The show, alongside fellow Tulsa acts Sports and Sydney Lee, was initially scheduled for October but was rescheduled because of technical issues. Now, the Dec. 2 date will offer Combsy the chance to close out the year on a high note as well as give fans a glimpse of their new material, which they say is part of rebirth, in a sense, as they've spent much of the past few years working on a new project, following a surge of creative inspiration.
"We've got a record that is finished, and it feels really good to say that," says Chris Combs, speaking with Variance alongside bandmate Costa Upson on a brisk, fall afternoon outside Double Shot Coffee Company in Tulsa. "Everything we've been doing for the last two to three years has been working toward this."
"We've slowly been building a sort of universe at this point," says Upson, nodding to the broad scope of the project, which they hope to release in the spring. "That's kind of where we're at. It's hard to explain. We're focused on making some sort of online experience. It's kind of an experiment. But we're being very intentional with it. Like, yes, it's an actual album, but we want it to live beyond that space."
The band says that while they've been making music together for years, the upcoming record feels like the sum of nearly two decades of work finally being realized.
"It's sort of comical, but it truly does feel like it's 15 years in the making," says Combs. "The four of us in the band have been working together for so long. Costa's produced for other bands that I was in. We've played together on other people's music. And then, it's like things start falling into place. Maybe it's a transformation. Maybe it was just the inevitable next step, but we're excited to share it. We've been testing it live in bits and pieces, but now it's feeling like it's real.
For Combs and Upson, part of the excitement stems from the fact that their own trajectory seems to line up perfectly with an upswell of creativity and resources in Tulsa, which has seen its star rise as the city glows with a focus on arts and attracting artists with projects like Tulsa Remote, the Tulsa Artist Fellowship and big, national attractions like the newly opened Bob Dylan Center, a 29,000-square-foot exhibit featuring exclusive pieces from Bob Dylan's archives.
"I think we're in a unique place," says Combs of the artist community in Tulsa. "We're in a unique place geographically, but I think we have a lot of potential and I think the more we can bank on ourselves as a community and the more that we can like put our own flag in the sand and not chase someone else's idea, the better and the longer it'll last. We've been around and we've seen a lot of changes. And it'd be really fun to see Tulsa become something and take on a new identity in the national music scene. Maybe we don't have to turn into this or to that; it's just our own, bizarre, strange—Tulsa.
Adds Upson: "I want to be the next city you say is going to be the next city. Like, instead of wanting to be the next Austin or next Nashville. We can't do what those cities do and we don't have to. And that's OK with us."
Of course, being a band in Tulsa in 2022 has its pros and cons, something of which Combsy is fully aware as they try to put together an album and shift different moving parts where they need to go, applauding the progress the city has made thus far while acknowledging it still has plenty of room to grow.
"It's moving in the right direction," says Combs with a chuckle. "We don't have all the industry support here. And not saying we need all of the things that the other cities have, but there is infrastructure missing. And that makes it harder both to tour out of Tulsa or Oklahoma as well as to bring acts here. It would be fun to see more of a label presence or booking agencies."
But almost just as quickly as Combs says that, he notes the evolving definition of a traditional record label, as some of the bigger companies have abandoned past models and others have been absorbed by other umbrella labels as the role of a "label" changes in a post-Covid world.
"The game is very different now than it was even five years ago," says Upson. "But I think you still need everything—an agent, publicity, marketing, booking, distribution. All the things. If you hear anyone go like, 'We don't need that,' it probably just means, 'We don't need it because we can't get it.' And at least for right now, that stuff still matters. But hey, things are changing."
"That Sounds OK!" is a new Variance series shining a spotlight on the artists we love—those who are from Oklahoma and those who call it home.