In the year that was 2020, I found it a lot easier to listen to old favourite records before diving into new releases. There was a comfort in the familiarity of an old tune that I’ve heard, even if I had played it a hundred times before. In a year full of disappointment, I think I was searching for something that I knew would build me up.
Don’t get me wrong, there was still plenty of great new music to discover in the COVID year, but when I needed a real pick me up, I leaned on those tunes that I knew would do the trick.
The same could be said for familiar artists. I think that’s why major label artists who haven’t had a big hit in two decades can still charge triple-digit figures for their tickets; people want to see what they know they will love. Personally, I miss the days of paying $5-10 to check out four bands I’ve never seen at a small bar on High St. in Columbus.
With all of that in mind, I was thrilled to hear that local rock veterans Noise Auction were making music again. Although the band hasn’t played a show since 2017, the group says they never really broke up.
“It’s like the band that never dies,” says guitarist Se7en. “Even when I left the band in 2014, we still did a reunion in 2015, and then a hurricane benefit in 2017… but each time we just went back to doing other things.”
“We just write well together,” adds singer Tom Cline. “I know it’s cliché, but it’s magic playing together with certain people. I’ve been playing music with these four guys for half of my career.”
The band was initially formed in 2006 from the ashes of Columbus rock legends Cringe, who were fronted by Cline as well. He says that while the group was extremely popular, they had run their course.
“We did a major tour, even made it all the way out to California and had a rep from Elektra who wanted to sign us,” he admits. “At the time, we were holding out for a bigger deal, but it never came.”
Cline still had the itch for writing, and recruited bassist Shorty and drummer Jeremiah Ross to help find his direction. While the band cycled through guitarists and other members, they settled on Se7en in 2008 and Cline says that’s when things really started rolling. Lead guitarist Matt Bowden fills out the quartet.
“Se7en also does a lot of our artwork and promotions – it’s a lot cheaper to have your own guy do it!” he laughed.
“I’m definitely the behind-the-scenes guy,” added Se7en.
“We’ve had other members, but I couldn’t pick four better dudes to do it with. It just works.”
Riding the wave of Cringe, the band was never short on popularity, and their music echoed their collective talents. Their debut record “A Stitch In Time” had several popular hits, including Catalyst, Communion, and My Darkest Day. The band re-released several of those songs on their second album, “The Other Side” as well as crowd favorites Beautiful Tragedy and Mute. By 2013 their sound had matured even further, and the release of “Broken, Bruised & Battered” showed an emotional side unheard of before with tracks like The Breaking.
The band is known for their in-your-face attitude, energetic live show, and catchy, riff driven brand of rock and roll with keyboards sprinkled in for extra flair. They’ve never been one to shy away from a big show, and that brought them back together last year.
“We wanted to do another show at the Alrosa Villa (RIP) before they closed down, kind of like a last hurrah,” explains Se7en. “The initial plan was just to play a one-off, but then COVID happened.
“We had all this downtime, and we figured, why not write some songs and see what comes of it?” he adds. “We wrote The Used and released it in October, and it just kind of spiraled from there. This is fun again!”
“And we feel like we still owe everyone a show! Once we’re able to, we’re going to go out there and rock! I’m not sure where or when yet, because the state of music is insane right now.”
“Not just for the musicians, but for everyone in the scene,” chipped in Se7ven.
“I do Acoustic Mayhem for a living, and suddenly that came to a halt too,” admits Cline. “Zoom shows were cool, but you can’t really throw money at that like you can a live show.”
Cline and Se7en say that it might have been difficult at first, but it actually brought the group closer.
“You just have to adapt. Being able to create without pressure… it’s been really cool,” says Cline.
“And it’s definitely coming out in the music!” voiced Se7en. “I think it’s the best we’ve ever done. It’s way more comfortable not wanting to set the world on fire anymore.”
“I mean, I’d still love to be signed and all, but it’s a lot looser knowing we don’t have to do things a specific way,” opines Cline. “It’s a lot of fun again.
“There was a point where it just became more about getting to standards that you don’t really know. Suddenly, you’re second guessing yourself.”
“If we like it, we hope everyone else will,” Se7en adds. “The Noise Auction sound is the five of us, and we do what we want.
