Messy and mesmerizing rock ‘n’ roll noisemakers Season to Risk survived ‘The Shattering’ and reunites for random pandemonium

Season to Risk with New Franklin Panthers and Engine Orchestra
9 p.m. Sunday
the Conservatory
8911 N. Western

Listening to Missouri’s Season to Risk, it’s hard not to scratch your head and wonder what Columbia Records was thinking when it signed the band in the early ’90s.

Guitars writhe, spasmodic rhythms rattle and rumble insistently with an angular swerve that echoes the post-punk churn of Jawbox and Fugazi. Singer Steve Tulipana taunts the listener from the eye of the storm with dark, speak-sung meditations punctuated with intermittent howls. It’s somewhat difficult and very rewarding rock ‘n’ roll.

But those were different days. The success of Nirvana impelled labels to find hard-hewn noisemakers.

“That was such a unique and weird time in the industry,” Tulipana said. “(The labels) were like, ‘Here’s your expense account. We’re going sign the Melvins, and every band that sounds like the Melvins and maybe we’ll get a Melvins.'”

Not that Tulipana’s complaining. While the act’s tenure only lasted two albums, and was over by 1996, he harbors few regrets. It’s just not his style.

Formed in 1989 while still in art school, Season to Risk won a battle of the bands that afforded free studio time. A development deal with Columbia happened before the members knew what hit them.

“When we got offered that deal, our drummer actually quit because he was like, ‘We’re not ready, we don’t have a plan to what we are,’ and I’m like, ‘What do you mean what we are? We just make music,'” Tulipana said.

After leaving Columbia, the guys took some of the leftover major-label money and built a studio, where they recorded their third album, “Men Are Monkeys, Robots Win.” In 1998, shortly after finishing the disc, a flash flood wiped out their entire neighborhood, trashing the studio.

The recordings were saved, but accidentally mastered and pressed out-of-phase, thus sounding “hollowed-out,” Tulipana said.

The group released one more album in 2001, “The Shattering.” Tulipana described as it as his favorite record, including subsequent releases with his new band, Roman Numerals. Season to Risk tried to support it for a while, but after the millennium the musical landscape had changed.

The band still plays periodically, performing at least one show ” usually only in Kansas City ” every year.

“We all kind of went our own ways to start new projects. It’s very hard music to play. It’s visceral and it’s heavy, and what I’ve been doing the last five years with Roman Numerals is way more a songwriter’s game,” Tulipana said. “When we do the shows, it’s a workout and really fun. You engage the audience differently than Roman Numerals does, where the audience is more women. At Season to Risk, it’s a bro-down.”

Chris Parker

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