Rocking the Electric Church

Aug 13
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Livid's rehearsal space moonlights as a refuge.

Livid's "Bed of Dreams" comes with a disclaimer.

Before the Tull four-piece launches into the tune, lead singer Scott Smith, Bud Light bottle in hand, leans over toward me and says: "It's new so if it sucks it's not our fault, dude. We haven't worked it out yet."

Smith turns back to his musical brethren, guitarist Ben Bowers, bassist JR Seyfert and drummer John Williams, and after a quick 1-2-3, the quartet hurls itself into the heavy-hitting music. But it's too loose. The machine-gun guitar and bass riff slowly starts stuttering, colliding against the drums like a sot rising from a barstool too quickly, before collapsing.

But there's no mushroom cloud of broken musical notes rising up from the smoldering remains of "Bed of Dreams." Quickly regrouping, Livid flings itself back into the tune. The second time around is the charm, as Bowers and Seyfert lock horns over the chugging riff, Williams crashes away, and Smith jumps from foot to foot, baritone booming. What follows is better described as thrashing, high-energy heavy rock.

Four minutes later it's over.

"We started off rusty, but we got it together," Smith said.

Livid's heavy rock borders on heavy metal: throbbing, melodic bass lines intertwined with a pacing drum beat and flashy yet economically employed fills, and stabbing power chords and bluesy but technical solos. It's music that touches upon the classics such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC with a nod to modern hard rock and heavy metal: rebellious, brutal, full-throttled and filled with youthful exuberance.

"I listened to metal because my parents were always telling me to turn it down," Seyfert said. "It's the rebellion about metal. That's what draws people to the music."

Three members of Livid - Bowers, Smith and Seyfert - grew up in Tull, a no-stop-sign community about 10 miles south of Benton. Bowers and Smith's friendship extends back to eighth grade, a bond formed over a mutual love of hard rock/heavy metal music. For Bowers, it's Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbon. For Smith, who does a spot-on Matthew McConaughey Wooderson impression, it's Alice in Chains and Pantera.

The inception of the group can be traced to an acoustic guitar cover of an Alice in Chains tune.

"I was playing an acoustic guitar and Scott just started singing," Bowers said.

Seyfert soon joined the pair, and the group - calling itself Seven Devils Swamp and with a different drummer than Williams - played their first show at the Tull Community Center. The date was Oct. 19, 2001; a night that stands out in the minds of the band because, according to Livid, the town of Tull soon passed a noise ordinance prohibiting loud music after hours.

The band has slowly built its name in the developing central Arkansas rock market, playing Vino's, Downtown Music, Juanita's and The Warehouse, while plodding through challenges: Bowers laid low for a year with a broken ankle and a few different faces behind the drum kit before Williams joined a year and a half ago. But it regroups at its sanctuary: a rehearsal place in Tull called the Electric Church.

Created by Bowers, the "church" is a rectangular practice space at the back of a shed in Tull. The walls are plastered with guitars and posters of musical heroes - Angus Young, Zakk Wylde and Jimi Hendrix - and a covered pool table monopolizes half of the tiny space.

On this particular Sunday it's smotheringly hot, and a wall-unit air conditioner struggles in the oppressive heat to cough up blasts of cool 74 degree air. But the Electric Church is in session.

The band blasts through a collection of songs - "Dynamite," "Where Did It All Go Wrong," "Rockstar" - that showcases Livid's buzzing chain saw guitar attack and deep-bottom grooves. As Bowers sways back and forth in a perpetual one-step-forward, one-step-backward dance, Williams' snare drum teeters and totters as he punishes it, adding rapid-fire fills where necessary. Smith, who is already sunburned from his occupation as a vinyl siding installer, turns a deeper shade of red belting out lyrics, and Seyfert methodically holds the tunes' foundations.

Each and every Sunday, the band practices at the space for four or five hours at a time, pausing for beer and cigarette breaks. It's an opportunity to hangout, forget the present and bond over their brutal rhythms.

And if the rockstar dream never materializes?

"I've always told these guys that I don't care if we make it big or not," Smith said. "I love coming out here and rocking out. Just getting away."

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