The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday January 24th

Rock Musketeers

Josh Pope, Ryan Gustafson, Carter Gaj and James Wallace with a box containing their new album Drughorse One. DTH/Jordan Lawrence
Buy Photos Josh Pope, Ryan Gustafson, Carter Gaj and James Wallace with a box containing their new album Drughorse One. DTH/Jordan Lawrence

It’s easy to forget, but at the end of Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers,” the titular members of the king’s guard actually add a fourth member.

Coming from different social circumstances but believing in a common cause, the four heroes create a support system. “All for one, one for all,” they’ve always got each other’s backs despite their differences.

Local music acts The Light Pines, Max Indian and Ryan Gustafson have forged a similar bond. The four main creators behind these projects are incredibly intertwined. Indian’s Carter Gaj and James Wallace provide live backing for Josh Pope’s Pines. Gustafson plays guitar in Indian’s stage show.


Details: 9:30 p.m. Friday, $7 admission
Location: Local 506, 506 W. Franklin St.
More Info:

But the ties that bind them have grown more densely tangled than simple overlap. They are all members of the Drughorse Collective, a loose grouping of pop-minded local artists who collaborate and help promote each members’ output.

“We had all these band identities that would be like you and one other person sweating it out all the time over every decision,” said Gaj. “And then it started to seem like it would make a lot of sense for us each to lend our own taste to each project and to try to let everything blend and stew a little bit more.”

Friday, local music fans will get a taste of what’s been cooking in the musketeers’ crock pot. The new Drughorse One EP, a sampler of two songs each from Gustafson, Indian and Pines will be released with a show at Local 506.

With members from each project contributing to and helping to refine each other’s work, the album is a fully collaborative affair, a culmination of the collective’s mission and purpose.

“Musicians or artists, period, are the worst to daydream,” said Pope. “This went from ‘We should do this’ to now it’s done. That says something to me about this group. I think we all do really believe in one another enough that we as a group kind of drive one another to force to make it happen.”

The idea for Drughorse was first sparked by Gaj and The Love Language’s Stuart McLamb. While each was recording what would become their bands’ debuts, the two had a hungover chat about wanting to be better known.

“We decided to come up with this fake label and put on the Internet that we got signed to this fake label,” said Gaj. “We went home, and we recorded a song from this band called Tüng. It was going to be the  first band ever signed to the label Drughorse. It was going to be our proof that this thing actually existed.”

The song, which Gaj proudly proclaims was recorded in every way to be “absolutely as bad as possible” has never seen release, but the idea for organizing the efforts of he and McLamb’s friends came back to the fore when McLamb and others moved to the Triangle about a year later.

Now with a holiday show that took over Local 506 in December and a new EP showcasing the bands’ output under a unified brand, Drughorse is gaining momentum in the Triangle music scene. But for these artists, getting noticed is not necessarily the ultimate goal.

“Success is not going to make you happy,” espouses Wallace. “Being famous is not going to make you happy. Making a bunch of money is not going to make you happy. The only thing that’s going to make you happy is what you love doing.”

For this committed group of friends and colleagues that means continuing to push each other to make new strides in their craft — not really to hone a sound that can reach a mainstream audience, but to keep on shaping their songs into something that they can be proud of.

It’s this aspect of the group’s aesthetic that Gustafson thinks will ensure its longevity.

“I think it will last as long as people decide to stay dedicated to making the music they love,” he said. “Whether that goes nowhere, it’ll last that long in any frame.”

And it’s really that attitude that makes Drughorse work. They truly care as much about the work of each other member as they do about their own. The acclaim gained by one band is seen as praise for the entire collective.

“We all do feel a level of satisfaction that’s independent of how well this sampler of our songs does,” said Pope. “I think already our response is, A, encouraged by the fact that we made this happen, and, B, let’s start the second one.”


Chapel Hill’s Drughorse Collective brings together a group of local musicans under that old, “all for one, one for all” ethos. Pushing and helping one another to make their music better, its bands are making their own scene in Orange County. Three of those acts release Drughorse One, a sampler EP of their work, Friday. Dive talked with the three bands and had each write down its thoughts on the contributions of its two peers.

Review by The Light Pines

Courtesy of The Light Pines

Max Indian: “Never and Always” — Like a dark creature pounding on the door, Indian’s Carter Gaj and James Wallace evolve by melting into vapor and escaping into the ether.  Spinning around and back again to shape a classic.  “Dark of Night” — Flying from the cold metal antennae of a lonely radio station and caught by your ears as if by magic you’re a child again.
Ryan Gustafson: “Heaven” — A master of channeling himself, Ryan gives us a song to die to. Walking for the next step, bound by fate, as long as the Earth is beneath you, you’re in heaven. “The Desert” —The only fear anyone should adhere to is the fear of an empty life.  Ryan asks us all to fill our deserts with whatever, for him it is what you hear, for you it is what he is.

Review by Max Indian

DTH File Photo

The Light Pines are an obsessive love-sick psychedelic dream.  “White Forest” is a quick-stunner about secrets and anonymity. Peter Gun hits the runway and then freaks out.  And everything in the arrangement’s a hook. “Climbing Towards You” is all about attack and release. Over a bed of thundering drum stomps, the melody of the ancient ritual dance is featured on synth console as the spaceship approaches warp-speed. Ryan Gustafson is capturing his life in song.  There’s “Heaven,” in which the weary traveler stumbles into town and finds himself adrift in the woozy haze. And in its flipside, “The Desert,” the traveler wakes at dawn to lick his wounds and move on.  There’s always tomorrow.

Review by Ryan Gustafson

DTH File/Jordan Lawrence

Max Indian: Though they have been given many labels and titles such as “retro”, “low fi”, “through back”, etc., as a close friend and band mate, I have seen that Max Indian has never done anything other than create a honest representation of the world they live in.You can expect nothing less with “Never and Always” and “Dark of Night.”
The Light Pines: The Pines are one of the most exciting rock bands to come out of the area. This is a great “debut”, almost sneak-peek, of only more to come. These two tracks are like a kaleidoscope, constantly re-arranging a sound that seems familiar.

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