Songs from a gas station

There’s an old, abandoned gas station on Byer Road, just a mile from the traffic light near Fastrac. Its signs suggest there was once a time when gas cost less than $2 per gallon and its antique pumps don’t prompt users for an optional car wash.

But when peeking through the boarded-up windows, there are memories of more than just sales on pump two. This station was once, not too long ago, the practice room and party spot for the Oswego State-based rock band Dreams From Gin.

"It was a really creative spot to have," said Tyson Prince, the band’s vocalist and guitarist. "We’d have motorcycles in there, all the band gear set up and crazy parties."

Travis Hafner, guitar, Dustin Diak, drums, Christian Mott, bass, and Walker Rosewood, bass, make up the rest of the group, which rotates members depending on availability. All members of the band were Oswego State students at one point, though not at the same time.
Prince and company stumbled upon the station while searching for a spot to foster their artistic creativity; they had previously foraged through abandoned warehouse listings and even tested out a residential basement.

Their new home was a 1970s-styled convenience store with two walk-in freezers and no source of heating, making the mini-mart itself one large ice box. To keep warm, the guys installed plastic insulation sheets and huddled around a space heater with their instruments.

According to Prince, the owner rented the station out to the group for just $200 per month and told the guys to do whatever they wanted with the lot. The owner, as it turned out, was functioning on his last months of life, passing the station’s rights on to his son, who had just returned from duty in Iraq.

"He was the biggest raging alcoholic," said Prince of their second landlord. "He would come down sometimes with an assault rifle and show us crazy things. One time he asked us to go shoot some pumpkins."

Like his father, this owner was also outlived by the band’s lease, leaving ownership in a state of limbo. Eventually, the party ended when a bank repossessed the station.

Fortunately, the band did enough work in the makeshift studio to put together their first album. In spring 2009, the group booked the Tyler Hall recording studio with at least a dozen songs to work on and settled on a nine-track collection.

They were only allotted one day in the studio, and they nearly used all 24 hours, working from 11 a.m. until 4 a.m. The band then sent the recordings out to be mixed and mastered, and received the finished product nearly five months later.

The album, appropriately titled "Station Songs," was released in December 2009. The first track, "Stereo Fire," pays homage to the old, abandoned gas station. The chorus suggests that their music kept them warm and the rest of the song advocates something uniquely homely about the station.

"Stoic," the album’s standout track according to Prince, paints an image that fits its definition. The peaceful tune never explodes into chorus, instead it follows rhythmic buildups with a return to a melancholy state eerily balanced with Prince’s baritone voice.

Their music is raw in the essence that it doesn’t seem tinkered with by outside influences or stretched to fit some popular model; instead, it sounds like the fruit of youthful, musical explorations.

They seemingly combined the elements of heavy metal bass guitar, melodic alternative rock guitar rhythms and explosive punk rock lyrics that feed from otherwise relaxed vocals.

Imagery created by the lyrics is dreamy and slightly abstract, or as Prince described it, "something you can’t put your finger on."
Altogether, it works and it’s damn likeable.
Even with what appeared to be a successful formula, Prince said the band has pure intentions and may not necessarily see this as a future career.

"I think it’s more about good times and being creative and sort of having fun. I think that in my mind, we’ve been as successful as I’ve wanted us to be," said Prince. "I think that’s fun, I think that’s what music should be."

The guys are currently working on their second album and have already booked several shows for the spring semester. They will be performing in the Hewitt Union Ballroom on Thursday, March 4, during a band competition, at The Raven on Saturday, March 27, and again on campus on Saturday, April 24, as part of the Relay for Life events. The band will also perform on Friday, May 21, at the Westcott Theater in Syracuse as the opening act for the band Local H.

Dreams From Gin’s first album, "Station Songs," is available for a free download through the band’s MySpace page, http://www.myspace.com/dreamsfromgin, or directly through http://www.masontrenching.com/dreamsfromgin.zip.