Houston band goes from Craigslist to debut album

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by Michelle Ponto / khou.com

khou.com

Posted on November 13, 2009 at 1:43 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 7 at 2:07 PM

HOUSTON – On Craigslist, you can buy and sell practically anything, but who would have thought the Web site would bring together a duo that would attract the interest of musicians across the country.

Scott Spencer and Ko of the Houston-based band “Crossing Togo” are just as surprised at their success as anyone else.

They say they never dreamed that on their first album they’d be playing with such gifted musicians as drummer Matt Johnson (Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright), percussionist Brendan Buckley (Shakira), Ben Peeler (Shakira, The Wallflowers) and more.

“We really thought our first album would be an instrumental piece, but it snowballed and we love it!” said Ko.

It all started with an ad Ko placed on Craigslist. He had been playing with a southern metal band and was ready to try something new.

“I placed an ad on Craigslist saying that I was looking for an acoustic guitarist,” said Ko. “I was looking to get into something more melodic than what I was playing before.”

Musician Scott Spencer answered the ad and the result was pure magic. Scott would send him music and Ko would compose the lyrics for the songs.

But the snowball effect happened when Scott ran into Houston-based producer and owner of crushpad productions, Eric Jarvis. They met by chance on a tour bus before Eric’s band’s opening set for ZZ Top. Greg Hokanson, who was the drummer of the band that was touring with Eric, was a high school friend of Scott’s who had invited him to the show and introduced the two of them. 

“Scott was just a stranger on the tour bus and it turned out we knew some of the same people in non-musical circles in Houston,” said Eric. "That was the odd part about the connection."

Greg was the link to getting the album in the studio. He played Eric some of Scott’s compositions while they were on the road in the bus and referred Scott to Eric.

Their first album “Of Love, Scorn & Insecurity” is an eclectic mix of instruments and vocal melodies, but it all comes together in a variety of musical layers that range from keyboards and drums to acoustic and Middle Eastern guitars. But even with these exotic influences, the duo's raw musical styling comes through in songs that span from smooth Zepplin-style guitar grooves to others that contain classical overtures. It is the building of these musical elements that makes "Crossing Togo" different from other music currently in the scene.

“The layers are so incredible. Every time I listen to it --and I’ve listened to it thousands of times, I hear something new. I know it's there, but it keeps taking me to different places,” said Scott.

Eric says one of the most fascinating parts of producing the “Crossing Togo” album was flushing out ideas with Scott as an instrumental and then having Ko take a stab at adding vocals. On many of the pieces, Eric thought they were ready to go and then Ko would come back with something that would take the track to a whole new level.

“Ko would take the song and 24 hours later would have these great lyrics for it. We would hear it and add in a layer of cello and maybe a layer of drums. The songs kept building,” said Eric.

“It was a very organic process that flowered along the way,” said Scott.

Scott says it wasn’t just the song tracks that were organic; it was the entire producing process. The duo really wanted to produce their debut album without a big label in order to control everything from the sound of the music to the artwork on the album cover. Their goal was not to produce anything that would be commercial, but to keep it pure.

The result is unique sound with an ambient feel.

“I was amazed at how good it sounded when all the layers came together,” said Ko. “When Matt Johnson heard the songs, he couldn’t believe it was the same band.”

“Crossing Togo” is releasing their debut album, “Of Love, Scorn & Insecurity” on Thursday, November 19 at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck and will be hitting the stage at 7:30 p.m. for a two set performance. The band will be giving away free CDs to anyone who comes out to see them perform that night.

Matt Johnson, Jeff Buckley’s drummer from the Grace album, will be opening for the band. The Houston audience will be the first to hear songs from his new album, “Cagefighter.”

For tickets visit: http://www.mcgonigels.com/
 

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