For a bunch of reticent rockers from Costa Mesa, the New Limb crew likes to make a lot of noise. Made up of brothers Joey (vocals) and Adam Chavez (drums), Dan Perez (guitar) and Lauren Salamone (keys), the band releases its first full-length recording, Sounds People Can Hear, April 3, kicked off by a show that night at House of Blues in Anaheim.
But before the public gets a gander at the pretty, pastoral songs, the band invited friends and family to a private listening party at their shared abode for a peek into the what's been consuming the band since fall. To help guide listeners through the journey, the New Limb members displayed album artifacts that helped inspire the CD.
Laid out, numbered with corresponding descriptions, were some copies of lofty literature like Mark Pendergrast's hush-rock tome Ambient Century along with Harry Potter titles, the Bible, Sudafed (sniffle) Beatles lyrics, personal journals, a metal bracelet from Adam and Joey's musician father, a Woodstock album, a vintage mic and a hatchet.
"We have a lot of pent up aggression," Adam jokes about that last bit of inspiration. "It doesn't really come out in the music, I guess. Maybe our third album will be our thrash metal album." We have no doubt it will be the most beautifully melodic thrash we've set ears on.
The recording took form when a friend mentioned a producer who did double duty as his uncle. Tom Mgrdichian produced recordings for Air Supply, Stevie Wonder, Art Garfunkel, Jackson Browne back in the day, and now the New Limb--which makes total sense. The New Limb is Costa Mesa's indie rock version of Air Supply with a little Duran Duran thrown in for good measure.
Mgrdichian helped the soft rock hipsters refine their sound, acting as an editor for the young group. He started by giving the band track-by-track feedback. They ate up his knowledge and insight, building on the band's intimacy with a stranger's take.
Joey and Adam met Perez during high school in the Inland Empire. They moved to Orange County to attend Vanguard University and Biola Universities respectively. The band fully formed when Salamone met Adam at Vanguard University.
Adam approached Salamone about playing keyboards on a soundtrack to an experimental movie he was making as part of his course load. She had no ambition to rock, but the guys persuaded the classically-trained pianist and choral cutie to give it a whirl.
They sent their Iron and Wine-like quiescence to her with their voiceovers explaining what was missing. The glaring omission amounted to her feminine touch on keys and lush harmonies.
Now they cohabitate in a Fours Company-like household. The studio is attached. There are no excuses, no sick days. Even if one member had snot coming out his or her ears (see Sudafed, above), said band member plopped down and punched in until they had a CD in their hot little hands.
All that hard work paid off. The CD sounds butterfly-like beautiful, fragile like Fleet Foxes but strong as Superglue. From the finger-picking opener "Autumn Leaves" to "We Were Children" and back to the stunning cover of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" mashed with Cyndie Lauper's "Time After Time," it's hard not to get sucked into their sensitivity.
There is also a bit of geek alert going on here. "Cycle Mother Earth" was inspired by a statistics textbook, punctuated by pounding keyboards and kick drum percussion. "We are the dust," Joey sings, reminding us of human being interconnectedness while eschewing any preachiness.
"Ebb and Flow" has a bit of drone and synthesizer moodiness leading into "Birds and Stuff," conjuring Human League-style harmonizing. "If you will be my bird, I will be your bird, say the word," Joey and Salamone sing sanguinely.
"We Forgive You Gene" was inspired by John Knowles' 1959 coming-of-age novel A Separate Peace. With its swirling out of control cadence and frantic fret work, the anxiety of the novel's protagonist shines through as though it were the story's soundtrack.
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In some ways, Sounds People Can Hear is a soundtrack only the movie is what's going on behind closed doors in Costa Mesa. And it comes with Cliff Notes.
The New Limb perform with Kiev, Mississippi Man, Block and Canvas at House of Blues, Anaheim, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 520-2334; www.hob.com. Saturday, April 3, 8 p.m. $12.50. All ages.