College seems a funny time for rock musicians, where the optimism of your hundred closest high school friends faithfully attending every show dwindles. Dividing time, performers start paying their own bills and find that sometimes a final exam or report has to take precedence over band practice and that having a "real" job means heading right home after a Tuesday night show.
The transitional period, though, has produced some of Oklahoma's finest current local music, and the metro is lucky enough to boast not one, but a pair creative college towns " smallish communities with big universities that foster artistic growth and fluidity in tandem with stadium sports and academic pursuits. Norman and Stillwater likely house some of the world's finest sleep-deprived musician-employee-students, and the gentlemen of Stillwater's BrotherBear are no exception.
"It makes school tough to concentrate on," said Antonio Laster the group's singer and primary songwriter. "As an artist, your head's in the clouds sometimes."
Laster also plays bass with local rock five-piece Mayola, and he's joined in BrotherBear by two of his Mayola brethren, Madden Humphrey and Bryan Thompson, as well as Eric Kiner, formerly of Kunek and currently guitarist of folk favorite Sherree Chamberlain's band.
BrotherBear will perform 9 p.m. today alongside TV Torso, a minimalist rock trio comprised of Matthew Oliver and Jordan Johns, both of defunct Austin, Texas, outfit Sound Team and bassist A. Leonard Jones.
"In May of 2008, BrotherBear was just me playing around, and then I asked Madden, Bryan and Eric to play," Laster said. "I started the songs in my head, and I tried to make them come to life. They weren't like Mayola songs, so I chose to make them BrotherBear songs. For right now, I come up with the core of the songs, and the other guys help build them into a fuller, more romantic journey.
"The band is a huge grouping of ideas and emotions played through separate electronic musical tools. If I had to name bands that I'm influenced by right now, I'd say Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear and Radiohead. People say we sound like different mixes of bands. Overall, it's pretty spacey dream music."
Between BrotherBear and Mayola, Laster manages to squeeze in some collegiate schooling. Currently on the homestretch of a political science degree from Oklahoma State, Laster has few regrets about dividing his time.
"I've had to balance work, school and the bands, and that can be stressful," he said, "but being in the bands has changed my life. I've met so many great people through the music community. That being said, I'm almost finished with my degree, and I'm getting better at juggling it all. I've been lucky to work with good people in music and in school. I guess I can't really complain too much. It's been pretty good."
BrotherBear with TV Torso perform at 9 p.m. Wednesday at Opolis, 113 N. Crawford in Norman. "Becky Carman