Album Review: The Scenic Sound – Like A Fire

Like A Fire

 

Toronto-based singer/songwriter Tim Stead has musical roots in power pop and punk.  As The Scenic Sound, he strips things down and sells out for melody and meaning.  (“Sells out” is not meant in the usual derogatory, is-it-still-2003? fashion it typically references in music.)  TSS released sophomore EP Like A Fire March 21st, and the Murray Daigle-produced six-song effort builds on 2014’s Standing Still with hints of pop, rock, soul and R&B.

Like A Fire opens with “A Heart To Call Home”, a ballad that features some lovely orchestral backing behind vocals about longing for love.  First single “You & I” is next, which changes gears by kicking up the tempo while stripping down the sound.  The acoustic does the musical talking in this one, and the subject matter celebrates a great romance – it really is a 180 from “A Heart To Call Home”.  The drums also don’t really get going until the second chorus to great effect.  Up next is “Warmer With You”, which has great guitar that puts long, possibly whammy bar-influenced notes to work.  The drums also make great use of simplicity with the verses interjecting lazy snare rolls.  The line “I don’t care how cold it is outside/I can see your breath curling up with mine” is awesome, and the EP’s title gets a mention during this song too.

Speaking of the EP’s title, the second half of Like A Fire first dishes out “Sleeping Lullaby”.  The chorus’ off-time snare hits remind me of “Companion (Lay Me Down)” by Wide Mouth Mason – good stuff.  “Sleeping Lullaby” is also the first real guitar distortion we get on the EP, which is also good stuff.  “Author Of My Hope” follows, and really works the bass piano notes (notably, I mean…it’s pretty piano-centric anyway) while bringing the orchestral touch back.  It’s 2:38 of YOU being behind you with analogies galore, but the weight of it makes its length surprising.  Finally, a piano-based version of “Sleeping Lullaby” ends the effort.  It largely honours the main version, but adds an element of evocativeness to also make it its own.

For Like A Fire, Tim Stead talked about wanting to create “something important, something that people feel like singing and believing”.  It’s lyrically upbeat, hopeful and passionate, and very pleasing musically.  You get the feeling of Dashboard Confessional, Evan Taylor Jones, The Fray and others coming together in an unabashed pop-driven (scenic) sound.  Stead has a keen sense for songwriting, and Like A Fire is a strong second release.  It’s out now via iTunes and beyond (where you can also listen to a brand new remix of “Warmer With You”).  Go get it.

The Scenic Sound online:

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Weekendcore: The Scenic Sound – “Every Day That’s In Between”

Happy Valentine’s Day – or if you’re loveless, Singles Appreciation Day!  Sirius XM’s Alt Nation is doing an emo marathon if you’re the latter and have satellite radio, but otherwise – and either way, of course – this “Weekendcore” is for you!


The Scenic Sound
 are a Toronto-based pop act led by singer/songwriter Tim Stead.  Their 2014 debut EP Standing Still produced melodic, catchy and pretty songs that toned things down from Stead’s previous pop rock band The Ocean Buried.  However, one song brought bigger guitar in, and kicked up the tempo to make the EP’s biggest rocker: “Every Day That’s In Between”.  It sings about getting to the point where love can blossom, with a keyboard providing the main riffs that contrast beautifully with the distorted guitar.  The drums dominate the chorus, and get that distant, echo effect in the first part of each verse.

The Scenic Sound are set to release debut full-length Like A Fire in March, and with their latest bio describing them as a blend of “Soul, Pop, Indie, Rock and R&B” it’ll be interesting to hear what it sounds like (more eclectic, it would seem).  In the meantime, grab your special someone and listen to this little banger of a love song.

The Scenic Sound online: 

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Interview: Pullman Standard


The term “power rock” is pretty badass yeah?  That’s what Los Angeles’ Pullman Standard have been called, and when you hear their epic-sounding music it makes sense.  The band have been releasing songs periodically over the past several months, and released their newest single “Starting Static” last week.  In fact, TPS had that premiere – and now, the follow-up chat!

Please say the band is named after actor Bill Pullman.  C’mon though right!?

As much as I’d like to say yes and I think Bill Pullman played one hell of an American president in the movie Independence Day, the band is actually named after the Pullman Standard rail car manufacturing company founded by George Pullman back in the 1800s and pretty much dominated the industry during the railroad boom of the late 1800s into the early 1900s.  I like trains and I like history, seemed like a good fit.

