There’s plenty to complain about in the local music scene — a lack of all-age venues, just to name one — but there’s a lot going on in Charlotte music that gives us hope in humanity, and one example is Thousand Dollar Movie.
The indie-rock foursome has proudly tied its boat to Charlotte, as proven in their new EP, Give Me a Year, a six-track instrumental tribute to the Queen City with song titles that include “Central Ave.,” “Elizabeth,” “Trade/Tryon” — Charlotteans get the picture.
According to Thousand Dollar Movie co-founder Jeremy Smith, each track on the EP, which dropped on Feb. 24, captures memories he has from a given space within city limits. The songs even include certain recordings from those memories — chants from Charlotte FC fans before a game, sounds of the cityscape as Smith once waited for the Blue Line in First Ward, or even a sound as simple as Smith locking his car door before walking into Tommy’s Pub.
“I moved to Charlotte when I was a teenager and I was equal parts terrified and excited to be in a city on my own and trying to do music,” Smith explained. “Twenty years later and I still love it here; it goes from intimidating to feeling like home.
Over those two decades, Smith filled a well of inspiration that he drew from while creating Give Me a Year.
“I have so many great memories of shows at Tremont and getting crazy lost every day and the first time having Fuel Pizza uptown after some weird gig and sitting on the sidewalk feeling like I had won the lottery even though my van had a boot on it,” he recalled. “That’s what this record is about: those feelings that a city can give you. The scary excitement, the hope, and on the other side of the coin being surrounded by so many people but feeling very alone. Going from being the stoked new kid in the scene to being the old guy at the end of the bar. Seeing your favorite neighborhood bulldozed and finding some weird sandwich place that makes the best cheesesteak.”
The story behind Thousand Dollar Movie
Thousand Dollar Movie formed in 2019 when bassist Smith, aka Jeremy Radio, and friend Jesse Proctor began writing music together, emailing each other bass lines or guitar riffs to build on one another. They didn’t know they were honing skills that would come in handy during the pandemic — but that would all come later.
A few other musician friends helped create music for the band along the way, and Thousand Dollar Movie eventually played their first show at Petra’s in December 2019.
Smith, who said he doesn’t usually get nervous before a gig, was anxious about how folks would respond to an all-instrumental band.
“I was so freaking nervous with it,” he told Queen City Nerve. “I thought, ‘This is instrumental and it’s mostly bass-driven — no one’s going to like this.’ But it went really well. The response from the local scene really kind of blew my mind a little bit.”
Still featuring a rotating cast of local musicians as needed for certain recordings and live shows, the current “A-Team” lineup, as Smith puts it, includes himself on bass, Dominic Geralds on drums, and Leo Solis and Zach Luper on guitars.
The band finds inspiration from bands like Unwed Sailor, Explosions in the Sky, Sonic Youth, and Fugazi, with a post-punk sound that dips its toes into other alternative genres. The new EP sticks to those roots, delivering a moving record that looks to strike at the hearts of Charlotteans.
Give Me a Year pays homage to a city that once was and — in some places — still strives to hang on. Smith described it as depicting his pathway from being the stoked new kid in the scene to being the old guy at the gig.
“The overarching story is kind of like a new city as a scared kid and growing older, and it becoming home and taking a chance on yourself at the end of it all,” Smith explained. “It’s like … now I’m the old guy sitting at the end of the bar, but still give me another year here. I’m not ready for the ride to be over.”
Charlotte’s instrumental tribute, ‘Give Me a Year’
Give Me a Year opens with a title track that samples Mike Watt in an old interview: “Give me a year, see what happens.”
The song builds with a glittery guitar riff accompanied by crunchy, rhythmic tones that eventually release to a dissonant chord leaving the listener waiting to hear what the rest of the EP has to say. Equating the song to moving away into a new city, the beginning feels unsure of what the future holds but is excited to see what it can bring.
“If I Break Buy a New One (Trade/Tryon)” is one of the EP’s highlights, transitioning perfectly from Central Ave before it and calling the audience to find a nostalgic memory. The break from a melancholic tone turns into a crisp, grungy one — like a cough holding back the welling of tears. The realization is starting to rush in.
The EP ends with the simple plucking of strings through the muffled sounds of dust settling. “One More Year” conveys a realization and clarity that things won’t be the same — not now, not after a year, not after 10.
Smith said the final track serves as an accidental tribute to close friend and longtime bandmate Larry Tran, who passed away soon after the band started recording the EP.
“I didn’t know if it was going to be a rocker or what, but I knew I kind of wanted to close the record out with it,” he explained. “We just started jamming on that song, and it became very emotional and atmospheric … But I think now, especially live, that one is just really like an emotional one for us. It feels like that one’s for Larry now.
Give Me a Year released on cassette and streaming platforms on Feb. 24, and Thousand Dollar Movie will play a show celebrating the new release with Siege Hardee, SOLIS and Whistler at Petra’s on March 4.
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