By my quick estimation, the men who make up St. Augustine melodic rock quartet Telepathic Lines — Rich Diem, Lenny Rutland, Jacob Hamilton and Matt Pius — hold membership in at least 30 other Northeast Florida bands. Folio Weekly has profiled many of them over the years: Queen Beef, Rivernecks, Premadonnasaurs, Twelve Hour Turn, Tubers, Solid Pony, Verde, Alligator, Environmental Youth Crunch.
Yet to my ears, Telepathic Lines, the band’s debut full-length album, finally released after three years of performing around St. Augustine, represents the most compelling work these four local heroes have ever recorded and released. Songs like “Know” hark back to the melodic alt-country of Uncle Tupelo, while “Marriage” and “Beneath the Stairs” recall the best moments of angular OG indie kids The Replacements and Guided By Voices. And damn if our state legislature shouldn’t adopt “Shine On” as the Sunshine State’s official new anthem.
There’s also a relatable strain of grudgingly accepted growing up on songs like “Wake” (“I ain’t got no goals/Ain’t got no heart to break/I’m just lookin’ for lust as I’m growin’ old”) and “Laid Up in the Day” (“Asleep in the sun/Afraid to witness what premature age we’ve become”).
“We definitely don’t have as much time as we did in our early 20s,” says guitarist Lenny Rutland, a father of two young sons. “We’re just slowpokes. Some of these songs go back to 2011, when we tried to do a little EP with our original drummer, Nick Anderson. But we had a bunch of recording technical difficulties and things didn’t work out.”
The slow incubation period for Telepathic Lines has led to its most interesting component: an 8-by-8 wood print and 2-by-8 bookmark of a painting by Neptune Beach artist Sean Mahan reproduced on paper-thin maple. “We just wanted to release the music in a way that made sense today,” Rutland says. “CDs don’t make sense anymore, and we all love vinyl, but it’s so expensive and also comes with environmental impacts since it’s a petroleum product. Sean had an art opening a few years ago where he made these little thank-you cards on wood, and Rich said, ‘If we can get Sean to do something like this on a piece of wood, that would be great.’ We wanted to provide something physical to accompany our music that would have value and use in and of itself.”
Mahan, a featured muralist for the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville’s Art in Public Places program, says he was already working on the Telepathic Lines painting when Diem and Rutland gave him rough mixes of the album. “I thought it worked very well with the imagery of the girl and the phone call that’s being interrupted by a figure who’s just out of view,” Mahan says. “Visual art and music can inform and give each other depth in a special way, reflecting and carrying the feelings of the artist and reminding you of those feelings within yourself. Plus, it’s fun to collect something original and precious to you, especially when it’s connected to the music that you love.”
Sweetening the pot, Mahan and Telepathic Lines will team up for a combo record release show/art exhibit at Flagler College’s Crisp-Ellert Art Museum on Friday, Aug. 1 as part of downtown St. Augustine’s First Friday Art Walk. Held from 5-9 p.m., the event features Mahan’s original painting of the Telepathic Lines cover, along with other works; a collection curated by downtown St. Augustine record shop toneVendor of Mahan’s vinyl jackets from past albums; and a headlining performance by Telepathic Lines at 8 p.m. Telepathic Lines prints accompanied by digital downloads of the album will be available, along with cassette copies pressed and released by Dead Tank Records.
“Sean is a talented artist and amazing guy, and it’s been so rewarding to work with him on Telepathic Lines,” Rutland says. “We’re all very excited about the show at Crisp-Ellert, too. We have such a strong community in St. Augustine and Northeast Florida, and if other people catch on to it, that’s cool. But we all rely on each other — all these bands and all these people setting up shows are really just working to make something special happen for the people who live here.”