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SoundCheck: With evolving personal lives and new band members, the Theorists expand with a new album

The Theorists
Courtesy of The Theorists
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The last studio release from the Theorists was the 2016 record Thinking is Cool. As we roll up on Friday this week (8/12), the band will be on Studio Live with a new album dropping that very same day. Proof by Contradiction continues the band’s science-inspired bassoon-rock legacy.

The Theorists currently consist of Jared Durden on guitar and vocals, Brent Fillmer on bassoon, John Paul Chapman on drums, and Tatum Baldwin – Chapman’s daughter – on bass.

As Durden and Chapman explain, this album has been a long time coming.

“I believe we started it in 2019,” said Durden. “And then something big happened…”

“There was something, I can’t remember,” said Chapman. “Something slowed it down a little bit. Actually, I think we started it way before that, didn’t we? I feel like we started it back in 2018, maybe?”

“It’s fair to say we’ve been working on it for a while,” said Durden.

“We started a long time ago, yeah,” said Chapman.

“Another journey, a work in progress,” said Fillmer.

“Yes. These things just can’t be rushed,” said Chapman.

“But, we’ve been doing it by ourselves,” said Durden. “And kind of through the process, too, John Paul has done the recording and mixing and kind of has been learning how to do that throughout the process.”

“I’ve always been a DIY recordist,” said Chapman. “But I upgraded my equipment and was able to be a little more mobile with this new software. So, we started laying tracks down in Jared’s living room and then through the course of time, I would work some at my house and we went and recorded at a high school.”

When the Theorists first played Studio Live in 2017, it was just Durden and Fillmer holding it down on guitar and bassoon. Now with the addition of Chapman on drums and Baldwin on bass, their sound is growing.

“Adding bass and drums definitely gives it a cushion and a layer of sound for me to play on,” said Fillmer. “A lot more freedom with expression and kind of taking more of the melodies and the solos and being less of a supportive role. I can kind of venture off the bass line and some of the rhythm parts and add another texture and another layer to melody. And that’s big a big help, it’s been a welcome presence in our live shows.”

The Theorists have also changed in the way they write songs.

“So, the album is called Proof by Contradiction,” said Durden. “And it kind of is coming from stuff that I’d written as far back as 2008 and then since then, several songs, including a couple more recent.

“And Jin J. X, a good friend of mine I haven’t seen in a long time, but I remember I got married five years ago and leading up to that kind of got myself together a little better than I’d previously been. And a lot of my writing before that kind of had more of a chaotic feel and was rooted a lot in trauma and disorder and, you know, trying to figure things out. And I’d realized I’d reached this point in my life where for the first time in a long time, I was happy. And so I remember sitting down at a show with Jin and being like, ‘I don’t know what to do now. I’ve never been, you know, all my songs have come from kind of this source, and what do I write about now?’

“And if you know Jin, he just put his hand on my shoulder and he said, ‘Oh, now you can write about anything.’

“And I was like, ‘Oh! That’s the most brilliant thing I’ve ever heard.’

“And so, part of the transition you’ll hear in the album is kind of, you know, that kind of transition I think we go through in maturity. Kind of figuring things out and working from a lot of ‘me, me, I, I’ and then it kind of rolls into ‘us, they, what can we do from here?’”

Be sure to tune into Studio Live this Friday at noon for a live performance of songs from the new album Proof of Contradiction by the Theorists.

Jessica Gray Balisle, a Springfield native, grew up listening to KSMU. When she's not wrangling operations and compliance issues, she co-hosts live music show Studio Live and produces arts and culture stories. Jessica plays bass in local band the Hook Knives. She and her husband Todd live with their two cats, Ellie and Jean-Ralphio, and way too many house plants.