Download: Explorers Club ‘Do You Love Me?’
Do you guys often perform on the street?
Jason Brewer (vocals, guitar, keyboards): We did when we went to New York City. We went out into the middle of rush hour foot traffic in Times Square and played. We parked ourselves with all our acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolins and accordions—right in front of this big stoplight where all these people were crossing the street. And they would stop and totally get into what we were doing. We’d play a couple of our songs, and then we’d play something like ‘Johnny B. Goode’ or a Beatles song to just catch people’s attention. Then we walked into Grand Central Station. We started playing, and seriously like sixty people gathered and were watching us. And all these tourists were totally getting into it. Then the police shut us down because we needed a permit. The cop was like, ‘You guys are really good. I love what you guys do. Get a permit.’
So the original Explorers Club—founded in 1904—encourages ‘scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space.’ What do you guys encourage exploration of?
I can tell you how we’ve done all those things. Jim Faust [vocals, guitar, keys, etc.] does back flips on stage sometimes. That’s his exploration of air and space. Last time we were in California, we all went to the ocean and attempted to boogie-board and stuff. I just walked in and got totally wiped out by this huge wave that pushed me all the way back to the shore. That was fun. Neil Thomas [drums], Jim, Wally Reddington [vocals, bass] and Dave Ellis [vocals, accordion, banjo, etc.] all are very amateur surfers. What was the other one—land? Well, everyone in the band except for me is big into skateboarding. In fact, Jim was supposed to do an interview with, like, Transworld Skateboarding about being in our band and being a skateboarder because he’s really good. He’s had a few smaller skateboard magazines take pictures of him because he skates really old school. We’re always looking for skate parks. So there you go.
Whose idea was it to make the album cover look like an old worn-out record sleeve, complete with the faded ring?
It was kind of a joint idea. I was really wanting the record cover to look like old Beach Boys records and Jan and Dean—even the instrumental surf records—where you have that big block lettering and fun pictures. And I wanted it to look like a cover where the record company put it together and not the band. That’s what they used to do in the ’60s—they’d just have this format. The ring wear—that was our designer’s idea. He was like, ‘Hey, I have all these old records in my office—I’m going to scan one and just put the pictures we take on top of it.’ So he did a really good job on that. The record sounds old, and I think it really appeals to the vinyl buyer.
So you prefer vinyl?
For sure. It sounds better. I like having things on CD. I like MP3s for my iPod for traveling. But to get a copy of Emitt Rhodes’ first record or something on vinyl—it just sounds so much better than the CD does. And I like our album better on vinyl. To me, the vinyl is what a record is supposed to sound like. Even before we had a record deal, I was like, ‘I want to make this sound like a real album. I don’t want it to sound like just some guys making a CD.’ Anybody can do that—they can make a demo at their local chop-shop studio. I’m totally thrilled that the first album I ever put out comes out on vinyl, too. It just makes me feel a little more like I’m doing it right. All your heroes, they made it on vinyl and they would take it home and play the acetates on their turntables for their families or friends. We got test pressings of our album before we got the CDs, and I was like, ‘This is great.’
The Allmusic review of Freedom Wind said, ‘They are trying to channel the Beach Boys, utterly, totally, completely, and they’re not pretending otherwise.’ Do you think that’s a fair assessment?
I think that when you do four-to-five part harmonies using falsettos and your two main influences are Brian Wilson and Phil Spector, I don’t have any room to really disagree with that. That California rock sound—like the Association, the Millennium, the later Phil Spector stuff, obviously the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, even the Righteous Brothers—that was a sound. It wasn’t just everybody doing the Beach Boys stuff. If you made a mix tape of like thirty songs by all those bands—the Mamas & the Papas, even—they’ve got a lot of the same instrumentation; they do all those stacked harmonies. That’s the music I love and listen to, so it just came out in the recordings. For sure—it’s Beach Boys influenced. The flipside of that coin is that the Beach Boys haven’t made a great record in like thirty-something years, so no one’s holding up the guard for that sound.
So you’re kind of filling a void?
I’m not that egotistical, but you know what I mean. I thought to myself, ‘No one’s doing this stuff right now; I’m going to do it.’ There are bands that have that influence, but nobody’s trying to just do the sound. I think we do have our own sound to a degree. Yeah, it sounds like the Beach Boys, but to me it’s just that orchestral harmonic pop. If you listen to the record, there are definitely Beatles influences. And influences like Billy Preston and Glen Campbell and some ’60s country stuff. Even some Simon and Garfunkel. There’s a lot of Motown influence. The song on our record called ‘Hold Me Tight’—it’s really influenced by ‘The Tracks of My Tears’ by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. And there’s Temptations-style harmonies. It’s all over the place. I think a lot of the time with these reviewers, they listen to like, ‘Forever,’ ‘Do You Love Me,’ and ‘Last Kiss,’ and then they’re like, ‘OK, Beach Boys—whatever.’ They listen to the three songs that are on MySpace and just review it that way. They’re not listening to the other parts of the record. So I don’t mind those comparisons. Being compared to one of the greatest pop minds of all times—that’s very nice. It’s better than somebody comparing you to the Doors or something.
—Thomas McMahon IV