Given the preponderance of art galleries in and around the Tahoe region, the phrase “Art Heist” might be expected to give the local Chamber of Commerce a case of the cold sweats.
Relax folks — Art Heist is in fact a rock music duo located on South Shore. The band recently released its debut, eponymous album, now available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, and elsewhere.
Art Heist is Matt Bryant and Andrew Fowler.
With both dudes the beneficiaries of musical careers dating back to childhood, Bryant and Fowler met in Tahoe in 2008, joining forces with some other local musicians as ’90s rock cover band the Alternates. Bryant had performed in bands since high school, and had previously been playing in a house party cover band in Tahoe. Fowler had grown up in Las Vegas, playing music from a young age, performing live beginning at age 13, and attending the Las Vegas Academy, a performing arts school.
“I got to meet a whole lot of really great musicians there who I still work with to this day,” Fowler said. “Vegas, you know, Vegas is Vegas; I had to get out. So I came back here when I was 22, and not long after that is when I met Matt and started playing in the Alternates band.”
“It was pretty much just instant chemistry the first time we met,” Bryant said. “We wanted it to be a real professional product, so we basically put probably eight months of rehearsals together before we even stepped out.”
The act had immediate success, with lucrative bookings in Sacramento, Reno, Tahoe, and elsewhere. Active until 2011, the Alternates played about 150 shows before disbanding.
“It was fun, but the whole time that I was a part of that … I knew that Andy and I had the chemistry that we could write music,” Bryant said. “I kept pushing for us to start an original band.”
After a three-year hiatus, the two reconvened to kick the tires on this idea.
“There was kind of that void there for a few years from 2012 to 2014 where we didn’t really do anything,” Bryant said. “Then I think we started hanging out again and playing music, and wrote a bunch of songs and knew we wanted to record them.”
Bryant handled vocal duties for the project, while Fowler wrote all of the music, playing and recording all of the instruments individually.
“I’m all about vintage instruments, vintage recording gear, real analog shit,” Fowler said. “So everything you hear on there was made basically pre-1970. To me, it has more relevance today than ever.”
Instruments are just one part of crafting a sound, however. Art Heist needed to find an appropriate space in which to record. Enter Bryant’s other job.
“I’m in real estate, and so basically any chance I got that I could use somebody’s property, we would take advantage of that,” he said. “I had a couple of clients of mine that let us post up in their places. Andy’s a real stickler for sound, he’ll tell you, so he wasn’t going to do it just anywhere.
“Mainly there was one house in Al Tahoe that the record was recorded at, where over the course of two years we got maybe three separate four-week blocks during that two-year run.”
Fowler began each recording with a guiding guitar track, and then added other layers to that foundation, bass, drums and synthesizers.
Musically, the record bears the influences of a number of bands, the two said, including Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Beatles and Neil Young.
“To me, it’s a relationship record,” Bryant said. “Basically just discusses the highs and lows, the things that come with being in a relationship. I prefer to write in more of a vague term that can be interpreted by the listener.
“It’s pretty wild how it came together in that we wrote this collection of songs and after we whittled down the ones that we wanted to put on the album, and even though it’s not a concept album, it really did weave together a story, a relationship story. The peaks and valleys that happened during that time, the struggles and enjoyment.”
The final product was mastered by famed Los Angeles audio engineer Bernie Grundman, who has worked with a broad array of artists from numerous genres.
With this debut released, Art Heist is hoping to up the ante for its next recording session, although it will most likely be some time before that happens, they cautioned.
“We already have a whole other record that we want to record,” Bryant said. “How or when we’re going to do that, my perspective is it would be rad to have a rocking band, go into a big recording studio for the second album with a band scene and record it in that manner.”
– Josh Sweigert