TriPod is a rarity: a rock band that has never used a guitarist and has gone out of its way to broadcast that fact. The guitar, of course, is the instrument that has guided countless rock artists over the years -- from Chuck Berry's rockabilly in the '50s to Bob Dylan's folk-rock in the '60s and '70s to Slipknot's forceful alternative metal in the '90s and 2000s, terms like "guitar-powered" and "guitar-driven" have been applicable to the vast majority of rock recordings. But TriPod is among the exceptions; the New York City-based threesome has, since the late '90s, been rocking loudly and aggressively without the use of a guitarist. TriPod's sound, which is best described as avant-garde rock or alternative rock, is essentially built around horns (mostly sax), electric bass, and drums -- a combination of instruments that one would expect to find in avant-garde jazz rather than rock.
And in fact, avant-garde jazz -- especially electric avant-garde jazz -- is a strong influence on TriPod, whose influences have ranged from Ornette Coleman & Prime Time and Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society to John Zorn, King Crimson, Primus, Yoko Ono, and the late Frank Zappa. There are, at times, hints of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music in TriPod's work, but Roxy Music was much smoother and a lot more polished; TriPod can be a very noisy, chaotic band -- Roxy Music was never as abrasive as TriPod, whose members clearly identify with the inspired, passionate chaos of free jazz. The New Yorkers do not go out of their way to be accessible; their material can be abstract, cerebral, angular, quirky, cluttered, and jarring -- and that fondness for abstraction has made the threesome perfect for the downtown Manhattan club scene, where hipsters who fancy Henry Threadgill, Ann Dyer, and Ivo Perelman have also been known to appreciate avant rockers such as My World, Mark D., Dadadah, Lo Galluccio, and Philadelphia's Huffamoose.
TriPod was formed in 1998, when Clint Bahr (lead vocals, electric bass) joined forces with reedman Keith Gurland (alto and tenor sax, clarinet, flute, background vocals). From the beginning, Bahr and Gurland agreed that TriPod would use neither guitar nor keyboards -- and while a lack of keyboards isn't all that unusual for rock, the absence of a guitarist and the fact that Bahr and Gurland had no desire to hire one made TriPod stand out in the Big Apple's insanely crowded rock scene. Between 1998 and 2001, Bahr and Gurland went through a series of drummers -- in terms of drummers, TriPod was a revolving door during that period. But in 2002, the drummer position became more stable with the arrival of Steve Romano (who was still with the band in 2005). TriPod had only been together a few months when, in 1998, they caught the attention of Genya Ravan, formerly of the '70s horn band Ten Wheel Drive. In 1999, Ravan produced TriPod's debut album; in 2003, they recorded their sophomore album (a self-titled disc) for the Moonjune label and co-produced it with Ron Allaire. ~ Alex Henderson