Being in stride with tradition is a great thing, it keeps the original fires burning, but often bands attempt to recreate an era and then become an iteration of the past. 60's psychedelic and prog-rock was an evolution of 50's rock music. Jefferson Airplane was an evolution of Buddy Holly, not an iteration of him. Today, much modern rock music is an iteration of past eras, namely 90s commercial rock radio and 80s synth pop.
With Jeremy Dowd on drums, Roy Scavone on bass, Eli Medina and Omar Rosel on guitars, Gabe Medina playing keys and Edwin Stephens singing, fishermen, are not a clone or iteration of anything that came before, they are an evolution in the rock ‘n roll family tree. One of the best parts about listening to fishermen, is their music sounds like 2015. Their music takes existing sounds and styles and incorporates them in novel ways.
Some artists throughout history had such an impact on music history their influence is impossible to avoid. Many argue The Kinks’ influence can be heard in most rock music of today and they're not the only ones. I hear Radiohead in fishermen’s dual EPs, especially in “Fall” and Future Wives. Smart Kids’ bright and indestructible sense of adventure will be appreciated by listeners of Arcade Fire, M83 or The Temper Trap.
fishermen are often described by cherry picking components from a few of their songs and comparing them, but the overall sound of each song and the total feel of their music isn’t so readily pinpointed. Listening to Smart Kids and Future Wives – I noticed these EPs are not front-to-back or A sides/B sides, not before and after, or disc 1/disc 2, no. Smart Kids and Future Wives hit me all at once. Simultaneously. Side-by-side.
“Armed to the Teeth”, “Smart Kids” and "Fire Me Up" are radio ready, indie-rock songs that offer a gimmick-free good time. The texture and energy of Edwin Stephens’ voice is like that person you swear you’ve met before, but can’t quite place from where. The production enhances these large and energetic songs the way flavors and temperature compliment one another, there’s a balance between the studio touches and raw instrumentation. These songs are not only good in a cerebral sense or just from a production point of view – they’re damn cool to listen to.
“Fire Me Up” will echo in your mind like an heroic anthem of youth with towering guitars and infectious lyrics. I love the way this song is put together, the subtle backing instrumentation and even the large distortion is hard to place where those sounds came from: “is that a guitar? a synth? I’m not too sure but it sounds badass.”
“Armed to the Teeth” is a million dollar song. It comes out of the gate and unapologetically grabs your attention. It’s got the type of chorus hook that’s familiar yet has that new car smell. The choruses of “oh oh ohs” at the end of “Smart Kids” completes a feeling of looking back on an epic summer or the inspiring close of Hollywood thrill ride.
I’m in love with the downtempo song “Fall”, the minimalism and restraint exhibited throughout the track along with Stephens hitting the high note is absolutely gorgeous. Halfway through the song, the electronic beat and synthesizer combine wonderfully with the strings and the following vocoder filtered verse is a nice touch. Part of the peculiarity of “Fall” is its placement in the EPs. “Fall” could easily have fit among the songs on Future Wives but as the second track on Smart Kids, it adds to its impact as it doesn’t get lost in a set of similar sounding songs.
Future Wives is highly accessible even though these aren’t pop-rock songs with a radio format. The overall structure of each song on Future Wives is non-traditional, but it’s part of what makes this EP unique and interesting to listen to. Usually, a song will either grow on me, or I’ll love it from the first couple of measures. The first single from Future Wives, “All My Love”, did both. It’s one of those rare songs that you really like the first time you hear it, but then each time thereafter, you seem to find new reasons to like the song.
The old adage “it’s the notes you don’t play” is a powerful truth. “Circles as Squares” takes full advantage of negative space to add to the tension of the lyrics’ meaning. The intentional repetition on “Circles as Squares”, a song reportedly about a break-up, breathes deeper meaning into the lyrics in such a beautiful and subtle way, you almost don’t notice the loops.
The EPs were mostly recorded at the Ashby House studio here in San Antonio and was produced and mixed by the band themselves. They rerecorded a few parts like the drums and some vocals at Harter Studios with Jon Harter and according to Stephens, Harter “was a huge help as engineer but definitely had some key creative input, especially on ‘All My Love’.” fishermen sent the EPs to Sterling Sound in NYC for mastering and had Greg Calbi master Future Wives, he worked on Passion Pit’s Gossamer, St. Vincent’s self-titled and the Father John Misty records. Joe Laporta, who mastered Smart Kids, has mastering credits on Run The Jewels, Vampire Weekend and more.
The amount of talent and hard work it takes to produce music of this quality and construct a brilliant release plan is staggering, from the guitar hooks to the sound of Stephens’ voice to the listening party at the new co-work space, it pretty much takes the stars aligning to have something like Smart Kids/Futures Wives become a band’s first official release. The dual EPs are possibly one of the best collections of music by a San Antonio group in recent years, and are possibly two of the best 2015 EPs nationally. There really is something in the water...
catch fishermen Sunday, September 6th at Sam's Burger Joint -