Patrick Schlafer, singer/guitarist for indie-rock trio Basic Cable Preachers, first picked up a guitar as a child growing up in rural Hartville, but it wasn't until the musician reached college that the instrument started to take on greater import.

Patrick Schlafer, singer/guitarist for indie-rock trio Basic Cable Preachers, first picked up a guitar as a child growing up in rural Hartville, but it wasn’t until the musician reached college that the instrument started to take on greater import.

“I didn’t have a good time at Wright State [University]. I was a cross-country runner, and I focused all my energy into that and then I got hurt,” Schlafer said in a late February interview at a downtown coffee shop. “I really only went there to run. I had one good friend, but otherwise I never really connected with anybody at that school. So [after the injury] I would just sit in my room and play the guitar.”

In an attempt to find some relief, Schlafer channeled these feelings of depression and loneliness — moods further intensified by the challenge of living as a self-described “closeted gay kid” — into his first songs, wordy, confessional diatribes eerily reminiscent of Conor Oberst’s earliest recordings under the Bright Eyes banner.

“I burned my friend this CD I recorded, and … she uploaded it to her computer and for some reason it thought it was a Conor Oberst album,” Schlafer said, and laughed. “I must’ve have been ripping his stuff off so hard that [the computer] was like, ‘Oh no, this is his song!’”

In the years since, the singer has started incorporating more varied influences, finding inspiration in everything from rock (the Beatles, Modest Mouse and Vampire Weekend) to hip-hop artists like Drake and Kanye West. Additionally, creative writers and poets like Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski and E.E. Cummings have helped Schlafer develop an economy of language and a lyrical freedom untethered by traditional structure.

“When I wrote ‘The View’ (the opening song on Basic Cable Preacher’s just-released full-length debut Ma) … it didn’t sound like a carbon copy. I had my own sense of song structure, and my own voice,” said Schlafer, who joins bandmates Steve Kainec and David Butler (the three have played with a rotating cast of drummers since forming at Capital University roughly 18 months ago) for an album release show at Brothers Drake on Friday, March 6. “It’s like how I always used to reference God because I was young and I thought I was being really profound, like, ‘I’m on some other shit here.’ But really you’re just doing the same thing every other band is doing, and now that feels like a copout to me.”

Photo by Maddie McGarvey