Chris McConnell’s arrival in Columbus was what allowed old Bowling Green music scene buddies Justin Hemminger and Nick La Russo to get their band off the ground after five years of false starts. Four years later, McConnell’s imminent departure is what motivated that band — the scruffy, scrappy, indie rock combo Speed Governor — to finally record and release an album.
“It was the deadline that made all this happen,” singer-guitarist Hemminger said. “We would have continued to spend all of our record money on beer for at least a couple more years before we actually made a record.”
This Friday, the trio celebrates the release of Be Criticized! with a concert at Kobo, bringing the first era of Speed Governor neatly to a close. McConnell answered Hemminger’s Craiglist ad seeking a drummer in 2009 when his wife took a job teaching Spanish at Denison; now that she took a job at Arizona State, he’s moving to Phoenix next month.
The band will continue, but no new drummer is lined up at the moment. Instead, Speed Governor is focused on giving this version of the band a proper sendoff Friday.
If for some reason Friday’s show falls short of that standard — though given the boozy camaraderie of Speed Governor shows, such failure is not likely — Be Criticized! works fine as a document of this band’s half-decade run, partially because its tracklist literally spans Speed Governor’s entire existence.
“I think the first song that I wrote for this band is on that record, as well as the most recent one,” Hemminger said.
Those songs might span years, but they capture a similar raucous, roughshod sound — acute-but-agile guitar riffs and arching, emotive vocals backed by a jagged, hard-hitting rhythm section. Anyone with an affinity for ’90s underground rock will find something to love about this record. More importantly for Speed Governor, a band that would just as soon drive to Chicago for hot dogs as to play a rock show, it appeals to them.
“It sounds like us,” La Russo said. “It will really reflect on these past few years. If other people like it, it’s like frosting.”
Photo by Meghan Ralston