Homesick after a move to the Northwest didn't work out, Beau Bowen and Garth Bryson decided to move back to Tucson and start a new band—and they started brainstorming about a new drummer before they even left.
Lo and behold, they got their man in Josh Skibar, whose band Is to Feel had just fallen apart.
"We listened to Is to Feel on MySpace, thinking it was such a long shot that he'd even be in the band," Bryson says.
Catching up with old friends after his return in late 2007, Bryson ran into Skibar, and the talk immediately turned to music.
"Lucky enough, Garth came over to my house, and I asked what he was doing band-wise, and he and Beau were just noodling around together, and they happened to be looking for a drummer," Skibar says. "I was totally up for not playing metal. My big challenge at first was to play in 3/4, because I hadn't had much experience in that, and Beau mostly writes in 3/4. But the first song came together so quickly. It just clicked."
All veterans of numerous local bands (Bowen: Maintenance, Lloyd Dobler; Bryson: Ladies and Gentlemen, Maintenance; Skibar: Is to Feel, Fun With Dirt), they fit together naturally, creating bombastic rock music, full of starts and stops and tempo changes, soaring melodies and rapturous, frenzied instrumental passages. With heavy drumming, melodic basslines and unorthodox chord changes, Garboski sometimes recalls the Seattle explosion of the 1990s, but leans more post-rock than punk.
"One of the natural things we do, more often than not, is give the songs these huge instrumental, super-busy, crazy finales," Skibar says.
That's part of the band's essence, using each instrument to its fullest, working in balance and letting each player stand out.
"Beau and I wanted to be a three-piece. I knew I wanted to be heard bass-wise, to play bass more like a guitar," Bryson says. "I was afraid it was going to be empty at first, and we worried about having to fill out the sound. But it works. This is probably the easiest band I've been in—friend-wise and compatibility-wise."
Garboski's songs start with Bowen, a self-taught guitarist, described by Skibar and Bryson as unorthodox and original.
"A lot of people who take guitar lessons seem like they're stuck playing what they're taught," Bowen says. "I always try to write something I haven't already (written)."
Bowen and Bryson work with the rough idea, solidifying the guitar and bass parts before bringing it to Skibar. "It's Beau's at first, but it's a small step ladder," Bryson says.
Says Skibar: "They give me free rein to do what I want, so I have to write my equal part in a piece of music. It challenges the shit out of me, because I can't get away with playing just a simple drum beat. It's balanced. It's like three primary colors. Everyone has his color and is equally heard. When Beau shows me a riff, I don't have a beat in my head. I have to think completely differently. I had to learn to be my own color in this band."
Bowen and Bryson had played together for years in the prog- and math-rock-leaning Maintenance, which they tried transplanting to Portland in 2006, while Skibar had mainly drummed in metal bands. When they booked the band's first show in spring 2008, Garboski had only three songs, so they rushed to finish another handful.
But there was still the matter of a name for the band.
"We were tossing around band names for the first couple of months, and we couldn't come up with anything," Skibar says.
The winning suggestion came from Ian Philabaum, who was practicing with Chango Malo next door and jokingly combined the names—Garth-Beau-Skibar: Garboski. (Or gär'b'sk, the phonetic guide Bryson devised for the band's MySpace page after encountering frequent mispronunciation.)
"It wasn't our last resort. It's just that through all the names, it's the one that kept growing on us. It's our family name, our married name," Skibar says.
Garboski released a self-titled EP in January 2009 and spent the late part of the year recording, with friend Tom Beach again as producer. The new album, Take a Pull, is essentially a double-EP, with six new originals, a cover of Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You in the End," and new mixes of four songs from Garboski.
Gathered outside their practice space for an interview, the band members ran down the songs, describing them with a characteristic irreverence, reaching for the core of what the songs feel like instead of what they're about:
• "Enjoy Dick" is a drunken fistfight.
• "Painted Plastic" is a pity party, but beautiful.
• "Black Coffee" is an anxiety attack.
• "No Hand Hold" is a birthday party.
• "Missed a Lot" is a romantic comedy.
• "Old News" is a morning seduction.
• "Lost Friends, Gained Pets" is homesickness.
• "Roommates and Sitcoms" is going to the dog park.
• "Punch Jesus" is trying not to laugh in church.
• "Post Sober Night" is a brutal hangover.
"I just like that we basically have a full album now. You can only know so much about a band when there's only five songs," Bowen says.
Garboski has been sharing Skibar with local metal kings The Bled for the past year, with assurances that the new project didn't mean he was walking away.
"It does suck that it's become a part-time thing for me. But I just couldn't pass up playing for The Bled," Skibar says.
All past or nearing 30, the band members say that Garboski is the band that's given the most contentment of any project over the years.
"I'll do whatever for fun, but I'm the most comfortable in this band. It just works too well," Bryson says. "The music is there; the songwriting is there; the friendship is there. We just have so much fun."