Week in Pop: Emotional, OHMSLICE, The Sour Notes, Stanley

Sjimon Gompers

The real cool world of pop wizards Emotional; polyptych Polaroid photos courtesy of Colin Arlen.

The Sour Notes

Houston by Austin’s The Sour Notes leader, Jared Paul Boulanger; photographed by Eric Morales.

Since roughly around 2007, The Sour Notes have been one of the lesser sung DIY phenomenons from the American heartland. A sincere visions that began at Jared Paul Boulanger’s Montrose, Museum District of Houston garage apartment has continued onward via a rotating collective collaborative cast of friends. Currently based out of Austin, The Sour Notes announce their brand new album Darkest Sour available November 24 (aka Black Friday) through No Play Music, with the follow-up Finest Sour 7″ in toe. With mixing/mastering provided by Steve Christensen & Joe LaPorta—Boulanger’s original inception that has been carried over from The Meat of the Fruit EP, the albums Received in Bitterness, It’s Not Gonna Be Pretty, Last Looks, Do What May, countless covers, splits, singles & more is exalted & accentuated with the brightest & sweetest sounds yet from The Sour Notes chronicles.

Presenting the world premiere of “Stay Close – Free For the Taking”, we bring a first listen to The Sour Notes brightest pop melodies where a multitude of up-bubbling feelings rise up like a team of butterflies that spring out from the center of the human spirit in song. What was originally in the beginning an unfinished song bridged with something totally new [a la “A Day in the Life“]—Jared Boulanger described the songs’ origins to us with the following process notes:

I originally wrote “Stay Close” as a short, single track that slowed down into an outro at the end, but it never really felt quite finished to me. I remember listening to Wilco’s “Heavy Metal Drummer” and how I liked the way the drums had that hard-cut in the beginning. I ended up playing around with outro ideas based around that Wilco studio-trick and ended up writing a whole new song that connected to “Stay Close” called “Free For the Taking”. We always connect the two songs live and it feels cool to pull out quick, dramatic changes like that.

“Stay Close – Free For the Taking” is perfect pop. This is what happens when artists, groups, collectives, collaborators & the like forget about trying to sound new or emulate whatever the hell everyone else is doing. Make no mistake about this—The Sour Notes are making the music that they want to listen to, tossing out rulebooks and its place their own guideline self-penned handbooks & sketches that signal ecstatic expressions that revolve around connections where every aspect of emotive immediacy is accessed in a way that feels very real.

The Houston by way of Austin group indulges in what events might find that in lyrics like “whatever happens, happens” that emphasizes the importance of having an open heart for loved ones that is both inclusive for those who know & excludes those who don’t get it. Like the unpredictable audio arts exhibited by their similarly minded pop contemporaries Friend Roulette out of NYC; The Sour Notes do not pander to anyone or anything & offer up arrangements that treat the audience with surprises at every twist & turn, bend, break, hook & couplet. “Stay Close – Free For the Taking” is a song that summons sun-shining days when the overcast gray cloud-casts get you down-Jared & company remind you that you have a friend, that you are loved & cared for. It’s as if The Sour Notes materialize from the speaker to give their adorning listeners a group-hug style boost of encouragement.

Jumping high with The Sour Notes; press photo courtesy of the band.

We had the change to catch up with The Sour Notes’ own Jared Paul Boulanger in the following interview discussion:

Bring us up to date on everything that is new & good with the group since we last talked, circa 2014’s Do What May.

We were fortunate to tour heavily around the country in support of Do What May, and got to perform at a bunch of festivals which is always a lot of fun. Since then, we’ve been hitting it hard in the studio, recording a glut of material and the floor is always a mess of cords…so just roll the tape, ’cause nothing’s changed as Blake Schwarzenbach would say.

How has the group’s overall vision & ethos evolved over the past three plus years?

We’ve gone through so many experiences as a band, I now feel that I am finally finding my footing on the delicate balancing act of not losing the initiative to record constantly, while maintaining the live act. Austin lends itself to local acts performing live frequently, so we’ve really taken the time to test out a wealth of new material that we are eager to steadily release in the coming months!

Give us all the inside details & notes from working with Steve Christensen and Joe LaPorta on the new album, Darkest Sour.

