City City b
Over the years I have noticed a large wave of bands that take their cues from the genres of decades past, most notably the industrial synths that became so prevalent in the early 90's. While these artists have found their niche, City City, an indie rock quintet from Los Angeles, takes it back even further and borrows a large portion of their overall sound from the synth heavy pop classics of the 1980's, with fantastic results. The upbeat, positive dance vibes that this band has managed to culminate are impressively fun and gives the listener a chance to really enjoy what made those original tracks so great in the first place. With their first full length album, 'City City,' the band has landed and heads have definitely begun to turn.
The opening track and first major single, 'I Don't Dance,' is a fun tune that starts off with a dreamy guitar and then slips into a majestic and upbeat tune, using synthesizers overlaid by a strong vocal performance by the band's lead singer, Dan McCollister. The video for the track is cool and joyous, as it follows the band's audition in a high school gym, in which one by one each member ditches their instruments in favor of dancing around on the stage, to which the judges and other school staff succumb and begin their own dance off in the gym. The video really gives us a glimpse into the type of vibe that the band puts off, bringing a genuinely happy glow to the listener. In the electronic 'Physical Touch,' keyboards abound and one is almost reminded of the type of sound that Tears for Fears might produce. The spacy 'Silver Stars' has a very driven and optimistic feel to it, then moves onto 'Bad Business,' a slower, darker track with intense vocals and plenty of synth electro-tunes. With a track like the funky, poppy 'The Midwest,' these guys really showcase the indie side of the band's sound, making for a wonderful collaboration that again propels the listener into a cheerful mood.
The lovely and light 'In The Dark' takes full advantage of the keyboards, while the next track, 'Blossom,' changes things up with quick, catchy riffs from an electric guitar that puts out a great dance beat. Finding the lighter side of a dark life is explored in the track 'Miss Mary on the Street,' a song reminiscent of Pat Benatar, then slips into 'Everybody Wants Somebody New,' an altruistic love song that make generous nods to the ballads of the 1980's but infused with a modern indie rock twist. In the fast paced 'The Truth and The Light' the band channels The Ramones and even Van Halen as they change gears effortlessly between the chunky guitar riffs and sweeping synthesizers. 'Johnny' is a poppy, catchy tune followed by the last track, 'Moving Through Life,' which finds the female vocalist, Claire Cetera, taking center stage and shining, and while the track slowly fades out to round out the album the listener is left with an irrefutable feeling of nostalgia and jubilation that can't be easily shaken.
I thoroughly enjoyed the effort this band has put forth, and while they continue their journey with the help of some well known musicians they are sure to thrive and connect with a broad audience. I am pleased to again have had the privilege of discovering an artist that is not afraid to take chances and experiment with what types of genres drive their enthusiasm, and with such successful results. These guys are only going to get bigger, and I wish them the best of luck in their travels.
I got a chance to sit down with Jarrett and Jeff of City City.
Tell me a bit about your background and why you formed City City.
Dan and Jeff met out in L.A.throughJeff’s roommate at the time, they quickly realized they were both from Nebraska, both had been in bands their whole life, and both had a deep love of Jesus Christ Superstar and proceeded to sing the entire musical together. They began writing and recording songs in Jeff’s home studio with their L.A.basedmusicianfriends. Soon they realized they needed to find permanent band members to bring City City to life. They heard through a friend that fellow Nebraskan Jarrett Portnoy (who went to high school with Jeff) was in L.A.asa session drummer. Next they needed to find a bassist and were delighted to discover classically trained Valerie Ngai, originally from Hawaii, after seeing her play with Sara Radle (The Rentals). Finally, they asked singer/songwriter and long time collaborator Claire Cetera to join them, completing the City City line-up.
What/Who are your musical influences?
Our musical influences are very eclectic, several of our members were classically trained and studied music in college, but we all grew up listening to pop. So you could say our musical influences range from Stravinsky and Ravel to Paul Simon and Phil Collins to bands today like Kindness and Ty Segall.
As noted in the band's bio, your music is heavily influenced by 80s and 90s synth pop. What appeals to you most about this genre and how do you translate that to make a more modern album?
Part of the reason we like that sound is that you could be very pop in your sensibilities and it wasn't considered uncool. You could sound very happy and upbeat and still have strong lyrics like The Smiths. Most of the things we take from that era are the sounds of the snare andsynthbass, we have a love of analog synths and gated reverbs. We don’t consciously think about it, this is just what comes out when we start playing in the studio. We feel lucky to have been raisedatsuch a critical and exciting time for pop music.
There is a genuinely positive feel that emanates from the album. Did you set out to make it that way or did it happen naturally?
Yes that’sdefinitely true… A lot of our earlier songs were critical of post-modern culture and had a darker cynicism to them. We really had to take a hard look at who we are and what we wanted to say. We realized that we are a band full of positive people, and what we really want to say is that life is short and if you have a dream you should go chase it. That's what we're doing right now, and this whole album really stems from where we are in our lives, while also tapping into the idea that having a dream (and the decision to go after that dream or play it safe) is a universal thing that everyone has to deal with.
How do you feel about the digital revolution in music and has it helped or hindered your success?
Overall weembrace the digital revolution, and wouldn't have been able record, write or communicate with our fans the way we do. Fifteen years ago, only a few artists were able to create professional sounding albums because you had to go to a studio, which cost a lot of money, and needed a label to fund and distribute their projects. Today anyonecan record on their laptop and instantly distribute it online. With so many bands and artists being able to do this, the amount of content out there has increased exponentially. While it’s easy to distribute music yourself,itshard to rise above all that noise...so there’s a trade-off. One of the greatest benefits of the digital revolution has been that our fans are becoming a more direct and influential part of City City. We now get instant feedback, support and inspiration as soon as we release something into the world.