American Basswood: The Making of a Debut Album

Local indie rock band American Basswood started when the members were in high school, but now have their second album out, toured over state lines and held a release show at the Aquadome.

American Basswood was formed when a group of Kirksville High School students came together to make a band. The band’s name comes from a medium-sized tree found in parts of North and Central United States called the American Basswood. One member of the band thought it would be a terrible band name so he pitched it. Ironically, the name was accepted.

Making of a Debut Album

Maybe I Want to (Be Myself) was primarily produced by Brett Liber of Red Roof Productions in Lenexa, Kansas. The album is the band’s first LP, after recording a five-track EP album in 2016. Guitarist Jonathan Self previously recorded with Liber with another band, Conmen Economy, and thought Liber could give American Basswood more professional recordings than the band had gotten in the past.

“It’s our first even kind of professional release,” says Self. “Our first EP was done for free and was recorded in various garages and bathrooms. So this was the one where we had professional quality.”

The album features all original music from the band and features a guest saxophone performance from Dane Justice, a graduate student from University of Missouri, Kansas City.

The album is now available on Spotify and Apple Music for streaming and on iTunes, Bandcamp, Amazon and Google Play for purchase. The band plans to send physical copies of the album to radio stations in order to get the songs airtime.

The Aquadome hosted the release show—which included performances of other Kirksville bands, including Meth Made Me an Orphan and Khan Queso—as a belated celebration of American Basswood’s album, Maybe I Want to (Be Myself). The album was released digitally on May 12, 2017, and includes 10 original songs. The band hopes to have physical copies of the album ready for sale in the coming months.

The Aquadome + American Basswood

American Basswood’s first show as a band—when all its members were still in high school—was held in the 30-seat Aquadome on November 8, 2015.  At the album release show, the Aquadome had 106 people through the door.

Self says since the band’s first show at the Aquadome, they’ve performed there a couple times per semester since 2015. He says that’s helped American Basswood out a lot and has given the Kirksville music scene a real place to call home. The Aquadome is the lifeline of arts in Kirksville.

“It’s really a good place to go and try to perform if they’ve never performed before,” says  Self. “I think it’s a really cool DIY community venue that’s a place for people to feel welcome and included.”

Scout Sale, Aquadome public relations coordinator, says she considered the album release show to be a “pretty big success.”  The venue has a fairly close relationship with American Basswood, explains Scout, and she appreciates the high school and alternative crowd the band draws.

“We talk to them about what they need, and then they talk to us about what they as a local band need from us,” says Sale.

The band has toured and played venues across the Midwest and they hope to expand its horizons in the future. The band members say they want to continue making and producing music that helps build their repertoire as well as continue booking shows out of town while still consistently playing at the Aquadome.

Cabin Fever Fest

American Basswood was one of 18 bands that played in Cabin Fever Fest at the Aquadome on December 2. The 10-hour show started at 4 p.m. on Saturday and wrapped around 2 a.m. early Sunday morning.

Cabin Fever Fest was an ambitious project put together by event coordinators John Gooch and Caroline Taylor.  American Basswood was one of the headliners of the show, which drew 170 people to the Aquadome.

Taylor says a notable moment happened when the band teased the crowd by opening with the intro to one of the famous A Day to Remember songs, “The Downfall of Us All,” before leading into one of their original songs. That left everyone laughing, she says.

“The Aquadome was as packed as I’ve ever seen it in my four years of attending shows there,” says Taylor. “And [it] will be something that the community remembers for a long time.”