A nonchalant tone gives Eric Harris’ band name its humor, but Local Man Ruins Everything is the opposite of a careless moniker. Harris picked the name carefully, with consideration given to mythologist Joseph Campbell’s timeless archetypes and mankind’s undying quest to find its most perfect state.
“The most consistent enemy to man is himself,” said Harris, Local Man’s founder and bassist. “The best way to keep that from being a detriment is to own it.”
Local Man Ruins Everything is one of Oklahoma City’s most unique rising bands. The progressive metal and jazz hybrid defies easy categorization.
The real root of Local Man’s namesake can be traced back to a popular 2002 episode of The Simpsons, which featured a framed newspaper with the same headline. But Harris, who started the band as a solo project before it grew into an instrumental three-piece, found a deeper meaning in the humorous title. He likes the name because it is something that quickly resonates with people.
“I was just trying to figure something out that was enough of a brain trick to happen in five, six, seven seconds.”
Because of Local Man’s unique sound, the band does not gravitate to one particular “scene” and can be found playing a wide variety of local venues with many different kinds of bands. It will open for legendary blues-rock guitarist Eric Gales Saturday at VZD’s Restaurant & Bar, 4200 N. Western Ave.
Harris said he hopes the name is funny and innocuous enough that someone might relate to it in some way. Local Man guitarist Jay Gleason thinks everyone takes their own meaning from the band name. He said he takes the title as a calming reminder that imperfection is normal.
“Everybody is like, ‘Oh, life is serious and hard; you screw crap up because you’re not completed or developed in your own self,’” he said. “With this, you have this reference point of some guy shrugging. He screwed everything up, but he’s a lighthearted, funny representation that you can relate to.”
Drummer Byron Collins joins Harris and Gleason to complete the Local Man lineup. Harris said many of the tunes the band plays now started as a solo project. His goal was to truly write what he felt without consideration for genre or the way convention says something should sound.
Eventually, Harris joined with the band’s first drummer, Jonathan Thomas. Gleason, who had previous experience playing in a band with Harris, joined later. He had been out of bands for several years, disillusioned by the process, but was intrigued by the idea of joining a group that defied labeling.
“I thought this was going to be an opportunity to legitimately grow as a musician and express myself,” Gleason said, “and it has very much been that.”
Thomas left the band in 2017, and Collins has been the group’s drummer for the last several months. Needless to say, there are not many other math-y instrumental jazz-metal trios out there. That can be both a blessing and a curse. There aren’t pre-fit molds for the band to slide into for local shows, but its sound also makes it unique.
“You don’t get to see a lot of crazy instrumental music live, you know what I mean?” Harris said. “That doesn’t happen a lot, and when it does, it’s inaccessible in some way.”
Harris compared the band to Béla Fleck and the Flecktones meets Tool or Iron Maiden meets Squarepusher. The band has enough influences that it can find some common ground with a lot of different local acts.
“We can go play with anybody and be in all kinds of scenarios where we fit,” Harris said.
The bassist might have started the Local Man project to fulfill his personal artistic ambitions, but the band also makes an intentional effort to keep the music accessible.
“It has to walk this line of being personally validating while also being impersonally validating,” he said. “Other people have to like it.”
Harris began seriously playing bass at age 14 or 15 but had casually played around with different instruments growing up. He had several music teachers who he was close to and would hang around with. Those musicians took a special interest in watching him develop as a player.
“It was a situation where you weren’t approached as an other they had to entertain,” Harris said. “There was a camaraderie there instantly.”
Being around advanced musicians made Harris want to pursue things that were technically more challenging. He began writing songs at a young age, always looking for a new project to get involved in.
Harris and Gleason met for the first time at Granny’s Music Mall, a music store that Gleason’s father owned that later closed. His parents were also both members of the local 1960s and ’70s rock band Pearl.
Growing up, Gleason spent a lot of his time hanging around Granny’s. His most formative music experiences occurred in that store.
“It’s all musicians that work at those places,” he said. “It was a big deal just being around the environment.”
Both Harris and Gleason are metalheads with backgrounds that extend into other genres. Harris was formerly in the neo-jazz band Culture Cinematic, and Gleason has spent years playing jazz as a professional musician and music teacher.
The guitarist views Local Man as the culmination of all his previous playing experience.
“I’m able to combine all the things that I’ve learned into this,” Gleason said.
Local Man is currently working to finalize its debut album, which they expect to be completed in the first half of 2018. Gleason said his experiences writing with the band have been very enjoyable.
“There’s no pigeonhole,” he said. “It doesn’t have to sound a certain way. It doesn’t have to be happy. It doesn’t have to be dark. There’s no, ‘That’s not metal enough.’”
Harris said what he enjoys the most about Local Man Ruins Everything is that it merges the intricate concepts of metal with the growth and progression of jazz.
“Metal, a lot of times, doesn’t get that development,” Harris said. “The meanings and observations surrounding it aren’t quite as developed.”
Local Man might be hard to categorize, but Harris said the point of the band is not to purposefully defy genre. Instead, that is just a side effect of the group’s real goal, which is full songwriting freedom.
“Genres are funny,” Harris said, “because it’s all relative. It’s all relative to what you think that is.”
Print headline: Man’s folly; OKC jazz-metal hybrid Local Man Ruins Everything ignores convention and finds common ground in the process