Oakland Garage-Pop Outfit Bare Wires Breaks Up After Disastrous SXSW, Tour Cancellation

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Amanda Lopez
Bare Wires (from left): Tennent McCabe, Matthew Melton, and Omar Hernandez

Bare Wires, the Oakland trio whose lean, gritty power-pop made it one of the best of a recent class of Bay Area garage bands, broke up recently after melting down onstage at South By Southwest and cancelling the remainder of its national tour, according to frontman Matthew Melton.

The band still has an upcoming release -- its fourth full-length, Idle Dreams, will be out on Oakland's Southpaw Records this summer. But the band members have gone their separate ways, and Melton says they have no plans to regroup.

"Bare Wires is over," Melton says. "Some things aren't made to go forever."

The impetus for the breakup, according to Melton, was a rough week in Austin following a southern tour across the U.S. On the first night of South By Southwest, Melton says, drummer Omar Hernandez suffered what Melton called a "self-induced health-related concern" that made him unable to perform with the band. (We contacted Hernandez and bassist Tennent McCabe for this story, and will update it if we hear anything from them.)

Bare Wires found a replacement drummer for the week, but regaining momentum in the midst of the chaotic music festival proved difficult.

"We sort of unraveled at South By Southwest," Melton says. "We got a replacement drummer and had sort of a meltdown on a couple stages struggling with a drummer we were training on the fly."

The members of Bare Wires then scattered. Melton says he decided not to try to put them back together, and instead canceled the band's tour.

"With all due respect to my former band mates, I'd prefer not to comment on the exact reasons for the break-up or exactly what happened, but you know, we decided to go our separate ways," he says. "It seemed sort of ridiculous for me to find a new lineup,"

Bare Wires was formed by Melton about four years ago, and eventually gained a national reputation, even landing a short feature on NPR last year. The band was also featured with several other local artists on the cover of SF Weekly ahead of its Noise Pop Festival show only about a month before it broke up.



Bare Wires had an oft-rotating lineup, partly because Melton insisted on more or less living on the road. "All I want is to play with people who enjoy touring, which means that you can't have a job and you can't have a girlfriend," he told All Shook Down last year. "You have to be a total slacker like me and want to just float around, sleeping on couches, or else you'll never be able to keep touring for a long time."

Though its recordings are low-fidelity, recorded on vintage tape machines, Melton's songwriting always displayed a striking sense of pop songcraft. (Especially considering that its palette was limited to a single guitar, bass, and drums.) "Don't Ever Change," the lead single off last year's Cheap Perfume, marked a high point for the group, with its dragging tempo, instantly catchy chorus and a hilarious high school-themed music video.

Melton is already working on a new "pop" band, called Warm Soda, and recently opened a small recording studio in Oakland called Fuzz City. Despite the breakup, he says he's happy with what Bare Wires accomplished.

"I learned a lot," Melton says. "I grew up on the poor side of the tracks in Memphis, Tenn., and you know nobody in my family had ever even been to Europe -- they all still live in West Memphis, Ark. -- and I never thought I'd ever get to see Europe. It's really a lot of fun to think about all the adventures with all my bandmates I had."


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