So a few months ago, I received a page suggestion on Facebook. It was from a friend, a teacher at my sons' school, whose own son had a new band. I didn't know anything about them had never met Ben at that time, but of course had to go check it out. I clicked 'Like' for Silence by the Stereo, and it started me down the path of a very special little journey.
As samples and snippets would be posted, I liked what I heard. I suggested it to some more friends. I became Facebook friends with Jay A. Hansen (Jay A.H.) and Ben Leathers (The Professor). As a tentative release date was revealed for their debut EP, Recurring Themes, I thought, "Why not interview them?"
Ben was in Atlanta and was willing to meet for coffee and talk. We had a great conversation, and I really learned a lot about him and Jay and SBS and their music. Jay and I chatted by phone a few days later and clicked immediately. It was another fantastic hour of delving into what makes Silence by the Stereo. I listened to the mostly-finished tracks and liked it even more. I wrote a nice little article, which is currently in submission for publication, so I can't share it here yet.
What I can tell you is that it's a remarkable story. Jay A.H. went to L.A. Sound Gallery to record the third of his HuCK EP's. Ben was working at LASG. They bonded quickly, and Jay asked Ben to play on the EP, then later to play at the first show of the HuCk tour in January 2010. After that show at the Mint, they went with another musician to a house party in the Hollywood Hills and wrote three tracks that night.
That was the last time the two met face-to-face, or even spoke to each other. All of the work was done while Jay was in New York and Ben was in L.A. or Atlanta. Everything was passed via MP3 and worked out on a Mac. Regular text, email, Facebook and Twitter messages. Not one single phone call.
Now they have about 20 songs in process, including five finished ones that became the Recurring Themes EP, expectedt on iTunes in January 2011. You can sample it at ReverbNation or download the EP at Bandcamp.
Here are my impressions of the five tracks that make up the EP. My interpretations could be entirely different than Jay or Ben's, and they are welcome and encouraged to jump into the conversation. I hope you'll go check them out and listen for yourself.
Track 1 - Strange Daze
Through strange daze, peculiar ways/I'm just tryin' to make the best out of these phases/Strangers playing unusual games,/I'm just tryin' to survive between their folded pages
High energy but dark. It's all about the struggle with overcoming what bogs you down in yourself (addiction, depression, alienation) while simultaneously trying to fit into the world around you. You still have to find a way to push through, to be yourself, and not play the crazy games, because they helped get you into your hole in the first place.
Track 2 - Mus-i-c
Strangers look stranger/When they adore your way/In observation, yeah it's peculiar to picture the pose they place you in
Mellow, a little legato and unexpectedly melancholy. Jay told me he'd seen a pretty girl on the subway and started to think about what it must like to be her. Everyone has expectations of what it means to (seemingly) have everything, even though those preconceptions and judgments can be completely false and misleading. He goes on to sing about the beautiful girl who is his (real life) muse. Really, it's a sweet little love song.
Track 3 - Fancy Free Lovin' Kind
We got that fancy free lovin' kind/You rock that body/Make me blow my mind/Back to that fancy free lovin' kind/Make you remember why you're mine
Dancey and fun. Electronica. He's trying to get and keep a girl he's had before, maybe still has if they can both deal. If nothing else, they can dance and get naked and see if it can all be okay.
Track 4 - Compass
Now you see I got a broken soul/How'm I suppose to fix it?/It's been that way from the start/Now you can see my ignorance
Urban and soulful. He's pleading for her to not leave. It's raw and touching, how he screams to the world for her, how he knows how amazing she is and how he'll do anything to get her to stay. This is my favorite track on the EP. I love it. I would marry it if I could.
Track 5 - Do you believe?
Do you believe it's meant to be?/Living such a clear life and now I can breathe/Do you believe in mystery?/Where beauty is all I see around me
Happy and melodic. When you get past the shit that brings you down, life is beautiful. Focus on the self and making it better from the inside, rather than look to external reinforcement. Even when it's a struggle, the inner peace at the end is worth it.
There's something in these five tracks that resonated with me immediately. (I told Jay recently that he's like 27-year-old male version of me.) There's a lot of talent in these two, and Recurring Themes makes me want to hear more. I'm excited that they'll be releasing a patient's guide to laxadazical persuasions, their first LP, later this year. I'm already ready for more.