Airstream Safari to release debut CD Friday at Top Hat

To generations of Americans, the Airstream Safari travel-trailer serves as a sleek symbol of the leisurely life.

To the current generation of Missoula clubgoers, the band known as Airstream Safari pretty much stands for the same.

Comprised of guitarist/singer Isaac McElderry, bassist Miles Cottrell, and drummer Ryan Weingardt, the local band has fashioned a shining example of power-trio rock on its debut, self-titled album, which the group releases tonight at a double-bill CD Release Party with Secret Powers at the Top Hat.

In eleven tracks, the band tours the landscape of its self-acknowledged influences, from earnestly introspective rock ballads (“The Wishing Well”) and Sunny-day anthems (“Friends”) a la Ben Harper, to tightly wound ska-rock in the manner of State Radio (“The Handshake”). (Those songs and more are listenable at the band’s Myspace page)

But the familiar landmarks don’t tell the whole of the band, which draws its primary inspiration from the people and issues that populate the close-at-hand world of McElderry.

“A lot of my influences when I’m writing come from my friends here; they really come into a lot of my songwriting, especially the happier songs,” said the Missoula musician, who first began performing his original music at solo gigs around Missoula about eight years ago. “The sadder or lower-key songs are influenced by addiction — whether to drugs or to God. Growing up, I was raised in a Christian home, went to church every week, and that influences my songwriting as well. Not that they’re Christian lyrics; it’s more a backlash toward growing up that way and realizing that living that way is not for me and not for many people. People cling onto God and the church and other like-minded people that aren’t really secure.”

Such words might seem confrontational to some; but there’s little in the music of Airstream Safari to grate on the sensibilities of anyone familiar with modern strains of popular music. Indeed, with its unprocessed vocals and straight-ahead instrumental grooves, the album stands as the most unabashed local rock album in years.

Airstream Safari formed in late 2009, when McElderry decided to beef up and round out the sound of his solo performances. He hooked up with Cottrell via an ad on Craigslist, and the two have been playing together since.

The band’s first drummer left after a few months – and several months into the recording project. So McElderry and Cottrell scrapped those sessions and began rebuilding with Weingardt.

Since completing the year-long recording project at Club Shmed Studio, the band has once again traded out drummers, with Jacob Allington taking over the throne from Weingardt.

But the focus remains the same.

“For the past four or five years, I’ve been into State Radio, which was a spinoff of the band Dispatch,” said McElderry. “We’ve all veered toward that kind of sound – sort of a rock-reggae sound…So now we’re just going to try to get the record out and play a bunch around the region, and then tour this summer. The long-term goal is to get another album done by the end of 2012, and just keep pushing from there.”

Airstream Safari will release its debut CD at the Top Hat on Friday, Feb. 11, at a double-bill CD release party with local band Secret Powers.

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