by Elisabeth Fuchsia
I've seen State Champion described as a country band from Louisville, KY, but that seems like such an oversimplification that it feels weird to type. Frontman Ryan Davis is the only member of the band who is actually a permanent resident of Louisville, while drummer Sal Cassato, bassist Mikie Poland, and violinist Sabrina Rush are all scattered across various Midwestern cities depending on the month and their tour schedules. Their songs sprawl across genres and beyond normally acceptable lengths, but pull you in with turns of phrase, both lyrically and musically, so strongly that suddenly you realize you've been compulsively rewinding the same seven minute track for the entirety of a two hour drive. Or maybe that's just me - their 2015 album Fantasy Error held permanent residence in my tape deck for about six months, only removed due to an eject-button failure scare in late May of this year.
I'm not sure I've admitted my repeat listening habit to all of the members of the band; if not, I guess I just did. When I started talking to Davis about recording something at The Thing in the Spring, I was self-conscious about it and actively tried to play it cool, leaving things looser than I usually would as a result. I nailed down only the fact that Rush wouldn't be there but we'd shoot something anyway, probably sometime on Friday. It seemed as though there would be plenty of time to discuss video logistics back at the house after their show, over a beer. Instead, we talked about Cropped Out, the festival that Davis runs in Louisville, and I broke open a bottle of tequila, an unsustainable choice that quickly led me to abandon the in-person social scene in favor of sending a barrage of questionable texts from my bathroom floor, none of which were helpful in determining the shooting schedule. When I returned to the real world several hours later, I'd missed the rowdiest and weirdest part of the night. Things had quieted down, Cassato and Poland had already cooked and eaten a late night breakfast, and Davis had long since disappeared somewhere on the property for some alone time.
The next morning, I sat on the back porch of the house and watched people filter out as they woke up. The rest of the video crew, Candace Hope and Jason Kotoch, were up early, rightly anxious to get coffee and get on with their lives, and told me to text them when I knew what was actually going on. Cassato and Poland showed up before Davis, who materialized sometime around noon, at which point we made the decision to shoot in the attic over the garage and started loading in. After a few audio tests, the trio launched into this performance of "Brain Days," the penultimate track off of the aforementioned Fantasy Error.
This pushes eight minutes, which, I know, is long for a video on the internet. But it's full of sleepy summer vocal harmonies, and Cassato's laid back, dreamy turn on lead guitar at the front end of the song is perfectly juxtaposed against the Paul Rudd in "Wet Hot American Summer" flipping you off vibe Davis brings to the table when he takes over. You weren't going to do anything special with those eight minutes anyway, right?