Friday, October 13th, 2017
$12.50 ADV / $15 DOS / ALL AGES / TAVERN
Listen to LoveJoys, the sophomore release from Seattle, WA’s Pickwick, and you’ll hear a band that has pushed aside external pressures and expectations, overcome internal demons, and plugged directly into their own creative center. Slinky, sinewy, and articulate, the record pulses with a palpable confidence. Hypnotically intricate, just-right sonic ornamentation shimmers around a thick, undulating bed of propulsive rhythm. Submit willfully, give yourself over to Pickwick’s practiced ministrations, and you’ll find yourself exhausted and deeply satisfied, slick with a sheen of glitter and sweat.
Following the breakout success of 2013’s self-released Can’t Talk Medicine (which WXPN lauded for its “wonderfully engaging lo-fi rock and soul”) the band found themselves on national tours with Neko Case and Black Joe Lewis, performing on the main stage of the Sasquatch Music Festival, headlining the Capitol Hill Block Party, and performing alongside with the Seattle Symphony. They holed up to begin work on what was to be the follow up release, and things got complicated.
As the band was forty songs into writing a pop R&B record, they became deeply unsatisfied with the direction the music was taking. Tensions boiled over, and they lost a member in 2016. Walking away from a mountain of music, the group was able to tap into the joy of writing for themselves. “We rediscovered what we do best by not overthinking what we make, and learned to love the process of creating again” relates vocalist Galen Disston. “LoveJoys is a specific type of euphoria,” says drummer Alex Westcoat “a liberating feeling of inspiration that can only be achieved through the sacrifice of one’s own ambition. It is the shedding of expectations; an uninhibited escape into a world of child-like infatuation and wonder.”
After an intense three month writing session the band – Disston, Westcoat, guitarist Michael Parker, bassist Garrett Parker, and keyboardist Cassady Lillstrom – turned to producer Erik Blood (Shabazz Palaces, Tacocat and Moondoggies) for guidance in putting the music to tape. “We are huge fans of his, and a mutual friend made the introduction” says Disston. “Erik requested we go out to drinks together every couple weeks for a four month period; he wanted to get to know us before we got too deep into working together. The first time he came to a practice I kept my back to him the whole time because I was intimidated, and after we’d played him all our demos, he picked them apart and pushed us into a new and better sound.”
LoveJoys was recorded at “Chemical X” and “Black Space” (February – May 2016), Blood’s studios in the basement of the old Rainier Brewery building in Seattle. It features performances from: Tendai Maraire (Shabazz Palaces), Sean T. Lane, Marquetta Miller (Breaks and Swells), Taryn Rene Dorsey, and the Black Space’s in-house horns and strings – Alina To (Passenger String Quartet) and Jeremy Shaskus (Breaks and Swells).
Written in the midst of personal and political turmoil, lyrically and sonically LoveJoys became an escape somehow, a place for the band to purge all their deepest concerns while somehow also being relieved of them. LoveJoys embodies the relationship between inspired creativity and the use of escapism as a way of getting there. Like little fossilized explorations of his own greatest fears and anxieties, Disston’s lyrics bury themselves into the band’s bright new sonic landscape, both contradicting their collective fantasy and reminding them of why they chose to construct it in the first place. “This record is an escape toward love and joy in the face of uncertainty” says Westcoat. It’s a sonic sanctuary built from unrestrained creativity, and a potent tonic; undiluted joyful creativity, guaranteed to transport the listener to a place of ecstatic release.
— The Elwins
If 2012’s And I Thank You got The Elwins’ metaphorical foot in the door, then their latest long-player, 2015’s Play For Keeps, is the boys blasting it wide open. And then having a party.
Even before dropping And I Thank You, their full-length debut, The Elwins – vocalist/guitarist Matthew Sweeney, drummer Travis Stokl, guitarist/keyboardist Feurd, and bassist Frankie Figliomeni – were one of Toronto’s much-hyped hopefuls to fly the upbeat indie pop flag forward.
Since its release, they’ve done the rounds at the major festivals, performed alongside some of the world’s biggest bands like The National and St. Vincent, and been trumpeted by media and industry tastemakers as a (sometimes the) band to keep an eye on. To those that listened, Play For Keeps is what you were watching for.
The 12-song collection builds atop the foundation of fun pop music they established with its predecessor. “We tried to take everything up to the next level, sonically speaking,” says Feurd. “We wanted to be really open and try a bunch of things we hadn’t done before.”
Taking the best bits of pop and rock music from the past five decades (despite the guys having only been alive for a little over two), The Elwins have delivered a dose of dancy bliss that appeals to virtually anyone. “We definitely like making songs that make people want to move,” Sweeney says – and move they will.
Cuts like “You Have Me” and opener “Bubble” are brilliantly endearing blasts of ‘60s-inspired pop not far removed from the band’s earlier efforts. But meanwhile, lead single “So Down Low” laces some ‘70s garage swagger and extra grit into their signature sound. “Bringing Out The Shoulders” borrows from the best of ‘80s synth pop, and “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” could be a Katy Perry cover. It’s not, but it could be.
It’s a broad range of influence, but effortlessly blended and easily identifiable as The Elwins. The guys credit producer Derek Hoffmann with putting a welcome modern pop sheen on the record. Meanwhile, mixing came courtesy of the dynamic duo that is Gus van Go and Werner F (Hollerado, Said The Whale).
“In a way, we didn’t want to feel like we had to tie anything to the last record,” Sweeney says of their progression. “We wanted to do whatever we were feeling good about.”
One could say “feeling good” is at the very core of what The Elwins are all about, and nowhere is that more apparent than a live show, where the electric exchange of energy blurs the line between band and audience – sometimes sweaty, usually lively, always fun. With a packed 2015 touring schedule set to take them across the continent and over to Asia and Europe, where they’ve had major success on three separate tours supporting And I Thank You, fans will have plenty of opportunity to join the party.
But while the music and performances never take themselves too seriously, the same can’t be said for the band itself. “We’re very passionate about this, and we have lofty goals for this album” Sweeney says. “For us, this is our job. We’re about pushing ourselves as hard as we can to reach our goals.”
As of now, that goal is to have Play For Keeps reach as many ears as possible; fortunately, the music is so magnetic, so immediately inviting, that it won’t be much of a challenge. The work gets done by day, but come quitting time, The Elwins send out an open invitation to let loose and have fun.