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Eyes on the Speaker
Seattle band Key Note Speaker forgets the attitude and brings the rock
August 22, 2005
by Ashley Graham

Scott Gallagher is pacing. San Francisco band Scissors for Lefty, second in the line-up, is delivering a crowd-pleasing, high energy spectacle on stage and Gallagher seems worried. Or maybe not. Maybe he likes to wear a path in the floor of every Seattle bar. Maybe he’s one of those naturally hyperactive types, maybe he’s one of those not-so-naturally hyperactive types. Instead though it’s most likely, judging by appearance, that Gallagher, singer/guitarist of Seattle band Key Note Speaker, who’s playing next, is worried. And maybe he should be, Scissors is really damn good. But let’s back up.

First of all, there is more to this line-up. There’s Ed O’Brien on bass, the one who answers the questions with the most precision. There’s Gallagher, who’s quiet and, as it turns out, just a little anxious. There’s drummer Joe Couden, who’s so quiet you hardly notice him (it might also be true that he wasn’t present for the interview). And there’s keyboardist Chris Olson who, if the bullshit detector is turned off, is a 25-year old, crack-selling, father of 12 (but whose killer sarcasm and timing give significant reason to believe at least two of these facts are not true).

Key Note Speaker began as Coriander, lead by Gallagher and backed by a slowly evolving line-up. Scott met Chris, Chris reunited with fellow high school band nerd Ed, after a few other members left Joe joined on drums and Chris switched to keys. The Coriander name dropped out after some threatening legal issues and the new name was chosen, as Olson says, because they “all disliked it the least.”

October 2004 brought the recording of the debut,
fiction, with self-described “Seattle noisemonger” and, oh, somewhat successful producer Jack Endino of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney and Hot Hot Heat fame. After long days and working Endino’s “daily pay to the fullest,” as Gallagher says, the hard work paid off. fiction has been busy spinning at dominating Seattle stations KEXP and The End and was grabbed up early on by Starbucks, who put three of the songs into in-store rotation. And so began the trek.

“As far as our getting into the ‘mainstream,’ it was tying our name to Starbucks and Endino, putting out an okay bio and a fucking good album that really did it,” Gallagher claims. “As far as slipping into the scene, we’ve just sort of done what we do. There’s a lot of bands that don’t entertain; they stare at their guitars, write sad songs and help make people feel a little more miserable. We try to jump around and do our thing, even if there’s misery in it.”

“When we get done playing I go home and cry and listen to Cure records,” O’Brien adds. “But honestly, I think the album is good and it stands as a testament to what we do and people like it.”

An increase in gigs and, fittingly, an increase in attendance promise it’s only going further from here. Having already played with a variety of the area’s best bands, Speaker is eager to be a part of a more united Seattle music scene, dominated less by the “cool” and more by the, I swear they said it and what a relief it was to hear, “nice.” Because, seriously, these boys are nice. These boys are so nice you might wonder why they’re even bothering with the snobs at shows. You might wonder why they aren’t just on the other side of the grocery checkout stand smiling at you, but, oh! oh! they do that too! They are so damned refreshing it’s overwhelming.

“The Seattle scene is so divided between all these people on this kick that’s like an extension of high school where they’re just like the ‘cool’ kids, and people are afraid to play rock music,” Gallagher says. “And so we’ve been sort of isolated in our genre; people like it, but they don’t want to talk about the fact that they like it.”

“But if we all just band together, man, and form a code, it’ll just…” O’Brien says losing his gusto, “I don’t know.”

“If everyone were to be nice, it’d be great,” Gallagher says with a smile. “There’s probably 40 really good bands right now and we’re all at the same level, but everybody’s pretending that they’re better than each other and I just have never gotten that. I didn’t get it in high school either.”

Supportive scene or not, it’s working out. And while they’re not giving up the day jobs just yet, the goals for the band are shifting according to new-found successes. Touring, recording, it all seems to be in their collective line of sight… or at least for most of them.

“Blow, blow, blow,” Olson says of his own personal goals, before being warned of his pending drug lord portrayal if he doesn’t shape up. “No, I want to make a living off of music; whether it’s this or something else. I have a degree in audio engineering and I’m a really GOOD person.”

“We’ve achieved quite a bit,” O’Brien says, refocusing. “All these things I’d hoped to do, a lot of those are happening and it’s like ‘Crap, that wasn’t that bad’ so now it’s ‘Let’s build on that, let’s see what happens.’ We want to tour, make more records, we want to see how far we can take it. We gotta good thing going here, so we’re gonna capitalize on it. If people get into it, sweet. If not, oh well.”

And so, really, Gallagher has little to worry about. His band is doing well and slowly but surely making its name known. The Scissors for Lefty competition is tight enough to not bother with results, and Gallagher & Co. have a future ahead of them with this band. And, shoot, if things go to Hell there’s always Chris’ illustrious crack business to fall back on.

More information on Key Note Speaker can be found at: and