It has actually been really amazing to watch those folks evolve over time. The same two folks that have mixed and mastered every one of our songs are now Grammy winners, and they STILL respond to our emails! They are exceptional craftsmen through and through, that’s what drew us to working with them as we are incredibly micro-manage-y when it comes to our mixing/mastering sessions. It is definitely the most rewarding part of band stuff, hearing the result of their wizardry.

Tell us more about how you connected two disparate songs together to make the remarkable & striking “Stay Close – Free For the Taking” suite.

I originally wrote “Stay Close” as a short, two-minute track that slowed down into an outro at the end, but it never really felt quite finished to me. I remember listening to Wilco’s “Heavy Metal Drummer” and how I liked the way the drums had that hard-cut in the beginning. I ended up playing around with outro ideas based around that Wilco studio-trick and ended up writing a whole new song that connected to “Stay Close” on accident. We connect the two songs live, just like the recording… and it feels cool to pull out quick, dramatic changes like that during the show.

What sorts of big creative/personal breakthroughs were made during this recording process?

The first recording session for Darkest Sour actually took place just a few months after our 2014 album, Do What May came out. The band had been riding on such a wave of productivity and touring, that I felt it necessary to take our time on whatever material surfaced next. When I started the band, we used 5 keyboards on stage and guitars were kind of a secondary instrument. Over time, I found myself diving into guitar more and nowadays, I tend to seek out appropriate guitar/synth solos and instrumental breaks. I even got to play around with the ebow a bit on “Free For the Taking”.

Latest from the Austin scene circuits?

Electronic/experimental bands are finally gaining more traction in Austin, even though most of them have been going hard at it for years…so that’s cool! Austin is the kind of town that helps artists get their time to shine for whatever reason: fresh ideas from people relocating here, what’s happening politically, what’s popular on TV, etc…Scenes are made, recalled and change all the time… only bad thing about the current Electro-boom is that alot of new acts are popping up, consisting of people just singing over backing tracks on a laptop, which I find very challenging to enjoy as a person who goes out to see live music multiple times a week. Check out what’s happening with Holodek Records’ bands if you’d like an example of what’s really exciting and organic about Austin music currently.

cover of Darkest Sour

Best things about Austin right now?

It’s easy to take a place like Austin for granted because there are so many creatives hustling on a daily basis and the community is so reciprocating, it’s not until we go out of town or on tour do we realize that it is not like that everywhere else. Folks here are really sensitive to supporting each other’s endeavors, creative or otherwise. Maybe it’s because everyone has to have a side gig to be able to afford to live here!

Least best things happening in Austin right now?

There’s been a lot of think-pieces about the skyrocketing cost of living in Austin, so no need to go into more of that…it’s all true. All we can hope is that more of the folks moving to town will think about going to shows instead of yuppie hangs.

Important activism that everyone should get involved in?

We’re originally from Houston. If you can, please help Houston get back on it’s feet by donating to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

Artists & activists that you all are idolizing at the moment?

We’ve been listening to Angel Olsen’s My Woman a lot lately. The album is quite perfect as a whole and really showcases the depth of her voice and band’s diversity. We won tickets to see her live taping at ACL live last month and it really hit me on a gut level. It took me awhile to get into her at first—only hearing that single on her first album, but as everyone already knows—she’s the real deal.

Best things you all have heard/read/seen/etc lately?

I finally got to visit the new Austin Film Society theater, where we saw the ‘80s German film ‘Der Fan’. I’d never heard of the film before it was recommended by Austin’s only synth-specialty-store, Switched On. The electronic-esque film score was enough to slow and race your pulse… and the intensity of the film’s climax was enough to make you queasy, without being gorey. If you’re in Austin, I’d recommend checking out the unique film programming, curated by the AFS staff.

What to expect next from the future of The Sour Notes?

Our new album, Darkest Sour comes out Black Friday November 24, followed by a 7″ record called Finest Sour, featuring two songs not on the album. One of the latter songs, we recorded with Emily Beanblossom of Ruby Fray! Then, we’ll be releasing a 10 song cover album, which we’re mixing in Houston, TX the last week of September, surrounding our gig at Satellite Bar. The cover album is called This Is Not Our Music…from that, you can probably guess at least one band we covered on the tracklist.

The Sour Notes’ new album Darkest Sour will be available November 24 & the follow up 7″ Finest Sour via No Play Music.

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