With this column, we seek to give a behind-the-scenes look of a band we like. We banter with them for awhile, hand them a digital camera, and let them fly free. Each installment includes a free mp3 download, a love of conversational tangents, and, hopefully, a view of the musicians that you wouldn’t get just from their discography.
Conversation/ awful photos by Caitlin Caven
Who they are: A 6-piece from Charleston, South Carolina. Left to right: Carl, Mike, Stefan, Chris, Dave, Jason (with guitar), James (lying down). Carl and Mike are friends of the band who fill in for tours; they’re of the retro-pop band The Californias.
Their sound: Neo-Beach Boys, Wall-of-Sound, harmonies-based pop
Album: “Freedom Wind” out on May 20 on Dead Oceans
Why they’re good: They embrace a clean, starry-eyed ’60s pop sound without resorting to irony. They flail a lot on stage, even in a confined space. They do a cover of “Johnny B. Goode” that will kick your ass.
Fun fact: They take their name from “The Life Aquatic”. There was a plaque on a wall in one scene that said “The Explorers’ Club”, and the band took it and ran. They are big Wes Anderson fans.
How They Explain What They Do:
Jason: “It’s the kind of stuff I’d hear on the radio a lot…my parents liked some of that stuff. We had neighbors and people at church that liked this music that I’d get the cassettes of and records of and the CDs later on when I was kid… I mean, I listened to a lot of different music and tried out new things, but the core was always the Beatles and the Beach Boys and that kind of thing. And you get to that one point, I think, as a musician where your roots really kind of come out.”
Dave: “[This sound] is a real return to the roots. Just playing music that we like, and enjoy, and is fun. Just thinking of it business-wise, there’s probably not a whole lot of bands — well, our age, at least — who are doing this kind of music.”
Jason: “…I wanted to be in a band that was singers…like a vocal group. But you don’t see that anymore …Not like a rock, pop band. …We couldn’t sing when we first started — we were alright. Now we can kinda, sorta sing.”
Dave: “Getting better!”
Soundcheck Magazine: “Baby steps?”
Dave: “Baby steps. We started at A, now we’re at…”
Anatomy of a Song: The story behind their first single, “Do You Love Me?”
Jason: ” ‘Do You Love Me?’ was just a chorus I had…I went into the studio and we were looking for one more track for the record. We were like, ‘we need another kinda peppy, up-tempo, poppy song.’ We’ve got all these good, artistically good, powerful songs, but we just need one more, kind of, really catchy tune. And I was like, ‘Well, I’ve got this chorus and this verse and this bridge’–I had the whole song written except some of the lyrics…and I played the tune, and the producer was like, ‘Why haven’t we recorded that? That was great.’
…The back story of it is, the goal I had for it, is trying to get like a late ’70s, early ’80s sound on the verses, when all of a sudden it turns into, like, ’60s wall-of-sound. So it kind of goes back and forth, and it has all kinds different influences. We record all of our music in Atlanta, Georgia, with a great friend of ours named Matt Goldman, who’s a great engineer.”
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Bonus miscellany: listen to Explorers Club talk about the dumbest ways they have hurt themselves on tour