Greg Gonzalez knew the sound he wanted to get on "I'm a Firefighter," the new EP his rotating collective of a band, Cigarettes After Sex, will release at 9 p.m. Aug. 31 at Lowbrow Palace.
And he knew where to get it.
"We cut it in the stairway of the Fox Fine Arts Building," he said of the UTEP building that houses the art, theater and music departments.
"It's just a hallway sound. It's so reverby," said Gonzalez, a melodic bass player by trade who produced the EP with engineer Walter Byers and sings on all four tracks.
It must have done the trick, because "I'm a Firefighter" takes that stairway to dreamland. It's the sound of someone slipping into a sensual, nocturnal world, topped by Gonzalez's hushed, asexual vocals, Steve Herrada's atmospheric keyboards, Phillip Tubbs' spare guitar lines and the band's simple, restrained accompaniment.
Listen to the four-song collection, currently streaming at cigarettesaftersex.com, and it's hard to believe the band — including Emily Davis on acoustic guitar and Greg Leeah on drums — has been together only seven months.
Or that it cut the sultry opening track, "Nothing's Gonna Hurt You Baby," on the same day its members first heard it. It was recorded after only one rehearsal, but you'd never know it. That was pretty much the modus operandi for "Firefighter."
"I wanted to have a spontaneous approach to the songs," Gonzalez said. "The band never heard it. It was actually written that day."
Pretty amazing, really, but also a testament to the collected talent Gonzalez has assembled, a group, he said, that seems to know how to play these songs. The sound is inspired by, among others, the haunting, austere Cowboy Junkies classic "The Trinity Session," recorded with one mic in a church, and David Lynch's "Twin Peaks"-era work with husky-voiced singer Julee Cruise.
"Everyone just knows the style we're doing, that kind of dreamy sound," he said. "They're playing is very simple and instinctual."
It's hard to tell how long this lineup will last. Davis has her own career as a solo act and with her band the Altar Boys. Tubbs fronts the experimental band Boxcutter, which will release its EP, "The Beast," at tonight's Lowbrow show.
Halfbreed Lovers and Sound on Sound also will play. Cover is $5, $8 for under 21. "Firefighter" will sell for $5 at the show.
Gonzalez wrote three of its songs, including the title track and aptly titled "Dreaming of You." It also features an hypnotic version of Texas cult legend Roky Erickson's "Starry Eyes."
The soft-spoken Cigarettes After Sex frontman sees a future for a band that started four years ago playing '80s influenced dance material before evolving into the late-night lonely sound of the current group.
"The stuff before always had a strong dance element," he said. "It's still dance music, but it's more like a slow dance."
A recent tour took the band as far east as Austin and as far west as Los Angeles, where it made some contacts, including an agent it may turn to "help us promote the record, get it reviewed" and possibly book some tours.
"I'm really happy with this lineup," he said. "I'd like to keep it a while."