Having been together several years, you’ve gone through some lineup changes that are largely attributed to the rigors of touring.  What’s been the best and worst thing you’ve experienced on tour to this point?

The band started in 2008 the original lineup stayed intact until 2012 which is when we started touring heavily.   You see a lot of cool things on the road but you also come across a lot of obstacles: at least seven flat trailer tires, two flat van tires.  One of the craziest things was when we were driving across the state of Missouri and all the electricity on the highway was nonexistent.  There was heavy rain and a lot of wind to the point where the van was getting pushed violently.  There were only a few cars on the road that we could even see because the rain was coming down so hard.  A couple miles outside of Kansas City we ended up getting a motel room and once we checked in, turned on the TV to discover a major tornado had just torn through the town we had driven through on the way to Kansas City.

You’ve been releasing songs periodically over the past few months that were worked on while touring.  Is it hard to write on the road, or is sitting in the van for hours just like a studio when it comes down to it?

Not only do you see so many things when you’re on the road but you experience so much, you go through so many emotions.  Sometimes you can’t write fast enough.  We made it a point to always try out new songs and new ideas during our sound checks and when you’re playing a different show every single day that’s a lot of sound checks to try out a lot of different material.

New single “Starting Static” has more synth going on than other Pullman Standard songs.  Are you hoping to have more of that in the future, or was that just “let’s see how this sounds”?

Pullman Standard has always had an ever evolving sound.  It’s always been a part of the ideals of the band to not stay stagnant with just one sound but try new things and keep moving forward with what feels right.  Although a couple of our new tunes that we demoed on the road are very synth heavy some of the other tunes are a lot lighter and more acoustic, and a few are very much more rock ‘n’ roll and guitar and bass heavy.

A running theme in your music is an epic feel.  Is that the band’s defining feature?

On our last EP Edge of the Clouds we were going for songs that were more anthemic – stuff that you could see being sung by massive crowds of people, songs that had choruses that were easy to sing to and easy to remember.  I would hope that our songs get stuck in your head and you can’t stop singing them, not because of simplicity but because it just feels right – it feels good to sing them.

Any concrete album plans for “Starting Static” and the latest songs?

Absolutely we are planning on heading down to Vybe Studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where “Starting Static” was recorded and working with Tai Vu, who co-produced the song as well as engineered it.  We have about 20 fully finished demos that we are ready to pick and choose from and turn into another EP – possibly a full-length pending on our budget.

You’re now taking time off from touring for Timmy D’s health reasons, and there have been recent personnel changes too.  Besides “Starting Static” now being out, what does the next while hold for Pullman Standard?

We had been on the road for 14 out of the last 18 months.  Fatigue had a lot to do with worsening in my body’s condition.  The band is moving forward with doing a short tour in October out to the Midwest to promote the “Starting Static” single as well as raise money for the recording of the new EP.

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Interview: Stephen Bradley


If you don’t recognize Stephen Bradley right away, you still likely know him: he’s been a backing member of No Doubt for two decades.  Along with appearances on Green Day’s Nimrod and other albums, Bradley’s lent his trumpet and other talents to other artists for a long time.  Now it’s time for him to be highlighted, and his new, debut solo EP Runaways is an eclectic, four-song effort that might surprise you knowing his background.  Coupling how accomplished Bradley is with this new direction, he’s an intriguing chat – AND SO IT HAPPENED BABY.

You’ve spent two decades as a touring/recording member of No Doubt, along with guesting on other projects.  How long have you been waiting to release your own music?

I’ve actually been releasing music over the years, the last project (Chocolate O’Brian) being the most accomplished.  Alongside one of my best friends Dave Tweedie, we made a really quirky but meaningful album.  We played some shows here and there but never really got it to the world.  I never was sure if I wanted to go “solo” or not for many years.  Even at the urge of many of my family and friends.  I guess I finally decided to do it!

Runaways is eclectic, with elements including R&B, pop and electronica.  Which artists influence you?

