Leslie & Red Handed
Sat. April 8
9 p.m.
$6 ($9 under 21)
Music Farm
32 Ann St.

“I don’t have a day job, man — I’m pretty much a full-time musician right now,” says Leslie singer-guitarist Sadler Vaden, 20. “We’re just climbing up the ladder, one step at a time. We’re progressing. Every week, there’s something new to do or consider … new shows, new bands to meet, new songs to try, new arguments in the van. There’s a lot going on and we’re just working really hard. I don’t know what the ultimate goal is, but we’re trying to play as much as we can in front of as many people as we can.”

Vaden, drummer Jonathan Carman, 23, and bassist Jason Fox, 21, formed Leslie in 2004 and quickly established themselves as one of Charleston’s most excitable underground bands. Last year, the band worked with studio engineer Jake Sinclair (of The Films) in a home studio to record their debut disc, a self-titled, five-song EP full of melodic, noisy power-pop, jangly guitar, and anthemic elegance.

The trio spent the better part of the year capitalizing on the big splash of last year’s EP and touring as much as possible around the Carolinas and the Southeast. In January they did some low-budget home studio sessions at a friend’s house on Bee Street, laying down the tracks for seven songs in two days.

In February, Leslie drove to Savannah for a show with Atlanta rockabilly band The Cogburns. The local paper listed them on the bottom of the front page as “Leslie: Charleston Rockers.”

“I was like, ‘Holy shit! I’ve never picked up the paper and seen our name on the front!’ And we weren’t even the headlining band. That was really cool. We don’t let that stuff go to our heads or anything. We’re glad to be featured, but we try to look at the big picture. Remember, we’re in Charleston; you can’t take yourself too seriously. I take our own music seriously, but the rock star stuff doesn’t matter.”

Critical praise and fanfare aside, the young trio put serious effort into developing their rock sound as a tight unit with hard experience on the stage.

“It has tightened up a bit … and definitely more polished,” says Vaden. “We are jamming a bit, too … not Phish jamming, but more like The Who jamming on Live at Leeds. I think there’s an actual ‘Leslie sound’ developing on its own that is, at least, original, compared to a lot of what is going on around town right now. There’s a punk side to us, a twangy side to us, and an indie side to us. Really I think we could play with anybody and do pretty well.”

Sharing the bill with Leslie this Saturday are the newly-established Red Handed, a quartet of melodic alt-rockers previously known as “Agynst.” Lead singer/guitarist Scott Gould, lead guitarist Drew Reindollar, drummer/brother Matthew Reindollar, and bassist Kenny Varner — all original members — started jamming together while in middle school in Summerville. They officially released their first recording in 1999. Agynst’s first big boost in the local scene won the College of Charleston’s Battle of the Bands in 2003.

In 2004, the band spent four weeks in Weed, Calif. recording a well-polished full-length titled Off The Record with producer Sylvia Massy Shivy. The sessions were huge and full of raw energy, especially the riffy, anthemic tunes “White Lies” and “Hollow Man.”

According to Gould, the transition from Agynst to Red Handed had more to do with the desire to start over with a clean slate than any shifts in the lineup or sound. They’re eager to take their own big step ahead after the touring and efforts that followed the release of Off The Record.

“Honestly, we are kind of tired of people mispronouncing and misspelling the old name,” says Gould. “This is fresh, new, and a little more marketable. We’re fixing to try a lot of new stuff this year, too. We’re writing in a slightly different style of pop-rock now than we were a few years ago. People in Charleston may not like it, but they’ll have to get over it [laughs]. This week’s show is kinda like our official coming-out party. It’s gonna be rad, man.”

Red Handed already has seven songs tracked from a recent session at the now-defunct Lighthouse Studio in West Ashley with local engineer Eric Bass. They’ll be recording another EP with Bass at Fusion 5 Studio this summer.

“You know, we never really fit into the rock scene in Charleston,” notes Gould. “I think that’s why we stood out. I think we’re a good band, but we really don’t fit with anybody. I just consider us a rock band — rock music with no specific date on it.”

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