There's a scene at the beginning of The Big Lebowski in which the protagonist, The Dude, is cruising through the dairy section of Ralphs in his robe and flip-flops, trying to find a decent mixer for his white Russian. The Dude scopes out his target, does some quality assurance, then moseys over to the register. There, he writes a check for 69 cents as half-and-half drips from his mustache.
Narrating this quest is The Stranger, who explains things so that even The Dude can understand: “Sometimes, there's a man-well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's The Dude.”
Truer words may never have been spoken.
One might also say that Transfer, a group of soft-spoken musicians who've slowly risen to the top tier of the San Diego music scene, is the band for this time and place. As such, like The Dude, they abide.
“We try to not let shiny lights distract us from the work at hand,” says guitarist Jason Cardenas when asked if labels have showed interest in putting out the band's records. “We've talked to some people, but we'll just leave it at that.”
For now at least, Cardenas, singer-guitarist Matt Molarius, bassist Jeremy Chambers and drummer Mike Cooper are set to release their full-length debut, Faded Signal, on their own Obscure Magpie Records.
“We're really happy with how the album turned out,” says Molarius, who, with Cardenas and Chambers, moved from Northern California to San Diego as part of roots-rockers Ten Pound Brown. That band was more than competent-long jams and Molarius' hoarse, beautiful wail made them a sort of Mother Hips for people with beards. Like any relationship that's started when you're young and have no idea what sort of person you'll be in two years, they grew apart until someone finally pointed out the pee stain on their cosmic rug.
“It's easy to throw out drug problems, or personal issues, or any type of excuse where you can point the finger at someone else,” Cardenas says. “Don't get me wrong, these can definitely be valid reasons for ending a band. [But] Ten Pound was a band where all the members essentially grew up together, but once we matured as musicians, it became harder and harder to keep the same goals.”
With Transfer, they've hooked into something more powerful. They've learned the power of restraint, which created a kind of slow burn that could remind people of Jeff Buckley, The Allman Brothers Band or even Pink Floyd, depending on the moment. Instead of songs, they go for moods on Faded Signal, with no breaks between the album's tracks.
“I definitely think there's a focus with Transfer that we didn't have with Ten Pound Brown, and it shows in the recording,” Molarius says.
Transfer received buckets of critical acclaim with their first two EPs-2004's The Guts of My Arm and 2005's self-titled four-song release. Their song “Waltz” was added to regular rotation at 91X, a step up from the local-music specialty show, “Loudspeaker.” Strange faces began appearing at their shows, singing along.
Christopher Thorn and Brad Smith, former members of Blind Melon, invited the band to their studio to run through some songs. They did just that, though nothing was put to tape.
“We basically set up our equipment in their recording studio and played through most of our material at the time,” Cardenas explains. “[They're] fantastic guys, and we talked extensively about wanting to record an album together. Unfortunately, our schedules never quite lined up... so it kinda fell to the wayside.”
Instead, Transfer turned to local engineer and producer Alan Sanderson, a high-profile transplant who's worked with Johnny Cash and System of a Down, as well as locals like Tristeza and The Mark Jackson Band. He and Transfer recorded Faded Signal in seven days at his Strate Sound Recording Studio in Rancho Bernardo.
“We recorded the whole album pretty much live,” says Molarius. “I'm sure if we would have had more time in the studio, it would have ended up sounding a lot different, but we're extremely happy with how it turned out. I wouldn't change anything.”
Transfer holds a CD-release party (with Plastic Explosive, Emery Byrd and The Movies) at The Casbah on Feb. 24. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. $10. 619-232-HELL.