“Honestly, the hiatus helped us. We’ve done different things, we’ve experienced different things, and we’ve matured as much as we can,” he finished.
You can find that looseness and maturity in their newest single, The Used. Lyrically, the song feels incredibly personal, and Cline says it touches on things he’s gone through in his life.
“I like to write where the lyrics can be open to interpretation, rather than being exactly what I’m going through. It’s a really personal song, but it came out really great.”
Se7en says the group recorded it unlike anything they had ever done before.
“I had a riff, we all got together and it just happened. Rather than jamming the songs for months before recording them, we just had the idea and went with it. It was almost like we were writing as we went along.”
“Our drummer owns Dimension Studios, so if we wanted to record, we would just go there and do it. We would throw everything in the pot and go from there. It turned out really cohesive and amazing.”
For a band with influences as varied as Mötley Crüe, Prince, Papa Roach, Nine Inch Nails and old Motown groups, you can imagine there is no shortage of ideas when it comes to hashing out new ideas. But Cline says they’re not in a hurry to put together a full record.
“A lot of bands these days are just putting out a song at a time. We have a bunch of ideas… we’ve got a dark ballad in the works, a 90s swing-y song…
“Each song is going to be different,” continues Cline. “Some songs will be a complete 180 (degree turnaround) from what we did before.”
We talked about the new age of musical consumption, and Cline said he missed a lot of the things we all grew up with. Peeling back the cellophane, smelling the booklet, reading the liner notes… all the little things that seem to be going away with the digital age.
“We might put them together in an album on the future,” Se7en nodded.
“There’s no rush though,” interjected Cline. “But, we did just do a photo-shoot, and it was a lot of fun. We were just talking about it, and we think this if the first time in at least five or seven years since we did a real interview!”
Consider me honored. Thrilled, in fact, to be able and sit down with a band that I remember seeing and enjoying live over a decade ago. We spent a little bit of time talking about the now defunct Alrosa Villa, home to great rock’n’roll for the past 40 years.
“There was always a great vibe. From the moment you walked in, you knew where you were,” says Se7en.
“It really was sad to lose it – I literally call (owner) Rick Cautela ‘Dad’, because I was 21 when I first played there,” laments Cline. “I remember my first time performing was a on small Thursday night show, and last year we had a headlining spot that sold out in two weeks.
“That show was really going to be a great sendoff. We wish them all the best and we love them very much.”
Even without the Alrosa, the guys say that they want to take their show back on the road again. Once things are safe, of course.
“There are plenty of venues in Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia, etc. that we’d love to hit up,” says Se7en.
“We’ve still got The Newport, Promowest, other great venues around Columbus,” Cline adds. “I mean, once everything opens up again, everyone is gonna tour. There’s going to be a lot of opportunities to jump on bigger shows, too.
“There’s a really great pool of talent around this area. Lots of great local bands that we would love to play with – Starset, South of Eden, The Lonely Ones… there isn’t a shortage of acts.
“And the cool thing about playing live now, is that a lot of our songs, even the older ones… a lot of people have never heard them before!” he continued. “So we’re gonna be able to play those older hits like Mute for the new fans as well as playing the fresh new stuff!”
Cline says that while he can’t give all the details yet, the band is working on doing a special live stream with Joe Viers, at Sonic Lounge Studios.
“We have to do something. I mean, yeah, it’s a weird vibe just playing to the camera,” says Cline, “but you just have to adapt. You have to keep going. Music touches everyone deep.
“For me, the whole point of playing live is that feeling – that interaction with the crowd. There’s no other high, and trust me I’ve had a lot of them,” he laughed. “But there’s no better high like seeing people staring at you, loving what you’re doing and singing it back to you.”
I can definitely agree with that final point. Standing at the front of the stage, feeling the amplifiers rumble, watching the sweat drip off of the guitarists face? Standing so close that you can high-five the singer and hear their voice without need for a mic? There really isn’t anything that compares.
And although I’m excited to travel out and find new sonic adventures, it will be comforting to find that kick-ass familiarity that I remember seeing when Noise Auction brought the house down.
It’s gonna be a hell of a ride… once we’re able to do it all again.