by Nick Hancock
“What we don’t want to do is be that band that’s just touring traditional dingy rock clubs,” says John.
“But we don’t mind that,” says Brittany.
If you’re one of the lucky, in possession of a ticket to Silvertide’s sold out reunion show March 9th at the TLA, and if you haven’t already experienced the opening act, you might be unsure of what to expect. The name doesn’t give much away.
“A lot of bands can say, ‘We sound like this other band.’ And I don’t think that’s possible for John & Brittany. I think we just sound like ourselves,” guitarist/vocalist John Faye says.
Start Sinning, John & Brittany’s second album, released in January, is the realization of, in Faye’s words, “a real, aesthetic vision.”
“The record was titled before we even recorded a note. We knew we wanted it to have a certain kind of dark, organic sound that was still accessible in terms of melody and hooks and that kind of thing. And the themes are a lot more intense [than the first album’s], from a writing standpoint,” Faye explains.
Start Sinning deals grittily with love and addiction, often in tandem. It is certainly dark, but it begs no sympathy. This would appear to define John & Brittany’s direction for 2013—although it may sound like multiple directions.
“It’s super eclectic. We have a bluesy number, we have a punk number, a poppy one, and some straightforward rock,” says Brittany Rotondo, also guitar/vocals.
“That’s just the way we are. We love variety. It’s kind of exciting to not pigeonhole ourselves,” Faye adds.
Although it has the refreshing feel of a diverse playlist, Start Sinning is strikingly cohesive. The breadth of John & Brittany’s influences and stylistic versatility exists within what, despite the sometimes dramatic differences between the tracks’ style origins, remains a unified and identifiable sound.
The album motors forward from the title track, where liberal distortion and grungy intervals make a promise to lovers of bygone rock that is upheld by the rest of the album. Start Sinning is filled with nods to the perennial greats. “ZZZoloft” is a welcome and well-executed reminder of early punk rock. The Latin-swung “El Gato” is a creative, modernized take on the Western ballad. “Mississippi Fred,” the final song, exposes a classic blues influence that finds its way back to the rest of the album in the chorus.
Other songs are evidence of further, bolder exploration. “Paper Planes” features a sweet Beatles-esque transition into a bridge that places strings, courtesy Daniel DeJesus, in the forefront—something almost unforeseeable at the beginning of the album, but which sneaks in nonetheless with no noticeable disjuncture. Throughout the album, John & Brittany manage to change while staying the same.
If you’re one of those lucky ticketholders, you’ll be grateful John & Brittany are on the bill. If you’re not going to the TLA, take heart—chances are you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see them.
“It’s been extremely nonstop ever since the record came out, and we definitely planned it that way. We played six nights out of seven last week. And all of them have been, you know, off-the-beaten-path kinds of shows,” Faye says. “The reaction to the record has been really strong so far, which we’re really happy about. We had a very successful launch show at World Café at the end of December.”
Evidencing that success, along with the upcoming TLA show, was a thoroughly tight appearance on Radio 104.5’s “Live @ 5” Friday, February 15th. They performed “ZZZoloft” and covered The White Stripes’ “Fell in Love with a Girl” in a big, bluesy half-time before jacking it up to the original tempo.
Stops in the band’s future include the Dewey Beach Pop Festival in April. The duo plans to range wider.
“We’re going to be touring a little more extensively in the later spring and summertime. We’re definitely going to be doing some West Coast stuff,” Faye says.
With the deservedly successful Start Sinning under their belt and widening exposure, John & Brittany have a full head of steam going forward in 2013.