Random acts

Off Centre strikes the right balance

Since forming last August, Off Centre has gone from being an unknown, acoustic-rock pickup band for front men Joey Wilton and Brandon Lowery to, this spring, being named “Best Local Band of 2003″ by readers of the Asheville Citizen-Times.

For an underdog band — one without so much as a CD to promote (their debut demo is due this fall), and only a small, if highly enthusiastic, following — it was a kingly coup.

Even the band itself isn’t sure how it happened.

Off Centre, it seems, was simply in the right place at the right time — part of an increasing local presence of young, post-metal acoustic rockers with plenty of Internet savvy (not to mention having a built-in following, thanks to their connection with former metal-scene rulers MiniVoid).

Originally, the group was just Lowery and Wilton, but the duo has since expanded to include former MiniVoid front man Grant Henry and a bassist known only as Koli. Their music isn’t far removed from the heavy-rock roots that all four share — a power-chord-laden, emotionally fueled sound channeled through twin acoustic guitars and packing weighty vocal harmonies.

This week, Random Acts talks with the band about their history and their seemingly sudden climb to Asheville’s musical frontline.

Random Acts: “You guys were named the best band in Asheville by the Citizen-Times — yet you’re still fairly new, and you don’t have a lot of visibility beyond word-of-mouth promotion. Do you feel like you’re part of a new guard of local musicians?”

Brandon Lowery: “I think it has a lot to do with what we’ve done so far. Word of mouth helped. There’s a few others out there that are high-energy, but I haven’t seen any bands out there like ours.”

Joey Wilton: “I definitely think we’re part of a new guard. We have acoustic guitars with distortion, and we focus a lot on harmonies, and not a lot of bands around here do that.”

BL: “We take a lot of time to orchestrate our mild madness. It’s definitely not like we picked up acoustic guitars and tried to write metal and rock music to it, so that people would say, ‘This band is playing death metal on acoustic guitars.’ It’s a little more thought-out than that.”

Grant Henry: “Yeah, it’s not a gimmick. I think that there are a whole bunch of bands that are starting to form, and I think that the Internet is playing a big role in what goes on. It’s hard to know how much [the Citizen-Times title] comes from the shows, and how much comes from mp3s and the Internet.

“There’s a whole new group of people that are listening to this stuff, and it may not be from going to shows.”

BL: “That’s one reason why we’ve done what we’ve done so far. We’ve gotten a lot of recognition from just putting a Web site and some mp3s up. That’s more than you’d ever think it would be.”

RA: “Your music is arranged like a lot of heavier music, so it sounds a little unusual played acoustically. Why did you decide to start playing an all-acoustic set in the first place?”

JW: “OK … I was seeing this girl, and she liked acoustic music [laughs]. … I’ve always been vocal-oriented, and I never thought of playing guitar in a band; but the only problem was that I could never write. This band is the only thing I’ve ever been able to write lyrics for.”

RA: “How much of your starting to write was due to the collaboration between you and Brandon?”

JW: “Probably a lot of it.”

BL: “We mesh really well when we harmonize and sing, because our styles are a lot alike. You can definitely tell a difference in our voices, but you can also catch a lot of the similarities. I usually write guitar parts, and [Joey will] put his vocals over [them]. Or, I’ll write an entire song, and he’ll put harmony and alternate guitar parts over it. It’s usually nothing like what I’m playing.

“When we first thought of this, we never anticipated that it would be anything more than just a rock-type, emotional, acoustic set. When we decided to form a band, I decided to start writing guitar parts that were full. You know, without distortion. It’s hard to do sometimes, because you can write a song … and it can still be full of chord value and not have distortion or anything to help that out.”

Koli: “Plus, buying electric instruments costs more money.”

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