While the rest of the country and even parts of Northern California still battle the weather, Sunny So Cal is staring to feel like Summer. Okay, that happens a lot here, but still…
The sun… the surf… the smell of the grill… and MUSIC. It’s not Summer without music, sweet music.
Okay, no Season is good without music… but especially Summer… when the outdoor concerts kick into high gear… when people are BBQ’ing and picnicking and partying and just getting together much more often it seems.
Summer… the season of my birth… Maybe that’s why I identify with it on a cellular level. (No, not my iPhone…) Though I will say that Fall/Autumn in NYC or any place back East in the Fall is probably my most favorite time of the year.
But Summer… Cue The Explorers Club and their stunningly beautiful new record Together. And yes, I called it a record! It has that retro sound that just fits in with the whole resurgence of vinyl… Though I’m not sure if they will be doing any vinyl pressings of this one…
I had the pleasure of meeting Jason Brewer at the rehearsal for the Wild Honey Orchestra’s annual fundraising concert. This year was a tribute to the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, so having Jason there made perfect sense. You can read a great review of the show from Goldmine here.
I got to hear him sing… stellar… So when he told me about his band, I knew it would be something I wanted to hear.
Their music is gorgeous. Obviously their inspirations and heroes are clear, with Brian and the Beach Boys at the very top of the list… and while you could conceivably listen to this record and actually think it IS a Beach Boys album, there is a lot more going on here than imitation. Check out their killer new single “California’s Callin’.”
The band also lists Burt Bacharach, Phil Spector, Jimmy Webb and the Zombies as heavy influencers. Burt and Jimmy are, in my humble opinion, amongst the best songwriters EVER! And yes, of course Brian is on that list!
If you are a regular reader of this blog… or spend any time with me and my music collection (house, car, iPhone, etc.) you know I have a deep love for that lush Power Pop sound. To me there are hallmarks of what great Power Pop is… catchy riffs… jangly, fuzzy guitars… great harmonies… but also something that the Beach Boys were absolute masters of… and that is the seeming simplicity of the music and song.
I am not sure how to say this without sounding dismissive… but this is the kind of record you can play in the background of a party… and people will just take it for what it is… Simple… enjoyable… humable… singable…
Though I can guarantee most of them will shortly be saying “This is great” and then asking “Who is this?”
Music operates and works on so many levels… and what I love about this record and their others, as well as the genre in general, is that if you want to take it on face value you can. If you want something great to listen to, without having to think or analyze much, then this is something you are really gonna dig.
But… and this is a big BUT… It is gonna sneak up on you!
This music is sophisticated… the four-part harmonies are gorgeous… the arrangements are complex… and if you start breaking it down, you are going to be blown away by the intricacies and nuances.
So suddenly this record is on at home… in the car with the windows down… sadly no convertible for this guy… yet! It is on my iPhone so I can tell my friends, “Hey, you gotta hear this band”… and it is on my party playlist. I truly love this one, track for track.
My first foray into this genre came from buddies Rob and Alan, which hooked me into one of my all-time faves, The Pearlfishers. That lead me on a backwards, sideways, full circle journey into Teenage Fanclub, Big Star, Trashcan Sinatras, and local LA bands The Wondermints and Baby Lemonade (Yes in tribute to the late, great and very psychedelic Syd Barret). This list could go on and on… but that list always comes back to one major source… The Beach Boys.
The band formed in Charleston, SC in 2005, and is currently based in Nashville…. the home to so many great artists and so much killer music. They have released two critically acclaimed albums: 2008’s Freedom Wind and 2012’s Grand Hotel… and Together will be out on June 24.
The Onion AV Club called Freedom Wind “…a pretty dizzying technical achievement. Frankly, the album is beautiful-wholly, deeply and truly.”
According to Brewer: “I usually have a strong idea of the musical/instrumentation and looser ideas about how the final vocal harmonies will hit the tracks. Mike Williamson really took my preliminary ideas and turned them into golden masterpieces on this album. The guys sang a lot of the parts around one mic set up together, in the same room.”
Just as the music itself can make one ponder, trying to figure out who is doing what and where, so do the lyrics in terms of that yearning and grasping to understand life and all that it means…
“We are overwhelmed by spiritual questions every day, it’s inescapable… One line Mike brought in was ‘there is a cold wind calling me from a storm out on the sea (sung by John Davis) – it references the balancing act between spirituality and being pulled back to the realities of daily life,” says Brewer.
This record does exactly that… a beautiful balance between the simple and complex… between realities and the dreams we have of how the world or how our lives should be…
And isn’t that what music is all about?
So yeah, let’s all get Together!
Jason Brewer – Vocals, Guitar, Synthesizers, Fuzz Guitar, Rock-Si-Chord, Maestro Rhythm King
Paul Runyon – Vocals, Piano, Hammond Organ, Rock-Si-Chord, Synthesizer, Guitar, Wurlitzer
Michael Willamson – Vocals, Lead Guitar, Fender Bass, Organ, Upright Bass, Acoustic Guitars
Wyatt Funderburk – Vocals, Fender Bass, Rock-Si-Chord
Kyle Polk – Drums and Percussion
John Davis – Vocals on “My Friend” and “Before I’m Gone”
Darian Sahanaja – Moog Synthesizers and Rock-Si-Chord on “Don’t Waste Her Time”
Probyn Gregory – All Trumpet and Trombone parts, Tannerin on “Together”
Nelson Bragg & Scott Bennett – Percussion
David Ellis – Percussion
Emeen Zarookian – Synth Bass on “Gold Winds”, additional arrangment on “Gold Winds” Krista Brewer – Flute on “Be Around” Steve Stanley – Bass Harmonica on “Be Around”
Jesse Hansen – Strings on “Be Around”
Brian King – Vibraphone
Mark Galup – Pedal Steel
Rushikesh Badbade – Additional Synth programming
Kevin Crothers – additional Percussion recording