It's been a densely packed five years for Seattle's John Atkins and Polly Johnson. Atkins ditched Hush Harbor, and Johnson bailed on Bell Jar in 1995, joining forces to form the mopey alt-guitar/drums duo 764-HERO, named after Washington's hotline for carpool-lane outlaws. After a handful of 7-inch EPs, a 12-inch EP, and its well-received (with critics, anyway) debut full-length, Atkins and Johnson invited bassist James Bertram to flesh out the sound just prior to the band's Get Here and Stay album. As good as the duo was, the addition of the third leg made a strong band sound even stronger, and Get Here and Stay was a huge success (with critics, anyway). After a year off, the band made up for the lost time last year with the "Garrison" single and the triumphant Weekends of Sound, the band's third full-length overall and second with the expanded lineup. Nothing has changed substantially for 764-HERO, as it has continued to work a groove that suggests Nirvana demos slowed down, with an emotional Paul Westerberg on vocals. The band also boasts a distinctly dark flair for minor keys and relentless hooks, and an amazing capacity for melodic cacophony that the late Afghan Whigs would have been proud to claim. Atkins and Johnson have kept a consistent foundation from the beginning, but have never shied away from accepting an escalating series of sonic challenges. 764-HERO is one of those rare musical entities -- a band that evolves not out of mere boredom or crass market forces, but for the sheer thrill of it all.
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