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Resonance Quartet: No rules, no structure, no problem
By Sean Smith
Fort Wayne Reader
Ryan 'Sexy Alexxx' Bennett, Eric Rutkowski, Sean Townsend and Mike Vojtkofsky are the kind of guys who don't take themselves too seriously but are serious about what they do musically. The fact that they referred to themselves as The Dwight Schrute Quartet before settling on the more accurate Resonance Quartet is proof positive.
Naming the group proved to be easier than the music itself. Rutkowski, who played with Bennett and Vojtkofsky in Graves of the Endless Fall, first started kicking around the idea for the new project while Graves were going through some downtime. When they disbanded due to drummer Adam Lewis' decision to focus on playing with Lurking Corpses, Rutkowski approached Vojtkofsky with his idea. Bennett soon came aboard and then Townsend, who was a trial member of Graves for a two week period a few years back, was added to the mix in November of last year.
"For this project, I got hip to the bands Earth, Khanate, Sunno))) and some of the 'drone' type of stuff. I thought that'd be cool to do something like that," recalls Rutkowski, "It was originally gonna be totally improvised. I was thinking, 'This is a great idea!' Even after Mike and I got together for the first time it kind of got scaled back a little bit and it got a little bit of structure to it because we both said, 'I don't know what to do!'"
The idea to play something without any structure or rules was appealing to all involved, but that soon became a little too challenging and some rough ideas were formulated. "So far the basic concept has been the riff cycle, which is Ryan (guitar and keyboards) and myself," explains guitarist Rutkowski, "and then whatever Sean (guitar) and Mike (bass) do on top of it." The focus becomes the repetition of the rhythm section and when that becomes almost hypnotic, the additional parts become all the more inspired and surprising.
Vojtkofsky says it is interesting music to play, but at the same time it can be frustrating. "It's a little more free flowing. You play a riff and wherever it goes, it goes. When you're used to structure and structured songs," he says, shaking his head, "We're trying to let that go. That's why it's fun and that's what makes it fun also. It's challenging. It's a different atmosphere. I find it exciting because you have to teach yourself to let go of structure and I'm a very structured person in the first place. It's really free form and holds my interest. It's becoming kind of taxing now because I really have to let go. It's turning into something."
"I think we stay improvisational. The only time we're not is because we're going back and playing something we already played," explains Townsend, "It becomes, 'What do we play there?'"
The answer can sometimes be surprising and random. "I remember asking Eric what he wanted me to play at a certain point and he said, 'Something sparkly'" remembers Bennett.
"That's the most direct thing ever said," points out Rutkowski.
"It's not necessarily play this riff four times. Do that riff twice," acknowledges Bennett, "It's more like play that 37 times and if it feels good, go back to it."
"If one of us made a goofy sound, one of us might be like, 'Eh? I don't know'" admits Townsend.
"But if it works, it works,” Rutowski says. “So far it's been: here it is. Nothing's really been, 'Nah, that doesn't work' or if it is it's not coming from someone else. Whoever's doing it, like I've done it, will say, 'No, no, that doesn't work really.' But I don't think anyone's saying, 'That's not cool.' It's just happening and we've been lucky. I mean, if it's a bad note, it's too late. It already happened. Just don't do it again, ya know. It's pretty free. It's not at all like your typical band."
"It's different from anything I've ever done," shares Bennett, "It's not what I listen to. When I play something that I listen to it's not as fun. This frees you to make more creative choices."
Rutkowski agrees, "It forces you to do stuff. When I was talking to Mike about getting this started I said, 'This will be so easy' and it's really not. It's easy but there's still work. We've definitely had moments where we thought 'Is this feeling right?' Everybody is pulling and pushing."
"We edit as we go. As we play, “ Vojtkofsky says. “We don't take it home and hammer it out. Sometimes we get halfway through something and we're like 'Let's do that again, leave that part and let that go a little longer.' But still we try to keep the feel intact. We're looking for a part where somebody starts dropping out and we can pull them into something else. The rest of us just kind of follow along. When someone feels a moment the rest of us just try to follow it."
"Since there's no drummer the concept of time is really a struggle," laughs Rutkowski, "Especially since it's pretty slow material. Playing slow is a lot harder than you think it is. To find a tempo or rhythm is difficult. The pieces end up being around the 13 minute mark. The average would be eight to ten minutes, but there are some that are 15 minutes long. For your average music fan it's a little out there. 'What there's no drummer?' It's relaxing. There are moments where it rattles just right. That's part of the concept too. To be inescapable. You'll never hear the same piece the same way twice."
"I think it's a lot more open. The fact that it's instrumental and intricate lends itself into a larger audience, but it's not radio friendly," says Townsend, "I find it therapeutic. When we've had a good night we cranked out three or four songs. Good songs."
So far Resonance Quartet has played two shows. One at Munchies on Broadway ("One guy said it was very emotional," says Vojtkofsky.) and another at Harrison House ("That was well received", says Townsend). They currently use the JamCrib for recording capabilities and also did some recording at Ensomberoom.
"I kind of jumped the gun on recording," declares Rutkowski, "I've sort of discovered through the wonders of the internet that there's a whole lot of folks who do this sort of weird, experimental kind of stuff and it's pretty easy to put out a small amount of copies, even CD-Rs, cause people will want it. The stuff we have recorded I think has come out really well. It's not done. But what I've heard is pretty awesome."
In the meantime, interested listeners can check out some snippets of music at: myspace.com/resonancequartetofficial and the guys would like to thank those who have supported them in this endeavor, specifically their significant others. Rutkowski and Vojtkofsky are both married, while Townsend has a fiancé. That leaves Bennett a.k.a. 'Sexy Alexxx', who says he is, "Single and ready to mingle!"
Be sure to check out Resonance Quartet at their next live show, Saturday, May 5th at Cinema Center Tech, located on the Indiana Tech campus at 1600 E. Washington Boulevard. They will take the stage following a 7 p.m. screening of "Dream with a Window", a short film by Townsend.