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A prolific, eclectic, alt-country band based in Denton, Texas, Centro-Matic began in 1995 as a side project for singer/songwriter and guitarist Will Johnson. Though Centro-Matic released a few singles that year, it wasn't until 1997 that the project began to resemble a full-fledged group. After recording the 23-song debut album Redo the Stacks at his friend Matt Pence's home studio, Johnson enlisted Pence as the band's drummer, along with cellist/violinist Scott Danbom and bassist Mark Hedman. The fully formed Centro-Matic recorded over 60 songs in a Milstadt, Illinois studio space owned by Son Volt's Jay Farrar; of those, some of the quieter, more emotional songs ended up on the 1999 Idol Records album Navigational, while some louder lo-fi tracks were collected with B-sides and other unreleased material on the same year's Quality Park release The Static vs. the Strings, Vol. 1.
With still more songs in reserve, Centro-Matic obtained no-strings-attached deals with both labels, allowing them to release as many albums as they wanted beginning with 2000's All the Falsest Hearts Can Try. For his next trick, Johnson built a side project inside his existing side project, the dour South San Gabriel Songs/Music. But before anyone could dwell on that, Centro-Matic released Distance and Clime through the Idol label in 2001, and Johnson spent the rest of the year putting the finishing touches on his first solo album, 2002's Murder of Tides. Love You Just the Same followed in 2003; by this point, tracking Johnson's restless songwriting heart was as fascinating as hearing his consistently strong output.
More amazingly, Centro-Matic toured like crazy men this entire time, criss-crossing the country (and Europe) with acts as disparate as Jay Bennett, Brendan Benson, Slobberbone, and the Promise Ring. Sweet remainders of the Love You Just the Same sessions surfaced in 2004 as the Flashes and Cables EP, and Johnson released the solo album Vultures Await later that year. Another solo release, Survey/Voyage, appeared one year later. Centro-Matic was busy in 2006; not only did the band release the Triggers and Trash Heaps EP and full-length Fort Recovery, but the year also marked Centro-Matic's tenth anniversary. Things slowed down after that year, however, with Centro-Matic issuing a two-disc set (2008's Dual Hawks, whose second disc consisted of South San Gabriel's material) before Johnson took some time off to play drums with Monsters of Folk. Returning to Centro-Matic in 2010, Johnson and company began revising and recording the songs they'd written before the short hiatus, resulting in 2011's Candidate Waltz.
In 2012, Centro-Matic announced on their website they were beginning work on their next album, but in between sessions for the record, Johnson embarked on several solo tours (many devoted to intimate living room concerts) and released an album with his side project Overseas, featuring David Bazan, Bubba Kadane, and Matt Kadane. The patience of Centro-Matic's fans was rewarded in June 2014, when the group released their 12th album, Take Pride in Your Long Odds. ~ Heather Phares
- Denton, TX
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