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The Few: Now It's Overheard

story by tim mcmahan


 

 

Lazy-i: Sept. 3, 2003


The Few
w/Carmine
Sept. 9
The 49'r
49th and Dodge Sts.



Does having an indie rock heavy hitter behind the knobs in the studio make a difference?

Jaime Zwick of The Few says it does.

For their self-titled debut, the L.A. band enlisted the talent of Andy LeMaster and his Chase Park Transduction studio in Athens, Georgia. LeMaster, the frontman for Saddle Creek Records artist Now It's Overhead and contributor to Bright Eyes and Azure Ray, brings a unique style and sound to his recordings.

"Andy helped us shape where we wanted to go as a band," said Zwick, The Few's co-founder and bassist, calling from Davis, California, where the band was slated to play the second gig on the tour that brings them to The 49'r Sept. 9. "Our band was only a year old when we recorded that album, and we were pretty naïve in terms of arrangements. Andy took out a lot of parts that didn't make sense. He cleaned up our stuff."

How they came to work with LeMaster is part of the band's rather serendipitous origins. Zwick and Few vocalist/guitarist Jack Burnside have been pals since ninth grade, attending high school together on Los Angeles. They waited until their second year in college -- only two years ago -- to form a band, and used the age-old tradition of placing advertisements in trade newspapers to find drummer Pauline Mu and recently added lead guitarist Jonathan Zeitlin.

"Jonathan listed some good influences on his resume -- Weezer, Pavement, some other cooler bands -- it just made sense. He had the same goals and same ideas about music. We knew he was the right guy about 10 minutes into the try-out."

 

 

 

When still just a trio, the band caught the attention of PSB Records A&R guy Chris Nilsson while playing a gig at the infamous West Hollywood club The Roxy Theater. It was Nilsson who put the band in contact with LeMaster.

"Chris knew him, and we all were fans of Now It's Overhead," Zwick said. "So we moved to Athens for six months and recorded at Andy's studio when he was in town between Bright Eyes and Now It's Overhead tours."

LeMaster's deft, almost ethereal production touches can be heard all over the band's debut, released in May by PSB, as well as his vocals, guitars, keyboard and other weird noises added after the sessions were over.

"We basically played our songs for Andy live, then he reworked them and made suggestions," Zwick said of the sessions. "We trusted and respected him, and he added a bunch of cool sounds and layers. What he did for our album is more important than what he brings with his name."

The band's sound is classic indie-rock influenced by bands as diverse as Desaparecidos, The Replacement and LeMaster's own Now It's Overhead. The combined effect is a high-flying rattle and hum, a grinding bash of crackling, chiming college pop songs mostly about love and longing and feeling out of place.

Burnside's voice is a crusty blend of Oberst and Westerberg, right down to slight cringe that closes every phrase.

LeMaster's influence shines through quieter, more resonant songs like "Living in My Skin" and "Let Me Down," that sport the same rat-a-tat drum that earmarks a number of songs from Now It's Overhead's debut. Grinding pseudo punkers like "Far Away" and "Let Me Down" have plenty of Desa overhang, minus the political aftertaste, while "Dead Flowers," with its line "I think I'll pour another one / 'Til it don't matter anymore" has the same lost-generation melancholy as The Replacements' "Here Comes a Regular" or "Unsatisfied."

Zwick acknowledges that hooking up with LeMaster had benefits beyond the studio. "It does make it a little easier because people know his work. It gives us a little bit more credibility and the CD more of a chance of being heard."

Since its release, the CD peaked at No. 127 on the College Music Journal charts, Zwick said. Not bad for a debut by an unknown band on a tiny West Coast record label. Zwick credits almost constant touring for sales. "This is our third tour since we released the CD," he said, "and we plan to do another one that will lead up the CMJ conference in late October."


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Published in The Omaha Weekly-Reader Sept. 3, 2003. Copyright 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 


"We moved to Athens for six months and recorded at Andy's studio when he was in town between Bright Eyes and Now It's Overhead tours."