Every now and then a sound breaks free from the West Coast that shirks the confines of purposeful indie-obscurity to grow genuine legs of its own. Enter the Shilohs: a straight-laced Vancouver pop band not afraid to rock like dad. This quartet is unabashedly mining the ‘60s with one hand and swimming through outer space with the other.
Following in the footsteps of their critically acclaimed 2013 release So Wild, the Shilohs’ new self-titled record expands on the layered harmonies, soft croons, and jangly British Invasionesque licks of their previous works with a remarkable openness. Johnny Payne, who plays clean-toned guitar and sings with a beautiful romantic naiveté, is quick to note, however, that he doesn’t want the band pigeon-holed into a specific era of music.
“I’m sure the new [record] still sounds like [the ‘60s],” he says, “but we’re not a ‘60s band. We’re a band from 2008 onwards.”
While The Shilohs does retain an overall retro flavour, there is indeed a wider musical gamut being run here than just that. Payne points out that there are three songwriters on this record, and though he’s still in love with a certain moment in music (say, about the time Please Please Me arrived), he’s happy that other influences are finding their way onto tape—of course, they record analog.
Mike Komaszczuk (guitar) and Daniel Colussi (bass) both take shifts at the helm and help to bring the music to a more spacious and contemporary place, approaching the sensibility of West Coast pop comparable to that of Destroyer or the New Pornographers—and incidentally sharing in the same producers.
Where the British Invasion is forefront in songs like “Student of Nature”, which Payne knew he wanted to be a big orchestrated ‘60s pop song, songs like “Queen Light Queen Dark” and “Palm Readers” reside in a less dreamy love-struck state. “It’s more anecdotal,” remarks Payne of the album’s lessened emphasis on fictional love stories.
As for the dangers of biting on a time and place that aren’t necessarily your own, Payne has this to say: “If I do pay homage to something else in the song, I have to make sure it’s from a tasteful angle and it’s not just mimicry. But if you love music and you’re clever about it, music has always influenced other music.”
The Shilohs’ new eponymous album hits the streets May 13th.
By Matt Cote