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Trans Am – Heavy Electro Rock Trio
Trans Am is a heavy electro rock trio who have been credited for being at the forefront of the post-rock scene of the mid 1990s. The band, consisting of Nathan Means (bass, keyboard, vocoder), Phillip Manley (guitar, bass, keyboard, vocals) and Sebastian Thomson (drums, bass, keyboard, vocals), first formed in 1990 in Bethesda, MD near...More
Trans Am is a heavy electro rock trio who have been credited for being at the forefront of the post-rock scene of the mid 1990s. The band, consisting of Nathan Means (bass, keyboard, vocoder), Phillip Manley (guitar, bass, keyboard, vocals) and Sebastian Thomson (drums, bass, keyboard, vocals), first formed in 1990 in Bethesda, MD near Washington, DC.
Trans Am originally started as a "Hard Core" project, but soon evolved to encompass varrying influences from genres including New Wave, Classic Rock and Experimental Rock. They released their self-titled debut album on Thrill Jockey in 1996. Produced by John McEntire of labelmates Tortoise, Trans Am mostly contained improvised instrumental versions of simple rock-oriented motifs based loosely on '70s bands such as Boston, Bachman–Turner Overdrive and Yes. Working with McEntire led to Trans Am opening for Tortoise on a brief US tour.
During the late '90s, Trans Am began to rely heavily on electronics both in their live performance and with studio production. They released their sophomore album Surrender To The Night (1997, Thrill Jockey), followed by The Surveillance (Thrill Jockey) in 1998. The band's sound during this period incorporated rock oriented grooves with layers of heavy synth and electronic sounds comparable to groups like Kraftwerk, Can and New Order. This period also saw heavy use of the vocoder by Nathan Means which added a robotic element to their evolving electronic sound. The group began to incorporate trigger devices and midi controllers in their live performances in order to successfully recreate their electronic heavy songs.
The band's fourth album, Futureworld, followed in 1999. The first half of the album featured songs with the vocals sung through a vocoder. The second half of the record featured all instrumentals. The music video for the title track depicts a man from the future (3029 A.D.) transporting Trans Am through space and time to various parts of the world to perform, concluding with the band visiting the future and fighting off several men in space suits. Their fifth studio album, Red Line, was a double LP released in 2000 and recorded in the band's own National Recording Studio. A rarities collection, You Can Always Get What You Want, was also released later that year featuring a host of vinyl only releases, compilation appearances, unreleased material and the often sought after Japanese bonus tracks.
In 2002, Trans Am released T.A. (Thrill Jockey), essentially meant as a spoof on the electroclash genre of the '80s and '90s, the album featured photos of the group in boy band-esque matching white outfits. The cover art was also a parody of REO Speedwagon's Best of Collection. Their next album, 2004's Liberation (Thrill Jockey) was vaguely politicized, with various sound bytes and audio samples that allude to bleak, current-day news items. After the release of Liberation, the band moved apart from each other (Means to New Zealand, Manley to San Francisco, and Thomson between New York and London). They regrouped two years later in New Zealand without any of their own instruments, releasing Sex Change (Thrill Jockey) in 2007. Their latest album is 2010's Thing (Thrill Jockey), a return to their robot rock days.