Monday, March 26, 2012

In The Spotlight--Somebody's Something

Galaxy faves Somebody's Something
Somebody's Something, like more than a few things in this world, started off in a Starbucks.  Zach Starkie said that he and Chelsy, "met through some people we knew and talked infrequently until we happened to run into each other," at the ubiquitous coffee house.  A conversation led to the formation of the duo that has played the Galaxy numerous times over the last year.  

"I'd been writing and recording songs for a few years and wanted to play out, so I asked Chelsy if she would want to play a set of her songs and we'd put a show together.  She told me she'd rather play songs together, so we started learning my songs and a few covers," says Zach.  Unbeknownst apparently to Zach, it was a perfect fit for Chelsy.  "Here's the thing," she says, "I couldn't write a song to save my life.  In my many years of musical experience, I've written a million 30-second blips, but nothing substantial.  When Zach came along and I realized he writes his own stuff, I was pretty excited about the prospect of being in a band with him."  

While Chelsy has her million short blips, anyone who knows Zach is aware that he has probably as many notebooks, filled with songs he's written over the years.  "When I write a song, it's generally a sort of organic process where lyrics and music happen a the same time, at least the bones of it.  I'll have a progression I like and I might just start singing nonsense, or maybe something coherent and I just let it grow from there.  Lyrics are important, and the music should be a reflection of them.  Even though I would love them to have a popular appeal, in the end they're just stories about me most of the time.  The good ones are anyway."  

Those initial structures serve as the framework for the final songs, which are definitely a collaborative effort.  "The songs were skeletons before, and Chelsy brings a lot of ideas to flesh them out.  They may have had harmonies, but she's really good at finding harmonies that sound natural for her voice.  On "The Distance Never Decreased," I played the chorus for her one time and she had come up with a part to sing with it.  The same thing happens with bass parts and the drum machine.  She's a talented musician who can hear what she wants and then either play it or sing it.  It makes the rehearsal time pretty easy, and it's rare that her ideas don't fit with a particular song."

Zach is right to point out that Chelsy is talented.  She pointed out that, "Another interesting effect that our band has had on my life is that I am now considered a "bassist". That's funny to me because I've played acoustic guitar and drums for 13 years.  Throughout those years, I sporadically picked up a bass guitar here and there, but never learned anything challenging or technically demanding.  Being in this band has greatly improved my bass-playing abilities, for which I'm grateful."

Chelsy cites Regina Spektor, Florence & The Machine, and The XX among her influences, which for what it's worth scores major points with me as I love all three of them!  Zach is clearly a child of the 90's, and follows in a long line of pop songwriters.  "My biggest influences are Elvis Costello and the Smashing Pumpkins.  I take a lot of lyrical inspiration from Elvis, he's got some clever lines that surprise me when I listen, and some playful rhyme schemes that I like.  I dig his straightforward aesthetic as well, especially in the 70s, but I also like how he's not afraid just to let a song be the song it should be.  He's hard to categorize," he says.

"Similarly", he continued, "the Pumpkins do similar things.  Billy Corgan knows how to write a song that appeals to people but seems to carry some real meaning, and I admire that.  It's great that the pumpkins have songs that are all over the map, but they're all connected.  The 90s in general had that.  So many people were writing music that was non-genre specific, so they just called it alternative or modern rock or whatever.  The same thing is going on with indie rock, but some bands kind of corner themselves with a genre, so you can tell the music is all by the same band, but just because it all sounds the same, not because it's all joined by some intangible connective musical tissue.  Sometimes the songs I write are punkish, sometimes they're grungy, sometimes they're folky," he concludes.

Anyone who has seen them can hear those different influences, though the band clearly has a vibe of their own.  They're not imitating their inspiration, they're crafting really great pop songs of their own from the space those pioneering artists help create.  The sets are varied, and include inspired and well done covers that showcase the duo's sound while fitting well within the context of their own writing.  If you didn't know the song you'd easily attribute it to them, a testament to their ability to not only craft songs worthy of being played along side those covers, but to work them seamlessly into the flow of their shows.  

As for their larger goals as a group, Zach says that, "the music thing is mostly based on having fun, but I also don't want to keep my creative output a secret.  The teacher in me would love it if someone were "helped" by one of our songs, like it cheered them up, or pumped them up, or made them not feel so alone or whatever.  I read once about a kid who didn't kill himself because "Everybody Hurts" came on his walkman on his way home from school.  I don't know that I want suicidal fans, but I'd like to think that something I felt and wrote about helped someone else through something similar."

You can catch up with them on facebook, where they're working to cross the 100 "like" threshold in conjunction with a demo they've been working on.  "This demo that's going to be unleashed is a 4 song (maybe 5, fandom depending) collection that we've been working on this year.  We're planning on selling physical copies, but making them special somehow.  We'd like them to come with a button and some sort of agreement that if you buy the demo you're privy to some secret stuff or a discount on the album it leads to.  If you get in at the ground floor, then you get a privilege of some sort.  I'd love to have "special" physical releases in the future like vinyl, but that's a way off.  We recorded in my apartment, despite neighbors who apparently like to go to sleep at 7 pm.  We're pretty amazed at how well it's turned out, considering how little we both know about recording/mixing/mastering."

You can next see Somebody's Something at Galaxy CDS as part of our Record Store Day evening bash on April 21st.  Once you've cleaned out the bins of collectible goodies at area independent record stores, spend your night with us.  We'll be featuring Auto Defiance, the student artists from Options Academy, and art by Christy Conrad.

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