photography CAMERON FLAISCH and CHRISTIAN DAVID TURNER
Few things have the ability to influence us as much as music. Whether cranking the volume of a rock-and-roll classic in the car as the wind rushes through open windows, or hearing the jazz tune played while you danced with the love of your life for the first time, strong emotions cling to the notes on a staff. As for the musicians who bring us these moments of remembrance, well, they too often tell the story of how deeply they are invested in the songs they pen. Love and pain, bliss and torment, or confusion and moments of clarity can lead to the most insightful play between lyric, rhythm and melody. For Northwest Georgia-based band Tir Asleen, the drive to reach their fans keeps them rocking hard and on the road.
Jesse Hicks (vocals), Micheal Floyd (guitar), Dallas Gallimore (guitar), Bret Williams (bass) and Cameron Flaisch (drums) are six-years buddies and bandmates who found common ground around a love for the post hardcore genre of music. All but one of these musicians were in the same circle of bands, and turmoil within the separate groups led to parting ways and searching for a new place to create.
“Bret and I played with another guy who left to go play with another band,” Floyd recalls, “but we still continued to play together from time to time. Bret then introduced me to Dallas. Funny thing is, Dallas auditioned for the band who we lost our last member to, but he didn’t get in.”
“So, we got Dallas!” Hicks says with a chuckle. As a barrage of pokes start flying, it becomes clear that they never miss as opportunity to jab their pal and gently bruise his ego.
“How’s it feel to be runner up?” adds Flaisch.
“Hey, I’ll take a silver medal,” Galli-more laughs as he takes it on the chin like a champ.
With three of the five pieces in place, Hicks joined the group by way of a road trip to see a band they all loved. “Bret, Micheal and I were all going to Dalton State around six years ago. This band called Fear Before the March of Flames was playing their last set of shows and the next to last show was in Ohio,” Hicks recalls. “They wanted to drive up and go see the show and they knew that I was into that kind of music. They asked me to ride along, I said yes and we became such good buds during that trip.”
After the show, hosted in a small Ohio watering hole for around 30 people, the spark ignited in them all to create music that would rally others around a road trip to see them play. “That music was so special. It was so unique,” Hicks says. “We were really disappointed to see that style of music going out the door and this was their next to last show. We were all so stoked after the trip, that we decided to find a drummer and officially get to work.”
“I met these guys through a mutual friend named Lance who knew Micheal,” Flaisch adds when remembering his connecting to his bandmates. “Lance gave them my number when he heard that they needed a new drummer, and Jesse sent me this video on Facebook of one of their performances. I remember watching the video with my brother and laughing hysterically. I was like, ‘No way would I ever join this group!’ Jesse was right in front of the camera making the mic cord wiggle like a snake! I watched it four or five times because I thought it was hilarious. So initially, I respectfully declined.”
Flaisch loved indie music and had a musical background in jazz. However, even after the invitation to join had been declined, Floyd contacted Flaisch again in hopes of getting a drummer to fill in for the group member they had just parted ways with. The draw for Flaisch was that he’d get to open for a band who called themselves From First to Last, a band who he’d always admired. After a few jam sessions to learn the music, a few tweaks to the composition of the songs and playing for one of the best crowds he’d seen in a while, Flaisch was hooked. Together, they freed Tir Asleen.
What started as a joke surrounding one of Floyd’s favorite films, the 1988 production by George Lucas titled “Willow,” has become the philosophical direction of the band. The plot of the movie surrounds a tiny magician whose job holds the fate of his world in its completion. A seemingly powerless hero must reach a castle called Tir Asleen with a package to free its inhabitants. Tir Asleen is a place where free thought and life redefined creates balance with the forces of evil and oppression. As every epic tale usually ends, the good guy wins and the universe is set free, all due to the heart of an unsuspected hero and his band of mates.
The guys of Tir Asleen have watched a genre of music they love become less and less exposed to the ears of the mainstream music scene. Being compared to bands like Mission to Burma, Fugazi and Drive Like Jehu gives them a sense of accomplishing their goal of shedding light on the music that inspires them most.
“Hardcore music kind of started with this punk rock movement that was really angry and really fast,” Floyd explains, “sort of like the band Black Flag.”
As a product of the late ’70s and early
’80s, the music began to morph into grunge and more pop-influenced versions of hard-core rock. And just like with all change, the resistance still pushed on. Post hardcore fans and musicians formed their own following, one that continues to pay respect to the pioneers of the music.
“During the early ’90s, there were still remnants of people who loved that first wave of hardcore,” Hicks says. “Grunge was cool but it did not have the same energy as the music we were listen-ing to at shows where we would pile on top of each other in the early ’80s.”
“We wanted to maintain the intensity of that style of music, while being more complex musically and lyrically,” adds Floyd.
Just as one might think, their writing process usually starts with a scream-ing guitar riff fashioned by one of the six-stringplayers in the band. “Many of the songs we write come from us just hanging out and jamming,” Gallimore says. “Micheal and I will have a part that we will bring to the group and we start there. We just allow the music to speak to us, and from there we can hash out a song.”
Hicks and Floyd pen the lyrics with Hicks carrying much of the load as the lead vocalist. Together, they have man-aged to put together four bodies of work over the past six years. Those projects are “Run-ning Strong” (2010), “Oregon Trail” (2011), “Sand Through an Asphalt Hourglass” (2013) and “PSST!” (2014). Currently, their catalogue consist of projects they have worked on in collaboration with other bands and EPs. They are now in the process of writing, recording and pressing their first full-length album.
Perhaps the most profound element of the group is their willingness to hit the open road. Over the past six years, these five friends have loaded up their van – affectionately referred to as “Van Burgundy” – with amps, PA, and instruments, touring 31 states and playing over 500 shows. The connections they have established with fans across the country allow them to put together two-week runs across the country, delivering their music to like-minded rockers.
“Everyone has their reasons for loving this type of music, so everyone has their own way to relate to the world around them,” Flaisch says. “Most of the people who listen to us are younger, and we also get a few listeners who remember the hardcore stuff.”
“We really connect with kids who struggle to find their place,” Floyd adds. “We try to bring something positive into their lives; something that lets them know they can be whoever they want and do whatever they want. The sky is the limit for them and we want to drive that feeling home inside of kids who may be dealing with difficult circumstances in their lives.”
Hicks would like the people who come out to hear Tir Asleen to feel the spirit of honesty in what they do. “We aren’t trying to capitalize on something that looks cool or sounds cool,” he says. “We want an audience to know that all of the songs they play and I sing are actual things we have gone through, and be empowered by knowing they are not alone.”
A shining example of this sentiment is a song Hicks wrote called “Keeping Time,” inspired by the untimely death of his best friend Kevin Hunter. The urgency in Hicks’ voice is real as he sings the words of a song that places importance on treasuring the time we all have together.
Whether Tir Asleen plays for a group of 300 or 30, they always bring the same energy. Because they remember traveling hundreds of miles to vibe with their favorite artists, they are determined to try and give their fans the time of their lives, every time they perform.
“Our time on the road reflects the things we try to covey through our music,” Wiliams explains. “It is the highest highs and the lowest lows. Traveling the country with these guys has made it possible for me to put my entire life into perspective. If we break even on tour, I come away from the trip with much more than dollars in the bank could ever give me. Through our music, we are connected to the people who make what we do worthwhile.”
For more information about TIR ASLEEN, find them on Facebook or get the music at tirasleen.bandcamp.com. Also, streaming is available at Spotify.com