CONVERSION PARTY KNOWS the rapport between patience and progress.
As a collective, the members of this Brooklyn-via-New London, Conn., garage slop quintet have been playing together in one lineup or another for nearly nine years. But Conversion Party itself is just over four years old and was born by fate or flub, depending on how you perceive the events of one weekend in 2005.
Guitarist Alex Waxman was already living in Brooklyn, but he’d gone to college in New London and was tight with the punk scene that included drummer Matt Potter, bassist/ guitarist Ben Johnson, multi-instrumentalist Matt Allen and keyboardist Matt Clark.
“Clark had this idea to record a bunch of his songs during a weekend all-star project of people from the New London scene,” says Waxman. “The plan was to get together with a bunch of booze and play songs with all the best musicians in town. But only five people ended up showing.” Those five would go on to make up Conversion Party.
Of course, it wasn’t completely smooth sailing in New London. Johnson moved to New York in 2007, and with no identifiable hub, Conversion Party stalled. Johnson and Waxman tried to find outfits in Brooklyn with little success. They kept returning to New London, coming back to work on new material with the old crew.
“Part of playing music with people is being comfortable letting your ideas fly,” explains Waxman. “You have to be willing to compromise and say ‘no’ when it’s necessary. We had this great thing going with these dudes up in New London, so we made it work.”
Patience led to progress. Conversion Party had already worked together long enough to accumulate 11 songs, and in 2007 the band traveled to a friend’s studio in Philadelphia to record a sometimes-thrashy, sometimesmelodic debut album, More No More.
The album made Conversion Party materially official, but the group still lacked a legitimate home base. Not punk like the rest of New London—fine by these guys since they were shooting for something decidedly bigger than its insular underground— Conversion Party chose to focus on New York despite three members living two hours away.
Again, patience. The band would play shows in New York and Potter, Clark and Allen would sleep on the floors of their bandmates’ apartments. Waxman and Johnson would drive to Connecticut every weekend they weren’t gigging to practice.
The buzz started growing, gigs popped up around town more often. Songs came together quicker and sounded more like Conversion Party songs than conglomerations of independent ideas.
Throughout, the band kept things in perspective. It built slowly, remained incentive-driven.
“The geographical thing can be a challenge,” Clark admits. “I think it’s also a huge part of what goes into the band and the resulting product. It helps you realize that you have something worth working towards. Because we’ve been able to make inroads in the city, it gives you a nice incentive to keep working at it and to take yourself seriously.”
Johnson adds, “We’ve been working really hard to get better as a band, but we’ve always worked hard to be smart about the way we proceed so that we can provide those incentives to continue to take the steps to take ourselves more seriously.”
Keeping those incentives intact has become easier to justify thanks to the recent attention the band has been receiving. Since October, Conversion Party has released two tracks—the fuzzed-out “False Teeth” and bouncy “Birds of Paradise Lost”—that have received attention from the all-important world of music blogs. Both songs are part of a full-length album, produced by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Sean Greenhalgh, that’s slated for a spring 2011 release. It’s a definitively tighter package than what’s found on More No More, and a ripe fruit of extensive labor.
“I love this stupid record,” says Clark.
“Even though it was painful to make at times, I love it. I feel like I’ve raised a teenager now.”
Further proof that good things come to those who wait.
>> CONVERSION PARTY Dec. 30, Bruar Falls, 245 Grand St. (betw. Driggs Ave. & Roebling St.) , Brooklyn, 347-529-6610; 8, $TBA.