BASIE: Everything old is new again (again).
From the bulging glut of countryish rock/rockish country outfits, fronted by newly minted "outlaws" wearing fresh new cowboy boots (thanks Drive by Truckers) that litter the live music scene, emerges BASIE. Coming on like that breath of fresh air after you exit a 3 day used festival port-a-potty, the Huntington based 3 piece are here to make a lot of us sound obsolete, while sometimes using obsolete gear in the process:
I first became aware of BASIE, not through their music or the increasing hype surrounding the band, but through a series of cryptic images that kept popping up on my timeline, which according to guitarist/vocalist Kyle Grass, is by design. "I want our image to be also an experience . I want people to look at an image and get something out of it". Born from the ashes of an earlier band called Failure to Succeed, who drummer/programmer Danny Grass (and Kyle's brother) described as playing music for "protesting the government, in a way" the sometimes elusive Brothers Grass made the decision to get breezy, electronic, poppy, and most importantly, cool.
Comparable to contemporary bands like M83, 1975, and COIN, a band the brothers have a working relationship with through lead singer and fellow Huntington native Chase Lawrence, BASIE channels the triumphant hit song that would seem right at home in a John Hughes film. But not in the mimicking way that a band does when chasing THE NEXT BIG THING. BASIE takes the familiar and makes it new again. Nowhere is that more evident than with the release of their first single "I Don’t Care".
Stylized as "IDC", this song (that is just dying to be the summer hit of the year ala "Hey Ya") was produced with loose ties to an "L.A. producer", an experience that was as eye opening as it was fruitful for the band. It harkens back to the very best that 80's pop had to offer.
If The Talking Heads, Tears for Fears, or Level 42 tickles your nostalgic fancy then this band is for you. Having said that, it would be easy to get bogged down in the vintage feel of their sound, but that would be doing their songs a disservice. As much as BASIE's sound palate lends an ear to yesterday, it also forcefully makes you listen to the present. And there are fewer more noble efforts a band can engage in.
If there are knocks on this band, and I try to be fair and balanced around here, they are A) They don’t have enough material recorded to satisfy their fans (a problem that the Brothers Grass along with bass player Brad Hager promise to remedy soon), and B) The lyrics fall slightly on the pedestrian side, despite channeling Robert Smith's earnestness and romanticism. But this minor problem will be fixed after a few good soul crushing heart breaks. Remember, these guys are still young enough to know what is cool and still think that love lasts forever. And that’s a good place to be.
As much as their recorded repertoire is turning heads and has everyone in the scene talking, another indication of the kind of trailblazing BASIE is doing right now is that they are drawing people who wouldn't usually go see the run-of-the-mill guitar-based rock band that is so common on the club circuit. Especially here in the Tri-State area, we have a close knit scene and it is populated with many familiar faces. But at a BASIE show I'm seeing many many new faces-younger music fans coming to see that dope ass danceable pop band. It makes me feel old, in the best possible way. And that is telling of the potential they have.
In closing, as important as what this band is, what they aren't is just as important. Frank Zappa once said "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible" and BASIE unknowingly embodies that sentiment. So go to their Bandcamp page. Be sure to check out earlier tracks (and personal favorites) "Aluminum Love" and "Olivia". You'll be glad you did.