It’s been a long ride for Oklahoma City indie-rock act Student Film. The band is fast approaching a full decade, much of it full of laborious promotion, touring and recording.
Although the group never expected to necessarily hit it big, frustration with expectations — both their own and others — and the Oklahoma music scene at large prompted lead singer and guitarist Justin Rice to post an open letter to musicians and fans alike online three summers back, warning of the many struggles a band hailing from Oklahoma City will no doubt face from personal experience.
For some, it was a rally cry; for others, it was disagreeable at the very least.
However, it’s hard to argue with firsthand experience.
“Show attendance, the number and quality of the bands — it all seems to fluctuate. You’ve got to try and ride out the lulls,” Rice said. “Most of what I wrote was a reaction to the pressures and disappointment of one of those lull periods.”
Student Film’s last full-length release, 2009’s “Generator, Operator, Destroyer,” probably bore a little of that frustration, consciously or not. Although not a total departure from its beloved “Sleeping Giant,” it was certainly the heaviest and darkest anyone had heard from the act.
“It was a bit dark and messy,” Rice said. “Now, we are back onto something a little more poppy again.”
We had this religious experience watching Talking Heads.
Now, he seems more content with where both his group and his state’s music scene — praising relative newcomers The Boom Bang and The Pretty Black Chains — stand, and a lighter direction came beckoning. The tight, studious indie-rock sound that begs quick comparisons to acts like Spoon is again blasting at the forefront, and it’s suiting them well.
“We just naturally started in heading that direction, and then we had this religious experience watching Talking Heads’ ‘Stop Making Sense,’” Rice said. “It was encouragement to go back down that path and rediscover what we liked about our band to begin with. It’s a little closer to ‘Sleeping Giant.’” The band currently is figuring out how to reintroduce itself to a new generation of metro concert attendees. Slated for early 2012, a new record, tentatively titled “Facts and Values,” aims to do just that.
“One thing we’ve struggled with is the people that liked us when we started out are older and aren’t going to shows anymore. We’ve been around nine years, and those people aren’t going to be staying out until 2 in the morning,” Rice said. “We wonder how to get back out in front of the younger crowd. That’s the question right now.”
The simple pleasure of songwriting and playing shows should be enough to keep themselves afloat, even if that question goes unanswered. No matter the highs and lows, Rice is assured Student Film is in it for the long haul.
“It’s some strange, unshakable sense of dedication, I guess,” he said. “I don’t see us breaking up anytime in the near future, either. I could easily see another five or 10 years.”