The Ready Stance

The Ready Stance

In rock ’n’ roll some tales are just too perfect to make up. And the back story of The Ready Stance is definitely one of them. A truly perfect storm that unfolded within one square block of the historic district in Newport, Kentucky, just across the Ohio from Cincinnati.

“I hadn’t been in a band in years but was still writing songs and jamming with friends on weekends; really just a therapeutic thing after running a manufacturing business and having a family,” recalls guitarist Wes Pence, the creative force of 1990s outfit Middlemarch. “I was walking home one night and happened to glance in the open window of a house on my block. Inside were a couple guitars and fliers for shows by the Replacements and other bands I loved—really out of place for the neighborhood. Then this guy walked out on the porch…”
That guy was lead vocalist and guitarist Chase Johnston, an Ohio native and alumni of the Athens, Georgia, music scene who’d recently moved back to the area. An animated conversation between the two revealed an uncannily simpatico musical vision and still more shared touchstones: Big Star, Television, VU, The Band. They recruited a bassist and old Middlemarch bandmate, drummer Eric Moreton and started working up Pence’s backlog of tunes. Before even playing a show, they began recording Damndest, The Ready Stance’s astonishingly solid debut, in the basement of Pence’s 1880s house. Mixing was completed on the same block, at Audiogrotto, a newly converted church housing a world-class studio.

Much like the saga of the band’s formation, the yarns in the album’s 11 tracks—all set to sweeping, melody-rich hooks, raw, ringing guitars, and driving rhythms—are rooted in fact and stranger than fiction; literate, image-laden observations with a penchant for classic, bent Midwestern arcana. There’s “Steamship Moselle,” the calliope-infused account of an 1838 maritime explosion catapulting an ill-fated minister to the riverbank; and “Marathon,” an amusing local legend of a confused fistfight between a speech-impaired gas station attendant and a customer with a similar affliction. More timely themes include “Real America,” a chord-crunching, poetic look at divisive political punditry, or “Longarm”, a poignant reproach of U.S. foreign policy leading to the Iraq War.

Soon after recording, the group added bassist Randy Cheek, an old friend and veteran of seminal Ohio bands the Ass Ponys and the Libertines, whose famously solid bass work melds perfectly into their sound and feel. With Damndest hitting the shelves this spring, the new lineup is already at work on their more collaborative follow-up release, which thus far promises to be a masterwork.

In these days of gimmicky indie projects, the Ready Stance’s time-honored sound is rare: just four guys in a room knocking out earnest, urgent rock, much as it could’ve been done in any decade. “We all can tell after one take if it’s any good—we don’t even really talk about it,” says Johnston. Such timeless stuff has already drawn praise from some legendary names.“When I was a kid growing up in Kentucky,” recalls Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club drummer Chris Frantz, “my cousin would pick me up in his Chevy Super Sport and drive me down along the Ohio River to Cincinnati to hear some rock ’n’ roll. Those were exciting times, and the bands would play late into the night, rocking soaked in sweat. When I hear the Ready Stance, these memories come back to me and I remember that Cincinnati has produced so many wonderful musicians. The Ready Stance is among that number. You will be hearing a lot about them in the future.” And with Damndest, that future is already here. Waiting to be heard. Now
Praise for The Ready Stance