Desert Center, is a mostly abandoned town that mainly serves as a gas stop along the barren interior of California. Portland’s Guantanamo Baywatch, have passed through the town countless times on their way between shows. But the town has also become a particular source of inspiration for guitarist/vocalist Jason Powell, who recently relocated from Oregon to Arizona.
Like their 2015 album Darling… It’s Too Late, Desert Center was primarily tracked in Atlanta at Living Room Recording with Justin McNeight and Ed Rawls, with Powell doing the bulk of the guitar tracks on his own at Jungle Muscle Studios. While Guantanamo Baywatch initially made a name for themselves with their early blown-out recordings, Desert Center retains the raw aesthetics of a Hasil Adkins single, but has the added heft and thump afforded by a modern studio. This balance is perhaps best captured on their lead single “Video”, where bassist Chevelle Wiseman drives the tune with a thick, throbbing riff while drummer Chris Scott ruthlessly pounds his kit with a crashing clarity guaranteed to please even the most snobby analog audiophile.
But ultimately, issues of audio fidelity and balancing rollicking instrumentals against straight up old school rock n’ roll were all secondary concerns. “We just want to record songs that are fun to play live,” Powell says, echoing Mike Watt’s philosophy with Minutemen where records were meant to support tours, rather than tours serving to support records. “We are always trying to push what kind of band Guantanamo Baywatch can be. It doesn’t have to be just surf or garage or whatever, ‘cause live no one cares what genre you are as long as they’re having a good time.”