Coffee isn’t enough to wake these guys up on Saturday mornings.
They need amps and guitar pedals too.
Local musicians and coffee enthusiasts Seth McCarroll and Brady Smith have been shooting episodes of “Coffee and Riffs” for eight weekends in a row. The duo chose to film the latest episode inside a dusty barn in eastern Oklahoma City.
On April 5, McCarroll and Smith were on the barn floor setting up more than two dozen guitar pedals, microphones and a camera to capture the improvisational jam sessions their show is known for.
“It’s pretty much what Brady and I were doing on Saturdays anyways,” McCarroll said.
Smith nodded his head and said, “We’d find a reason to hang out.”
Smith’s wife usually works Saturday mornings. So instead of sleeping in, he decided to team up with McCarroll to make YouTube music videos on a regular basis. This became “Coffee and Riffs,” and the duo have been inviting close friends and other musicians to make some noise on camera for a couple of months now.
The only requirements are an instrument, a willingness to experiment and a coffee cup. Resulting episodes range from a collection of weird noises to swaths of beautiful sound. In a recent episode, Norman-based musician John Calvin ate too many doughnuts and looped guitar sounds into a dreamy, relaxing melody with the help of several effects pedals.
Making some noise
When Smith needs someone to help him fix his house, he calls McCarroll. The two work on all manner of projects because they’ve learned how to communicate and work together effectively.
“Coffee and Riffs” wouldn’t exist if both friends didn’t want to work on it, but each has his own take on the show.
“Having just a somewhat normal 9-to-5 job, it’s easy not to focus on actually playing guitar by yourself,” Smith said. “It kind of became this way to come up with new ideas and try new combinations of stuff. I wasn’t taking the time in my day-to-day to do that.”
Smith said he doesn’t hesitate to focus on music and try to get his chops back with the extra practice time the show allows.
McCarroll, however, doesn’t think of “Coffee and Riffs” as practice.
“It’s the equivalent of drawing circles with your nondominant hand on a piece of paper,” McCarroll said. “It can be totally random.”
Frontman Ryan Lindsey, of the Norman-based punk rock outfit Broncho, was first up for the April “Coffee and Riffs” shoot.
While Smith set up the pedals and McCarroll readied his digital camera, Lindsey spoke about why he didn’t hesitate to be on the show and how he has enjoyed working with the the crew in the past.
“Everybody here is a creative person, and that’s what we do,” Lindsey said.
Armed with a black and white Silvertone guitar, Lindsey started his session with a drum machine beat.
It’s fitting that Lindsey’s miniature guitar is intended for young players because he explored sounds with a childlike sense of wonder.
His performance was both relaxed and spacey. Quite the opposite from the frenetic, high-energy sets his band is known for.
After six minutes, Lindsey ended the episode right before McCarroll’s camera battery died.
Poppe and riffs
Nobody is exempt from performing on “Coffee and Riffs” once everybody brightens up after a couple cups of coffee. Before I could leave, Smith invited me to participate.
I’d already knocked over a cup of coffee with my elbow, so I was in no position to refuse. Sadly, I have about as much musical talent as a recently closed Guitar Center. We started plugging effects pedals into miniature keyboards shaped like wooden bricks. Joysticks and buttons lined the tops of the keyboards.
I was reluctant to perform but managed to knock out something that resembled the sounds of a Super Nintendo driving a minivan into a ditch. My mother would be proud.
If you build it, they will come
As my time at the shoot came to a close, Brent Hodge and Kilyn Massey of the local band Power Pyramid arrived and performed a set.
The two expressed admiration for the show over a smoke break, raising their voices to compete with the noon tornado siren test.
Hodge said he’s played music with Smith and McCarroll for years and couldn’t resist visiting the set.
“I wanted to come check it out too and be a part of it in some way,” Hodge said. “Even just watching it is really awesome.”
Massey became a “Coffee and Riffs” crew member when he showed up for an episode and didn’t stop returning. He said he enjoys performing on the show if there’s ever an opportunity. Otherwise, he’d just be asleep.
“I now have a reason to wake up on the weekends,” Massey laughed.
It’s the equivalent of drawing circles with your nondominant hand on a piece of paper. It can be totally random.”