Editors' pick



Editorial Review

The Washington-born-and-bred band Shortstack celebrates its 10th anniversary this month with a new album, "Please Leave My Mind." It's a departure from the group's country-tinged sound of old, with sparse garage-rock tunes reminiscent of such critics' darlings as Television and, more recently, the Strokes.

With such an album you might expect the band to be thinking about its musical future, the next step or the next big gig.

You'd be wrong.

"I think we're entering a new phase of music," singer and guitarist Adrian Carroll said recently from his car on the way to a landscaping job. And a new phase of life, too: Singer-guitarist Burleigh Seaver recently became a father to twins, Michael Pahn is now a married man and Carroll himself is headed to graduate school in public policy this fall at the University of Maryland. (Drummer Mark Cisneros began playing with the band last month.)

"I just think when you get older, it becomes different, and there are certain restraints that evolve," Carroll said.

The three musicians, all in their 30s, met in Washington after college and formed the band, with Carroll writing songs that featured a lap steel guitar, a signature country-music instrument. "People thought of us as somewhat country," Carroll said.

Their first gig was a house party, but they went on to play such small venues as the Hosiery and Signal 66 art studio, eventually appearing at the Black Cat and opening for the Cramps at the 9:30 club -- a band highlight. They released two albums on D.C. label Gypsy Eyes Records, but the label folded months after the release of their 2008 CD, "The Covers EP."

"We've always sort of been on the periphery of what D.C. was well known for," Carroll said.

Maybe that's why after 10 years of writing, recording and gigging around town, Carroll comes across as a little cynical.

"Ten years ago [the D.C. music scene] was already beginning to change, and I don't feel overwhelmingly positive about it," he said. "It's gotten so expensive to live here, I think it makes it harder. The strong community element is not here."

That may be true outside the band but not within it.

"Sometimes there's a lot to be said and gained from something when you're in it for the long haul," Carroll said. "It's not easy to replicate the sort of ease you have communicating with bandmates you've had a long time. When you play with each other for a long time, you play to each other's strengths, and your idiosyncrasies are appealing."

In writing the new album, the band focused on simplicity.

"We started thinking about musical harmony, . . . restricting what we're doing on our instruments, and using it in the vocals," Carroll said. "Our older music was focused on busy instrumentation and '50s-country stuff.

"It's satisfying for me to see an evolution or a change and a certain setting out of new ideas musically that you want to achieve and making them come true."

As for the band's future, Carroll said, "I would be happy if we could just keep writing stuff and playing shows. It bums me out to think of the scenario: I'm 50 and the guitar's in the closet gathering dust." But then he adds, "I don't want to end up playing cover songs at a sports bar."

He doesn't have to worry about that just yet, though. "I feel like that's one of the achievements of the band at this point, I look out and don't just see my friends anymore."