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Thursday October 30th 2014

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Romancing the Ghost

By Sarah McCartan

“So we shut off all our amps and called it quits,” sang Twothirthyeight frontman Chris Staples on “Romancing the Ghost,” a track off of the indie rock band’s third and final album “You Should Be Living.” In April 2003, midway through tour, Twothirtyeight disbanded at what seemed to be the height of their musical career—leaving listeners wanting more.

While their tired hearts may not have been able to revive a tune then, nearly a decade later they are picking up where they left off, reuniting to give friends and fans one final taste of their music.

The first performance of this reunion tour occurs Friday, Sept. 21 at the Masquerade in Atlanta, followed by their DeLuna Fest appearance Sunday, Sept. 23. The IN caught up with founding members—guitarists Chris Staples and Kevin Woerner—as they relived the tales from the Twothirtyeight era and shared their enthusiasm going into this final weekend of shows.

IN: Going back to the beginning, how did your first record deal come about?
STAPLES: At that time we felt like that is what you did when you were in a band—you get signed to a label. So I sent a cassette tape to Takehold Records. Chad, the guy who owned it contacted me. Since my sister was always on the landline at my parents’ house talking to her boyfriend, I had to go to the gas station to call the label back from a payphone. Chad got us on some tours and it opened up a lot of opportunities for us at the time.

IN: I know there are many, but what was one “high point” for Twothirtyeight?
STAPLES: Recording “Regulate The Chemicals” was a high point for sure. We were all super into the songs. James, the producer, was really intent on doing something unique. It was the first time we were really proud of a recording that we made. We also became friends with the Further Seems Forever dudes during that time and wound up playing some shows with them later that year.

IN: You played countless shows locally but also traveled and played across the country. What were some of the most memorable of these away shows?
STAPLES: We played some sold-out shows with Juliana Theory and had really great responses. I think my two favorite shows of that tour were the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, Calif. and The Metro in Chicago, Ill. I had a rolling amp case that I lined with a trash bag. We would roll it backstage and load it up with ice and free beer and roll it back into our trailer.

IN: Your music heavily impacted the lives of your listeners at the time. How did Twothirtyeight change your lives?
WOERNER: We were just kids without any real direction in life who found each other and starting playing music. It was rad, and such a beautiful time. Twothirtyeight has had a profound impact on my life. Because of the band I met my wife, made lifelong friendships and got to experience traveling the country. It was always a childhood dream to play music with my friends and I got to live out that fantasy for a while.

IN: How did Twothirtyeight shape your journey as musicians?
WOERNER: Well, we started jamming with each other around late 1995 and none of us really knew a damn thing about how to play an instrument. I guess you could say, because of Twothirtyeight we became musicians. In the beginning it was more about being involved in a local scene—playing shows, having fun and being part of something. But because of that, we were going to shows and seeing great bands. I think that just pushed us to be better. We were lucky enough to get to spend a lot of time just learning and playing and it was a great foundation to build on later in life as musicians.
STAPLES: Doing Twothirtyeight for ten years made me realize how much I love the process of writing, recording and touring. Twothirtyeight sort of shaped my identity as a musician. As a result I’m still doing music and still very happy with it.

IN: What is the energy like going into this reunion weekend?
STAPLES: It’s a good feeling to be doing a reunion now after setting it down for so long. DeLuna Fest made it so we could afford to get back together and make it happen. I am excited to have one last go and have it be a fun, positive experience and not encumbered by any ambitions other than playing for people who like the music.
WOERNER: I am stoked on seeing so many friends from the Twothirtyeight days at these shows. These songs have meant so much to me over the years and it will be great to perform them one last time. Seems like a great way to have some closure for that period of my life.

Since the 2003 disbandment of Twothirtyeight, Staples moved to Seattle, where he formed the band HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Staples”Discover America and also played with Telekinesis. He has also released multiple solo albums and currently resides back on the Gulf Coast. Woerner currently lives in Seattle and has played in several bands since Twothirtyeight, including Gileah and the Ghost Train, Discover America and The American West.

In addition to Staples and Woerner, the lineup for the reunion tour includes Twothirtyeight bassist Ben May, as well as longtime friend Tim Very, drummer for Manchester Orchestra.

TWOTHIRTYEIGHT
1:15-2 p.m., Sunday, GoPensacola Stage

CHRIS STAPLES at DELUNA FEST
5:15-6:15 p.m., Saturday, The Dock Stage

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