Not two minutes after cracking open a beer in a mutual friend's living room, Transfer vocalist / guitarist Matt Molarius gets a message on his Blackberry. His friendly chatter trails off as he scrolls through the e-mail.
“It's from our publicist,” he says. Molarius, looking a little sheepish, reads aloud what his publicist sent over: a press release for Transfer's new album, Future Selves, due out Nov. 3. Molarius had a CD with him. “We just got these,” he announces with a guarded touch of pride.
Since 2004, Transfer has been the poster child for do-it-yourself in San Diego, handling just about everything in-house: self-issuing two EPs and a full-length, plus booking, publishing and promoting. They're connected and well liked locally, taking home a San Diego Music Award this year for Best Rock.
But despite a few on-the-cusp moments (a song on Sony Playstation's MLB '07, a mention on MTV2's Bands on the Rise), they haven't really broken out of the San Diego scene. Future Selves is their big chance.
Hence: the publicist.
“With this album, we feel like it's worth it,” says Molarius. “We want to see how much ground we can cover by hiring a pro, you know? We've done our own thing, but it's been on a local and regional level.”
Molarius, who oversees a small local publishing company called Obscure Magpie, which also put out Transfer's albums, says learning the ropes is no easy feat. (For that very reason, Obscure Magpie is built on the cooperative concept of helping other bands in the community).
“When we first started, we expected somebody else to do it for us. It's just a matter of learning how to contract the help that it takes to propel us in the right way. It's taken a long time to educate ourselves about what steps are the right ones to take. We've never had anyone guiding us or telling us what to do.”
Not that he regrets Transfer's DIY roots.
“I don't think it's held us back, and it's definitely been easier on the pocketbook. We've been working on bro deals for a long time—people donating and contributing out of the goodness of their hearts and out of the love of the music. It's been amazing. But we need somebody to help us be visible on a larger scale. I don't really believe in lucky breaks.”
But he does believe in the band's new album, a collection of reverb-drenched alt-rock that shapeshifts through styles and influences (from Radiohead and Jeff Buckley to My Morning Jacket): fast, cascading guitar and slightly atonal lyrics; hymnal-sounding harmonies; impassioned shouting over big orchestral riffs. At its best, Molarius' voice dips from light vibrato to a late-night wail that strikes an appealing balance between earthy and ethereal.
The Future Selves liner artwork, portraits of each band member shot at bassist Shaun Cornell's Blue Roof Studios, has a moody, introspective feel to it. (Though Molarius seems like an affable, easygoing guy, he admits that music is an ideal outlet for the occasional upwelling of moodiness.)
“The property that we recorded on is way out in the hills,” Molarius says. “It was very quiet and had a seclusion type of vibe.”
But more important than the scenery was the stress-free recording situation that Cornell's studio afforded.
“We've never written in the studio before. We've always been on a watching-the-clock budget. When our songs were completely done, we'd go into the studio and bang them out as fast as we could. Don't spend a lot of time on this one thing because the clock is ticking and money is hemorrhaging from us. [Blue Roof] was the first opportunity we had to write in the studio together and actually develop things as we recorded them, and go back and revise them.”
“It was,” Molarius affirms. “And it was very intense. It seems like when you have all these tools at your disposal, you can take all the time in the world. But it wasn't like that. We all had a very intense focus and obligation to create, because we were all there.”
Transfer spent a month in the studio, armed with a handful of skeletal songs, a few nearly ready to put to tape, and one or two that “weren't even a twinkle in the their daddy's eye.”
Molarius hopes the band's first single, “Losing Composure,” piques the public's interest.
“We thought that was a good introduction to what we do. The rhythms of the songs we've created are all over the map. This song had a pulsing beat and movement to it.”
Transfer are also likely to lure fans with a cinematic and slightly morbid music video in production for the track “Wake to Sleep.”
Filmed in a creaky, century-old house, the costumes and premise have a decidedly old-timey feel. The band members, in the guise of preachers whose faces are dappled with heaven-sent shards of light, lead their congregation into a rapture—and then somewhere decidedly more dark.
Like the album, it reflects an increasingly refined, grown-up Transfer. Their future selves—huge successes or not—should be proud.
Transfer play with Music for Animals and Mostly Bears on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6 and 7, at Beauty Bar. www.myspace.com/transferband.