if Picard knew he was going to be facing Kirk he would come up with a ruse...
Chris: Like he might try to dress up like a woman.
Shane: Exactly. Bacon has probably watched every original "Star Trek"...40 times. He's a fountain of knowledge.
Indy: Frodo vs. Bilbo in a battle?
Chris: Bilbo. He learned from his experience, whereas I feel like Frodo still doesn't get it at the end of the whole thing.
Shane: And he's a whiner, right? Jesus. Okay, the ring is heavy, I get it! Bilbo, well, he killed a fucking dragon.
Indy: What should the headline of this article be?
Shane: Volumen: Still Alive.
Chris: Still crazy after all these years.
Shane: Volumen: Still living. Also...still a band!
Indy: Will this band ever break up?
Shane: I hope we play until somebody dies—that seems like a terrible way to say it... I'd want to put out a record every other year. Play every third month. We basically have to get out differential equations and solve matrices in order to figure out when everyone can practice. But since 1999 it's been the five of us and at this point if somebody left, it's over. We'd do something else. We can't do a Menudo or a Ramones. This is the band that's going to be the band.
Volumen play a CD release party at the Badlander for KBGA's Birthday Bash Friday, Sept 25, at 10 PM. $5.