Music & Nightlife

Balsa Gliders channel that ’90s Chapel Hill sound

In the early-to-mid 1990s the members of the Balsa Gliders were in the audience at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro watching the Veldt and Dillon Fence on stage. Two decades later, those same guys share the Visulite stage with some of the same musicians who inspired them to give music a go.

Friday, the Balsa Gliders – a six-piece band with members from Raleigh, Charlotte and Washington, DC – join Roman Spring, a Chapel Hill band featuring former members of Dillon Fence, Cravin’ Melon, the Veldt and Collapsis for Roman Spring’s annual Visulite gig.

Atypical for indie rock, the Balsa Gliders didn’t form in high school or college.

“When we were in college Russ (Tisinger) and I were going to see bands like Let’s Active, and (drummer) Chuck (Price) was friends with Eric Johnson from Archers of Loaf. We were just sort of spectators watching folks a little bit older than us,” says Charlotte native Charles Marshall, a Raleigh-based lawyer by day. “It was natural over time. Russ and I started the band and got more confidence and began putting records out and playing shows. It took 10 or 15 years to start doing it ourselves.”

The band traces its roots to 1996 when songwriter Marshall and Tisinger began playing music together in Tisinger’s basement.

“My roommates were like, ‘Are you “playing” band?’ There was not a lot of confidence,” recalls Tisinger, who credits Marshall’s persistence that they play live and record albums. “I stopped doubting Charles after we made that first CD in the late ’90s. Charles is the animating force behind this band.”

Part of what attracts fans is the band’s ability to channel the beloved ’90s Chapel Hill sound while adding a mature perspective.

“Most of the bands we listened to are not writing new material if they’re still playing at all,” says Marshall. “I don’t think there are a lot of bands building off that sound or writing new music. I think that’s why when people comment on our lyrics they say, ‘It’s like indie rock for adults.’ 

The subject matter is relatable for the band’s peers while the tunes sonically channel The Connells, Archers, R.E.M. and Son Volt.

“We’re all parents and have lives. Some of our contemporaries don’t know what the new indie rock sounds like. I think it’s – I don’t want to stay it’s nostalgia, it’s not a throwback sound – but they relate to it as ‘This sounds like stuff we used to listen to and don’t hear much anymore.’ 

Distance and careers may be a hurdle for many bands, but both work in the Gliders’ favor.

“If we were all in the same city it would probably be different, but not necessarily in a good way. That we’re spread out puts a priority on when we are together,” says Price, a former Bank of America VP who now works as a headhunter. “There’s a purposefulness to this since we know we have to be deliberate.”

With day jobs in law, medicine and the church (the band’s bassist is an Episcopal priest), there’s no real need to hit the big time.

“I get asked, ‘What’s the ultimate goal?’ It’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re playing several times a year across the state, putting out new music, taking our time doing it and getting a little attention,” says Marshall. “To boot, we’re playing with the Roman Spring. It means being able to come full circle in a really neat way.”

The Balsa Gliders

When: 8 p.m. Friday.

Where: Visulite Theatre, 1615 Elizabeth Ave.

Tickets: $10.

Details: 704-358-9200; www.visulite.com.

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