Jason Ward of the Weather Machines

Listening to the Weather Machines debut CD, Sounds of Pseudoscience, you are struck by a sense of maturity and sincerity that is missing from so many bands in today’s market. After talking to front man Jason Ward, it is obvious that these qualities are also true of him. “We didn't really know what to expect after we sent the CDs out," says Ward. "But we were definitely hoping that getting the word out and getting some radio airplay would at the very least make getting shows easier since making a name for yourself in Rapid City doesn't really translate to much elsewhere.”

Luckily, in today’s age of myspace pages, free downloads and music blogs, bands like the Weather Machines suddenly start gaining fans in cities they’ve never even played. Now, backed by the some good reviews by bloggers and an energetic live show, the Weather Machines are starting to get noticed by bigger sources.

Recently, Modern Text on Love was a featured download in Entertainment Weekly. “The Entertainment Weekly blurb caught us completely off guard," admits Ward. "And the response from the blogs has been surprising and really encouraging. Regardless of whether or not the press makes booking easier, we at least have more confidence that there are people out there who would come out to see us given the chance, which is a nice feeling.”

A boost of confidence might be exactly what the Weather Machines needs to make the move towards becoming a full-time touring band. This isn't a band likely to have a best selling single, and then toil away trying to recreate the same buzz. This is a band likely to win fans at every show, and sustain that momentum with each release. Ward is no stranger to one-hit wonders, as his second job was at a Minneapolis recording studio where, "Semisonic was tracking their one-hit wonder, 'Closing Time'."

In a unique reversal of the common scenario, Ward and his band mates are full-time (or aspiring) grad students, part time musicians, not the opposite. Hoping to mirror the success story of Sam Beam, being a full-time musician is more appealing to Ward than being a researcher or contracted engineer. “I'm committed to making music as full time as it cares to be, but looking at my savings, and our current prospects I'll definitely need to find a source of more steady income after we relocate. I'm hoping to hit upon some flexible sort of odd jobs rather than something that might preclude more touring if the opportunity arose.” It's not everyday you hear someone hoping to change their live by entering a more flexible lifestyle that relies on picking up part time jobs, but it's not everyday you hear quality power pop like the Weather Machines deliver.

Trying to find time to practice and tour, instead of working on research projects and completing PHDs at different schools does lead to problems, but the band is finally hoping to land in the same town. “We're anticipating Ali's acceptance into graduate school, which will see her and I leaving Rapid City again for a couple years. Since both our contracts are up early in the summer and Pat is wrapping up his Ph.D. studies and likely leaving Laramie after this spring, we're hoping to line up a large docket of touring this summer before everyone gets settled on their plans for next fall.” These aren’t the same problems most bands encounter when they are trying to build a fan base.

Usually bands are struggling to make rent and find shows to play, as opposed to finding the time to actually do it. “With most of us uprooting, we're mainly hoping we can all land somewhere in the same neck of the woods, since we need to get out of the long distance situation we've been in for the past year and get together a little more frequently.”

Unlike so many young bands whose members were born after bands they base their sounds on were broken up and gone, the songs Ward writes seem to have been born decades earlier and evolved to a more modern style. Often compared to early Elvis Costello and more frequently, Ted Leo, Ward's music, like that of Leo's, makes you think he grew up listening to the sounds he is now creating, not simply recycling the sounds of great artists hoping to grab a hold of the hottest sounds.

His honesty and insecurities are as refreshing as the crunchy, short power pop songs featured on the album. When asked about what bands he would love to see the Weather Machines play with, Ward instead focuses on the fact he doesn’t think his songs are as good as everyone else does. “I'm somewhat of a pessimist and deathly self-conscious of having my musical inadequacies exposed, so I would tend to steer clear of playing with bands I really respected," admits Ward. "I can only think of only a couple bands that I would be really, really petrified to play with. Fugazi and Spoon both come to mind.”

Internet buzz is quickly allowing self-released CDs to sell of the shelf and become hugely popular. Clapyourhandssayyeah put out their own self-titled disc, and it became one of the most acclaimed releases of 2005. Ward is following suit, releasing the record is released on his own label, Tigers Against Crimes. Although he would love to use the label as a vehicle for the Rapid City music community, in reality the label and Ward’s focus rest solely on the promoting the album and writing new songs.

“This Weather Machines release has kept us pretty preoccupied, and I’m still using it to kind of feel my way through the whole process,” replies Ward. “I think after this summer we’ll probably take some time, work on the next Weather Machines album and see how things look then. We may be able to find someone else who would be willing to put that record out, in which case it would be more likely that Tigers Against Crime could put out something for someone else.”

Ward also notices the difference between his band and the majority of the acts in Rapid City, citing, “It’s tough to feel really confident in releasing things for the majority of Rapid City area bands since the scene here is really young and most bands don’t last much past high school.” Considering that most of the band is probably qualified to teach high school as opposed to attending it, the attitude Ward and the band bring to the table is quite different than most people involved in the indie scene.

Unlike younger bands trying hard to find a sound that works, Ward focuses on writing music he likes, not what he thinks other people are want to hear. “I'd hate to ever be in a position where I felt like I had to disregard an idea because I or someone else might be worried that there isn’t an audience for it. I think regardless of style, it can be a long road toward getting people to listen to your music, but you’d rather people like you for what you like doing than try to turn yourself into something you think people will like.”

Luckily, in this case, he's done both.

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