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Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009

Ten Years of 1956

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Every band’s life span varies. Some buzz bands garner hype even before releasing their debut album, only to burn out after an underwhelming follow-up. Other, more established groups feel the strain of heavy touring, eventually breaking up for divisive creative reasons. And many outfits don’t survive more than a few house gigs.

Though countless bands have dissolved since this decade began, local alt-rockers 1956 have soldiered on. The Helmet-influenced three-piece will celebrate their 10th year together this Saturday at the Cactus Club, and though they're eschewing the customary anniversary gifts of tin or aluminum, they plan to give away albums to concertgoers.

Drummer Mike Mattner chalks up 1956’s longevity to their persistence in expanding the band's musical breadth while avoiding confinement to a certain sound.

"We've never once said, ‘Hey, we shouldn't play this because it doesn't sound like us,’" he says. "And we do whatever comes to us, whatever feels good. That's never changed."

Guitarist, singer and founding member Jay Reimer formed the group in 1999. Mattner joined in 2001 and bassist Troy Butero followed in ’03. Their two full-length records, 2004’s Tonight We Kiss and 2007’s Saboteur, sound like a cross between Deftones’ hard rock and The National’s dark, brooding lyricism. Reimer fancies the latter group, Mattner says, and 1956’s newest work shadows the Brooklyn quintet.

Relaxed touring schedules kept 1956 alive and running throughout the years, Mattner says. Leaving home for only a week at a time helped the band mates maintain their sanity and private lives. But Mattner insists they still wouldn’t have persevered unless they were able to handle each other.

"We can drive for four hours and no one says a word," he says. "And no one's wondering what's wrong. Then we'll talk for four hours."

The group endured the many fluctuating musical crazes of the 2000s, and for the most part have remained true to their original sound.

"We never rode any fads as much as we should have to get more people at our shows," Mattner says, "but I don't think we would have lasted; it would have been fake. If we rode a fad, it was a ’90s fad, and we're still on it."

But not everything has remained static during 1956’s 10-year run, as they’ve had to adapt to an evolving music industry.

“The business behind music has changed a lot,” Mattner says. “[Printing] a CD isn't as important as it used to be. Now, everything's digital. I mean it's still nice to sell product at gigs, but it's not as necessary as it used to be.”

1956 plays the Cactus Club with Into Arcadia and The New Up at 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12.