I am always defaulting to the classics…..Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Prince, Michael Jackson etc.  There is so much music in those records, it’s like a never ending well of inspiration.  But I also am always trying to check out some new shit.  I loved that Alphabetical record by Phoenix.  So many cool ideas and quirky twists and turns.  My collaborator for this EP (Javan Slagle) was also very instrumental to the sound of Runaways.  He introduced me to guys like Flume and Charles Murdoch, which really gave us a direction.

While touring with No Doubt, was there ever a chance to showcase yourself on stage – original music in the set list, etc?

I would have featured moments like a trumpet solo, or picking up a vocal part (usually a dancehall chat).  But never any original music of my own.

Being known largely for working with rock, does your solo sound ever surprise people?

I think it has surprised people because I also just released a reggae song earlier this year.  Most of my friends have told me when they heard the EP it wasn’t what they expected.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t dig it.

Now that you have a solo effort, are you taking a break from working with others or do you still have other projects on the go?

I have definitely been trying to focus all my energy on this project, and another solo EP I am planning to release later this year.  I have a reggae album that I’ve been working on with David Elecciri who has been performing with and producing music for the legendary band Steel Pulse.

What are your touring plans in support of Runaways?

At this point we are focused on getting a live show together, and writing more songs.  Along with our Projection artist (Matt Meza) the next month or so will be dedicated to building a live show that will be truly unforgettable.  I told my guys that I wanna disappear on stage at the end of the show like David Copperfield!

Stephen Bradley online:

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Profile: Wide Mouth Mason

The thing about mainstream music is, you can’t often be just a bit too left-of-centre or you won’t truly be appreciated.  Now, I’m far from one of those people who’s like “MAINSTREAM MUSIC IS WATERED-DOWN CORPORATE FLUFF AND LACKS ANY SUBSTANCE”, but sometimes an artist doesn’t quite take that next step because they’re not straightforward enough.  To me, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan’s Wide Mouth Mason have always been one of those groups.  Truth be told, they’ve actually enjoyed a fair amount of success in Canada and wouldn’t totally be classified as underground, but I’ve always felt they were a bit under-appreciated.

WMM started in the mid-nineties as Shaun Verreault (vocals/guitar), Safwan Javed (drums) and Earl Pereira (bass/vocals), with Pereira being replaced by Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar/Grady in 2011.  They do blues-influenced rock, that also features a pop influence.  Aside from 1996’s indie debut The Nazarene, which is out of print and largely re-recorded for their self-titled major label debut, they have six albums: 1997’s Wide Mouth Mason, 1999’s Where I Started, 2000’s Stew, 2002’s Rained Out Parade, 2005’s Shot Down Satellites, and 2011’s No Bad Days, the first with Johnson on bass and the second album of theirs he produced (after Stew). 

Wide Mouth Mason are an eclectic group, and their sound has definitely evolved over the years.  It was Stew where the pop influence really came through, with hella catchy singles “Smile” and “Change” (the audio quality in the latter video is poor, but Earl looks like such a badass that I had to link to it).  Shot Down Satellites got a little heavier, and throughout blues has been a staple of the band’s sound, with other randomness.  Shaun Verreault is a very good and interesting guitarist, and has one of my favourite voices in music – sure he’s the frontman, but my love of WMM still comes largely from him.

Looking at the full discography, seven albums in nineteen years is actually not a bad average, but WMM have been more sporadic with the releases over the past decade.  They did have a time bassist-free, as Earl Pereira left to concentrate on his other band Mobadass, now known as The Steadies.  Their current bassist is also in two other bands and produces for many others, and I suppose it’s better to go three or four years between albums and make them count, than put one out every two and be so-so.

What will 2015 bring for Wide Mouth Mason?  There doesn’t appear to be word on a new album or tour dates, but they’re very active on social media and worth a follow there.  That’s actually one thing about the band: they’re very down-to-Earth.  They post lots of random things online, are goofy, and by all accounts nice too.  I actually exchanged e-mails with Safwan Javed years ago for a project I was putting together, and even from that one response I got he seemed genuine and cool.  Hopefully we get more music – live or recorded – from Wide Mouth Mason this year, because the official stance of TPS is they’re one of the most underrated bands in Canada.  It’d be nice to see them have an international presence too, because to my knowledge they’ve kept it fairly close to home so far.  I also hope I haven’t shortchanged them by calling them underrated and left-of-centre: they’ve won awards and shit don’tcha know.

Wide Mouth Mason online:

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