Extended Play with Saddles

Photo by Merek Davis.

Just before the turn of the millennium, the gaming-console war was in full swing with Sega’s release of the Dreamcast. It was big and bulky, and replaced dull, grey plastic cartridges with shiny, reflective compact discs. A pioneer in fledgling online console gaming, Dreamcast was a whole new way to spend time.

Charles Barth has an intimate memory of his time with the Dreamcast — it was the moment he parted with the console, as a freshman in high school.

“I came up as a punk-rock kid and one day I hurt my ankle skateboarding,” Barth says. “I was stuck at home for a few weeks with nothing to do but play Sega Dreamcast. I ended up trading it with a friend of mine who had this crappy guitar and started learning crappy punk rock songs.”

Now 24, Barth is the frontman of homegrown indie rock group, Saddles.

With a newly released seven-song EP, “This Is Ridiculous Luxury” reflects some of those early rock influences, although punk rock might be a stretch. Barth describes his band’s sound as alternative, acoustic and indie folk; “Ridiculous Luxury” is all of those.

The opening track, “Wars,” leads with an acoustic guitar solo and Barth’s modal vocals. It sets a melancholy mood that opens up with organs and light drums and is eventually taken over by lazy electric riffs. The tone follows nicely for the rest of the EP.

“Truths” starts with a more aggressive synthesized sound that overpowers the acoustic guitar as Barth flexes more falsetto ranges. The EP only breaks rank on “The Weekend’s Water,” a pop-infused jam that dispenses with the acoustic noodling for bright electric chords, à la Vampire Weekend and Neon Trees.

As with all of Saddles’ recordings, Barth plays every instrument on the record. “I always like to do everything myself,” he says. “I don’t know if it’s a control or ego thing, but I definitely insist on doing everything myself.”

Saddles’ first EP was released on local indie label River Jones Music, but Barth parted ways shortly after.

“I think I had a little more of an aggressive vibe than he wanted to be associated with, but we’re still friends,” Barth says of RJM. “They felt a little folkier, a little bit more mellow than I am.”

Rocking out to AFI, NOFX and Pennywise tends to leave that sort of lasting impression.

“The spirit of punk rock is parallel to folk music and indie rock,” Barth says. “It’s still rebellious and lives on [in my music].”

Saddles’ next live show will be at The Underground in Mesa on April 28.

Reach the reporter at jose.sandoval@asu.edu