West Michigan rock duo Simien the Whale spouts pop magic again after rising to the surface with a self-titled studio album. Harpoon the new CD Friday during their show at The Pyramid Scheme.
Tackling the band’s first “proper” full-length album, Simien the Whale’s Tory Peterson and Zachary Guy knew they wanted to spend the time and energy necessary to make sure the recording faithfully represented their take on soulful indie-pop and break-beat rock.
And that it was catchy.
More than two years after walking into Grand Rapids’ Mackinaw Harvest Music studios with 17 songs to shape and winnow, Simien the Whale has emerged with a self-titled 10-track album that stands out as one of the region’s best of the year with its distinctive approach to guitar-rock.
“We wanted them to be cohesive and all flow together really well, but also every song had to be a stand-alone,” Peterson explains. “With this one (album), we just took our time. We just wanted to get it right. … We’re kind of treating it as a fresh start.”
After producing and unveiling videos for two singles from the album – “Always Something Easier” and “Bend Not Break” – with Whiskey Neat LLC, the band officially celebrates release of the new CD at 7 p.m. Friday at The Pyramid Scheme, with Elliot Street Lunatic, Jake Stevens & the Little Ghosts and Biff Tannen also on the bill.
On Wednesday, Guy and Peterson appeared on Local Spins Live on News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW) – along with Peterson’s nearly 2-year-old daughter, Eleanor – to talk about the project and perform an acoustic rendition of one of those singles, “Always Something Easier.” You can listen to a podcast of the show here and watch a video of the performance below.
And just like darling little Eleanor in the arms of her daddy, it was impossible not to sway and bob to the infectious song that kicks off the new album.
“It is a pop record, so the vocals are forefront in the mix,” acknowledges Peterson.
The duo also emphasized “good guitar tones” in selecting and recording the tracks that best exemplify Simien the Whale’s indie-pop approach. “The 10 (songs) we put on the album are our best foot forward,” says Guy.
It’s an album that defines the band’s collaborative approach to its music, with several other musicians and producers pitching in. The duo, which likes to play “with different guys,” currently is “going steady” with drummer Greg Liceraga and Chicago guitarist Rob Jordan, who will join Simien the Whale for Friday’s CD-release show. (Read a review of the new album in the December edition of REVUE Magazine here.)
Indeed, before forming Simien the Whale several years ago, Guy and Peterson played with “different guys” in the popular and multi-faceted Jim Crawford Band, which boasted live shows that combined bracing original material with innovative covers of songs such as The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.”
The Beatles’ sway on Simien the Whale’s vocals and harmonies in particular are obvious, though Guy professes to one especially strong influence (and an unusual one for someone his age): “I love Sam Cooke. He’s the best, man.”
Perhaps that explains Simien the Whale’s soulful bent, which also meshes hip-hop rhythms with a pop sensibility. It’s that beguiling tack that the duo expects will help build their fan base and spread their music via iTunes and regional touring behind the new album.
That all starts Friday during the Pyramid Scheme album release show, in which the first 75 fans through the door will receive a free, special-edition CD printed just for this concert. All of those attending the all-ages show also will receive access to Simien the Whale’s “digital download vault,” which includes its 2008 debut EP, “1982.” Admission to the concert is $10.
A veteran journalist and former music writer for The Grand Rapids Press, John Sinkevics is editor and publisher of LocalSpins.com, profiling regional artists and commenting on West Michigan's music scene. He hosts "Local Spins Live" on News Talk 1340 AM in Grand Rapids at 11 a.m. Wednesdays, with a preview at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays on WLAV-FM (96.9). He also hosts the hour-long "Local Spins on WYCE" at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE-FM (88.1).
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