When former Treepeople member, Doug Martsch, formed Built To Spill back in 1992, he did so with the intention of using a rotating lineup for each album. For the initial formation and debut release, Ultimate Alternative Wavers , Doug recruited Brett Netson, the frontman from fellow Boise unit, Caustic Resin, to play bass. Martsch has cited Caustic Resin as a major influence on his own work and even teamed up with the full band for the aptly titled,Built To Spill Caustic Resin EP in 1995, along with being backed by them for the BTS song, “Still Flat,” which was recorded for the AIDS benefit comp, Red Hot + Bothered. Over the years, Netson would return to contribute to one Built To Spill album after the other and even began joining the band on stage, solidifying their trademark triple guitar lineup, while remaining active with his own group until 2003. Eventually, Brett became an official member of Built To Spill, as Caustic Resin slipped into an indefinite hiatus. Unfortunately, his own catalog has been far too often overlooked, as he has become recognized for his contributions as a sideman in such a seminal indie rock outfit.
Over the last couple of years, press images of Built To Spill began showing them as only a 3-piece, consisting strictly of Martsch and his current rhythm section, Steve Gere (drums) and Jason Albertini (bass), with Netson and Jim Roth (guitar) seemingly absent. After, indeed, seeing them live as a trio, however, I caught them about a month later at the 2016 Treefort Fest as a full band, again, featuring the complete “guitarsenal.” Then, later in the fest, the band played in a reduced formation as a trio all over again. Albertini, who also fronts the band, Helvetia, joined Martsch with Gere in 2012, replacing the longtime rhythm section of Scott Plouf (drums) and bassist, Brett Nelson (with an “L”) who both left to direct their focuses elsewhere — Plouf, I believe might gone into cooking, while Nelson is in the band Sick Wish. Netson has remained a tremendous force in Built To Spill over the years, so the hope is that he hasn’t entirely moved on. Doug is an undeniably accomplished songwriter with a brilliant catalog, that it has to be an honor to play such a role withing, but there was actually a point in the 90s where Netson openly stated that he would never imagine joining the project full time, due to having his own band and equally strong voice/point of view. He has always collaborated with Doug on the guitar parts, but for the basic songwriting in Built To Spill, it is more of a solitary process for Martsch, much as it has always been for Brett in his own work. Fortunately, with his recent activity, it appears that any time away from BTS has simply allowed Netson to pursue other ventures.
In the past, Brett has appeared on albums by artists like Mark Lanegan and even toured with the former Screaming Trees frontman throughout 2005. In 2014, he (as well as Lanegan) were featured on the album, Primitive And Deadly, from ambient drone metal pioneers, Earth, and later that year, he announced his brand new project, Brett Netson & Snakes, which also involves Steve Gere. The first Brett Netson & Snakes release came in January 2015 in the form of a 3-song EP titled Scavenger Cult. Packed with dusty sprawling soundscapes, pummeling drums, and swirling space rock guitars, this would mark the first real album with him at the helm since his 2009 solo effort Simple Work For the Dead . From there, Netson started his own label under the Scavenger Hunt Records moniker, releasing material from Boise cohorts, Clarke And The Himselfs, and reissuing Caustic Resin‘s underground classic third LP, The Medicine Is All Gone, for the first time ever on vinyl, last year. On December 21, 2016 came the stony molasses-psych two-song Hypothermia (solstice 2016 dig EP) — an “EP for the longest night of the year,” with Gere on organ and drums — as further evidence that this project was here to stay for a while, just like the frontman’s penchant for experimenting with new sounds and forever expanding his sonic vocabulary. The band makes no secret of their desire to take their time to carefully craft new material right down to the equipment that they use to record it, so it’s not too much of a surprise that Snakes‘ s latest effort still doesn’t exactly arrive in the form of a typical full length either. Rather, it’s a split LP with Novia Scotia outfit, Crosss; with the 25-minute-plus Snakes side consisting of the tracks “Old, Like Hell” and “Hypothermia Pt 1” — part 2 appears on last year’s aforementioned digital EP.
As for what Crosss is bringing to the table, the following info is provided via the press release
CROSSS, originally from Halifax Nova Scotia, has been touring the US and Canada for the last several years but with only a few releases. The version of CROSSS heard here is a unique chapter in the band’s story, featuring an experimental hybrid drum kit, played by Susan Burke (The Beverleys), and bass from Michael Stein (Homebody). Captured for Scavenger Cult in mid-exploration and live-off-the-floor by wild man Brett Netson to 2″ tape, and mixed and mastered in a traditional A-A-A process, this release is a departure from the highly aestheticized previous release, Lo, and its precursor, Obsidian Spectre, bringing forth a timeless take on psychedelic riff and unnerving melody.
You can pre-order the SNAKES/CROSSS split on vinyl or cassette format and preview a number of songs from it now via the bandcamp page HERE.
And make sure to check out the video for “Old, Like Hell” below.
When asked about if Caustic Resin would ever permanently reform, Netson once explained the trials of continuing to tour as a struggling band, rather than a project with the sort of stability that Built To Spill has achieved, by stating, “The small club circuit well, it’s not too cool… a threshold got crossed from the late 90’s into the early 2000s were things really changed. It got harder to find people who would let you stay at their house.” It’s great to see him taking another stab at it and pushing his music out regardless, but it also appears that he has quickly become a casualty of the lifestyle yet again. After getting sick recently, he was forced to pull out of a number of scheduled dates, and will now be continuing to perform solo. But… we’ll let the press release break this one down again in more detail.
Having been forced to miss several shows this week due to being hospitalized with a brutal virus, Netson is back out on tour pulling solo sets every night, touring alongside Scavenger Cult kin Clarke & The Himselfs. He issues of the incident, “That was one nasty ass motherfucker of a bug. Worse than the worst flu. Worse than the worst dopesick. The cold air from Lake Michigan ain’t no joke. If you sleep in someone’s garage, you need some serious cover this time of year. And/or, do not accept a gallon jug of ‘filtered’ water from a house show venue where eighteen people live.”