Small Leaks Sink Ships Fights Big Problems to Play Again

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Benjamin Franklin warned that small leaks can sink great ships, meaning you should sweat the small stuff. But for the progressive math-rock quintet that borrowed Franklin's aphorism, it's mostly been one big leak after another. Two nearly fatal car accidents -- one involving a motorcycle, the other a Vespa -- plus a long battle with testicular cancer have kept Judd Hancock, Jim Mandel Jr., London Van Rooy, Rafael Macias, and Ryan Garner occupied for most of Small Leaks Sink Ships' career.

But the rubber cement that holds the band together is their knack for making the most of miserable situations.

The Tempe band says it's 75 percent finished with its second full-length, a follow-up to 2011's Oak Street Basement EP, after more than a year in the making, and is pushing for a spring release. What's taking the guys so damn long, besides the numerous hospital visits? Well, as Hancock says, they've chosen the DIY approach rather than dumping a bunch of money into a recording studio. Moreover, they're looking to really capture the evocative nuance of their baroque live show, which the band laments wasn't exactly represented on Oak Street.

In fact, when I saw Small Leaks at Crescent Ballroom this past summer, I wasn't sure I was even seeing the same band I had heard on Bandcamp. This was far less mewithoutYou and far more Appleseed Cast meets At the Drive-In. Not to say Oak Street is bad -- quite the opposite -- but the intricate buildups, the flailing crescendos, the volatile surges were far from what I was expecting. So why didn't that translate to tape?

"It angers us. We went to . . . how many different engineers?" Mandel Jr. says. "And everybody was awesome, but at the same time . . . You can't possibly pay for the time to sit there and make it all."

"That energy in a record is captured forever, so you don't get to change it again," Hancock adds. "So that's where we are with this. We took three or four months on the drums alone. Literally spent a day on every drum, taking our time, making sure everything was in tune."

Understandably hoping to preserve artistic merit with its new record, Small Leaks isn't yet looking for a label, although it may seek some backing or outside help. Until the World Is Happy; Wake Up You Sleepyhead Sun was released in 2006 through No Sleep Records, but the band claims that initial experience left a bad taste in its mouth.


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