From the infamous tales of “E!: True Hollywood Story” to the high-profile dissolution of bands such as Oasis and even the Everly Brothers, keeping a band intact proves an intricate balancing act. Derived from the ashes of fallen rock outfit Low Standards (LS), musical phoenix Of Unsound Mind (OUM) comes as the second brainchild of Eric McGuinness.
Having been a musician for over a decade, McGuinness’ LS was together for six years. Current bandmate Bryan Gray, too, was a member. However, LS ran into complications when McGuinness moved from his hometown, Cape Hatteras, to Wilmington and pulled the plug on the project.
Fresh to Wilmington’s heavily populated music scene, he found Josh Solomon after months of trial and error. The two joined forces, playing acoustic covers, and Solomon taught McGuinness that it was possible to make money playing music.
However, after two years of being self-employed by the likes of his guitar, McGuinness still yearned to make a punk album that could shred—something that followed along the lines of his previous band. Still in contact with Gray, McGuinness checked into a studio, and wrote and recorded the drum tracks, bass and played guitar. Gray served as back up and laid down some riffs of his own. Solomon joined in on the new venture, trading in his guitar for a bass. OUM picked up youngster Robert Decker from Craigslist to add the rhythm and backbone.
The new-born, new-aged, punk/metal band just released their debut album and have been making the rounds on the local circuit to establish a core fanbase throughout eastern North Carolina.
The band boasts a driving force of hard work, longtime friendships and chance. While Gray and McGuinness have been a team for years now, undeniable respect for one another remains. “He adds a huge amount of creativity and ideas that I would never think of to our songs and that’s why I love having him,”McGuinness says.
Solomon, too, adds his own aesthetic throughout the live shows, generating a sense of harmony. His vocal range compliments McGuinness’ in a simple way, but adds a dynamic that can only be felt when watching in person. “I could tell from the first jam session that he had what it took,” McGuinness gushes.
Though Decker has joined the band only recently, he’s earned respect. “I’m hard on the guys about work, and Decker doesn’t mind. He improves every day that he plays,” McGuinness describes.
OUM draws influence from the punk and metal scenes—both new and old. Bands like Bad Religion, AFI, Protest the Hero, and As I Lay Dying influence OUM’s originals, but the band has a style all its own. McGuiness’ tone can take on that of Davey Havok (AFI’s vocalist).
“I love old [AFI], but my goal was never to sing like him. That’s just how it comes out, so I run with it,” McGuinness says. “Avenged Sevenfold has been a big influence as well.”
Though McGuinness grew up with punk rock, he still revels in progressive music. The hours of learning cover songs with Solomon has improved McGuinness tremendously as a musician, opening up his mind to various styles.
“The goal is to shred hard, be catchy without being cheesy and push ourselves musically,” McGuinness says. “I’ve written all kinds of music. I couldn’t just write metal all day.”
OUM primarily focuses on lyricism. As a songwriter, McGuinness prides himself on the meanings that guide his songs. “Don’t Slip,” the first track off of their 2014 release, “A Way Out,” concerns Hatteras Island, a tiny village where everyone knows each other. But even in this isolated shelter off of the coast, drug abuse and heavy drinking find a way to prevail.
“It is about watching all the different people I love fall into this trap,” McGuinness says. “That place is like a black hole. It’s really hard to get out of there and all it does is suck you back in.”
Though McGuinness struggled with his own slip, he has come out much better for it. “Don’t Slip” details the story of a friend who went “too far out”—so much so that McGuinness couldn’t reach him anymore.
“On top of the loss of a friend, [I have to think about] Oxy, Xanax, Valiums, and Vicodin, man,” McGuinness says. “You have to wonder how much money they make off of people’s addictions.”
These heavy themes weave their way in and out of the album, which when listened to as a whole, speaks of committing a crime and trying to fight your way back from it.
“Water With Spirit” comes in slow and then explodes with a climbing lead guitar riff that can melt even the great Dio’s face. It displays OUM’s metal side. The chorus yields loud chanting and holding power chords.
“It is basically about alcohol consumption and the internal battle against it,” McGuinness says. The dark and ominous chords and bass draw a perfect parallel McGuinness’ lyrics on the poisons in one’s life.
While his sfavorite artists all have deep and meaningful songs, and generate stories that people can relate to, McGuinness, too, hopes to write in a way that connects. He draws from many dark periods in his life—a rrelease in expressing himself, only matched by getting onstage to belt it out for the world.
“It’s how you develop personal relationship with the band as a fan,” McGuinness muses. “Hopefully, by the end of the year we will sport an actual fanbase.”
The punk/metal heads completed their record, “A Way Out,” in February and played their first show in March. They will return to the recording studio in the coming weeks to churn out a four-song EP. OUM has played local staples such as Orton’s, The Whiskey and Hooligans in Jacksonville. They have future gigs lined up at Cardinal Bands and Billiards and another in Newport, NC. But no matter how big it gets, McGuinness keeps it genuine and authentic.
“Even behind the collective loudness of the bass lines, percussion, screaming guitars and grunge-esque vocals, there is still meaning—there is still heart,” McGuinness concludes.
Of Unsound Mind
Orton’s • 133 N. Front Street
Fri., April 25th
8 p.m. • Free