Tim Regan is a busy man. In March, the Memphis-bred, Memphis-based songwriter demonstrated just how busy at the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival in Austin, Texas, where he played seven shows in four days with three bands: Longtime Memphis favorites Snowglobe (with whom Regan shares singing and songwriting duties with Brad Postlethwaite), Austin-based indie rockers Oh No, Oh My! (a band Regan recently joined and has toured overseas with), and his newest project, Memphis indie-scene supergroup Antenna Shoes. >>>
If Regan is dedicated to all three bands, it's Antenna Shoes, in which he is the lone songwriter and frontman, that has become the focus for this prolific musician, whose often-piano-driven songs suggest the most melodic side of classic rock from the Sixties and early Seventies. The band released its debut album, Generous Gambler , last month via established local indie imprint Shangri-La Projects.
Antenna Shoes pairs Regan with some of the city's finest musicians: Snowglobe bandmates Brandon Robertson (bass) and Nashon Benford (trumpet), Coach & Four guitarist Luke White, and two of the city's most talented sidemen, drummer Paul Taylor and guitarist Steve Selvidge. The band grew in part out of the Pirates, a Midtown-based concert collective that Regan played in alongside several of his future Antenna Shoes bandmates. The Generous Gambler songs "Bitches in the City" and "MIA" were recorded as part of a planned Pirates album that was lost when Easley-McCain Recording was decimated by a fire in March 2005.
"We lost the entire record, so we brought those songs over [to Antenna Shoes]," Regan says. "We've all played together so long in different incarnations that it was easy to pull it into a band."
Asked if Antenna Shoes is a band in the traditional sense or more of a solo project with backing players, Regan says, "Both."
The basic tracks for Generous Gambler were recorded a year and a half ago at Young Avenue Sound with producer Kevin Cubbins. Regan then took the recordings with him — along with his own Pro Tools recording rig — on his travels, adding touches here and there.
"I took it with me to Nashville and Knoxville and North Carolina and all over and [got other people to contribute]. And two other songs were cut live in studio in Knoxville with Donald Coffey of Superdrag," Regan says. "If anybody played an instrument on any song they got listed. I played most of the instruments, but most of the drumming is Paul [Taylor], and Brandon [Robertson] is playing bass on most of it."
Regan thought about releasing the album via Makeshift, the local label for whom Snowglobe is the flagship band, but ended up going a different route when he found a fan in Sherman Willmott, who founded the Midtown record store Shangri-La 20 years ago. In the Nineties, Willmott released seminal albums by local band the Grifters, and now tackles the occasional release via his Shangri-La Projects label.
"I just got Sherman real drunk and talked him into doing it," Regan says, with a laugh. "Something like that. No, he just kept coming up to me and [talking about how much he liked the record]. So finally I said, 'Why don't you just put it out?' "
Though Antenna Shoes' debut album was just released, a second record is already in the works, one Regan says will be more of a band record than Generous Gambler .
"They're all my songs, but it got to a different level on this next project," Regan says of the work in progress. "We wanted to see what we could do when we all got into a room together."
The next step, though, is to get Antenna Shoes out on the road, which is not a goal without its complications. Everyone on the band — including Regan — is juggling multiple projects.
"Most of the band is doing this for a living, which makes it a lot harder to tour than when you're 20 and don't care if you're broke," Regan says. Additionally, Taylor and Selvidge are also serving as the backup band for Amy LaVere, who is playing a lot of dates lately.
"This is something we've thought about for a while," says Regan, who says he got together with LaVere to work out a time-share with Taylor and Selvidge, making sure their respective concert dates for April didn't overlap.
The band may play some dates with Oh No, Oh My!, which would have Regan doing double duty, something he's used to. In Austin, he juggled overlapping Oh No, Oh My! and Snowglobe shows, leaving a gig with the former band to make it to a gig with the latter three songs into the set.
"I ran six blocks down 6th Street to get to the other show," Regan says. "That was actually fun. If it weren't for the excitement, and maybe the drinking I guess, [SXSW]would have been a little too much to handle. By Sunday I couldn't talk any more.
"I don't really know what I'm doing," Regan says of his hectic schedule, "but somehow it's working. When I started doing these ridiculous things – oh, I'll be in four bands in two different cities 10 hours apart and I'll have some houses spread around to stay at – then suddenly I was really busy and my bank account was doing okay and everything was working. I've always liked to be busy."
Antenna Shoes seemed to emerge, in part, from the limitations of Snowglobe: Regan was committed to being a professional musician while Postlethwaite enrolled in medical school, making music a part-time concern. But, with Regan attempting to launch Antenna Shoes and with his tenure in Oh No, Oh My! taking him on tour in Europe, Snowglobe remains a strong component of Regan's music.
"We hang out all the time," he says of his relationship with that band. "We've got 32 songs finished and cut and sound amazing for a new album or box set or double — I don't know what the hell we're doing. We're playing as much as we can when Brad can play and I'm in town. It's definitely not priority number one. But the shows lately have been great."
For now, priority number one is Antenna Shoes. "I'm proud of this record," Regan says of Generous Gambler . "I think it sounds great. I think it's one of the best things I've done. I want to see if I can get it out there and go tour. The band's awesome live. Let's give it a shot and do it the right way."