CMJ 2010 Preview: Santah

Music Features Santah
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Windy, collegiate ivory jams

Santah’s keyboardist Tommy Trafton says he thinks he can vouch for the whole band when he says they’re fans of Christmas. However, the University of Illinois-formed group’s admiration of the holiday season ain’t what spawned the moniker.

“Stan McConnell, he’s the lead singer and guitarist, he likes to say he was trying to challenge the creative conventions and concepts for the name Santa,” Trafton says. “I don’t know exactly why we’re called that, but when I first heard it, all I could think of was Santa Claus. But now all I can think about is our band. With the ‘h’ at the end, I think it works now.”

The five-piece originally played their piano-rock around the Chicago area simply as “Santa.” They didn’t add the ‘h’ until recording commenced, deciding it’d be best to blatantly differentiate the band from jolly old St. Nick.

Santah recorded their full-length White Noise Bed at the late Jay Bennett’s Pieholden Suite Studios – just a handful of weeks following the former Wilco member’s death. “Our producer [Matt DeWine] was, you know, his best friend; he worked with him for years,” Trafton explains. “So there was that whole thing going and we’re just this new, naïve band just trying to make an album and Matt DeWine’s dealing with some bigger losses.”

In addition to the studio’s new genius ghost, the space offered lots of leftover quality Wilco instruments and equipment ready for the using. “We’re really into that old analog sound as opposed to that other recording,” Trafton said. “It was really cool to make an album that way – the way that they used to. With real instruments. I play keys and live I play electric keyboard. But all over the album, we’ve got real piano and real organs and you know – real everything, basically. And that’s what we’re more into: The real, organic side of rock ‘n’ roll.”

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