Human beings are simple creatures. We find comfort in familiarity, whether that be food, people or places. When it comes to music, familiarity can be tricky. Too much can breed mediocrity, too little can make the listener feel alienated.
Guelph rock band Odd Years gets the balance right. Made up of members of Cuff the Duke, Minotaurs and Lowlands, it is a supergroup of childhood friends who just so happened to all end up in music. On Slow Clap, they keep their feet firmly planted in rock classicism, but still keep things interesting thanks to their diverse backgrounds as musicians.
“With such a wide variety of influences we can draw from a bigger pool of ideas,” says AJ Johnson, of Cuff The Duke, via email. “Part of our process is allowing each other the opportunity to put their own musical voice to the songs. Sometimes it's right in line with where we think the song is going, but other times it surprises us and takes us down a new road."
The album has equal parts grit and glory thanks to hook-heavy guitar parts and magnificent harmonies. Echoes of Elvis Costello, the Beatles and Crazy Horse dance throughout, but never sounding like a throwback. Odd Years is the kind of band you hope to accidentally run into while in a dusty old dive bar off the trans-Canada highway in the middle of a snow storm. Good songs feed even the hungriest of souls.
"I love the way artists could create something totally new back then. Whether it was Elvis Presley or Elvis Costello they had the opportunity to bring something new to the table and they did. They were able to forge new territory and people waited to see what came next. I think in writing Slow Clap the aim, may it be true, was never to create something outrageously experimental, but to build on the sounds that influenced us — something familiar yet interesting. The idea was to make an energetic album that plays through top to bottom."
In a perfect pop world, it sometimes feels like guitar bands are struggling to find a place. Johnson is confident, though, that people will always crave the connection that comes with human-played instruments.
"There is an authenticity with guitar music that is hard to recreate with a computer. That being said, something created on a computer can inspire the way you would play an instrument in way that you have never thought of before and vice versa," explains Johnson. "I think people love the idea of a perfect-sounding song whether live or from a record but that's a tall order and not one I'm super into. If you listen back to songs that have held up for fifty years, they are ones where musicians were in a room playing the tune. The sounds were rich and the energy raw. Whether it's nostalgia or desire, I think people will always crave something human and physical."
Slow Clap is out April 14th on Missed Connection Records.
Listen to album track "Troubadour" below.