Just Like So
Reinvention on a sophomore album is not uncommon. After all, several of the outfits lining the “buzz” bin—MGMT, Vampire Weekend, etc.—have made strong efforts to challenge themselves and their audiences on round two. Results are generally mixed, and the departures are completely understandable. Creative types don’t generally thrive in the “rinse and repeat” setting—everyone knows that.
In the case of the Like, an LA-based female foursome comprising the offspring of industry types both known and unknown, album two has been far more than a simple reinvention—it has been a rebirth.
“We are absolutely a totally new band,” says lead singer/guitarist/chief songwriter Elizabeth “Z” Berg. “The only reason we didn’t change our name is because it’s too hard to come up with a good band name these days. Otherwise, everything we do is really, totally different.”
For the Like, these drastic changes have been more akin to going through puberty or giving birth. Berg penned the bulk of the group’s 2005 debut (Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?) as a 15-year-old. Now 24 and still writing all the songs, she’s simply progressed according to her biological timeline. How many of us—assuming we have the ability to craft a snappy tune—would be delivering the same types of tracks now as we did at 15?
“It took awhile for me and us as a band to kind of figure out what we wanted to be,” Berg says. “There were a lot of changes going on around us, but I think that’s probably normal considering the stage we were at in our lives when we started.”
So, while all the histrionics of growing as artists may have some relevance here, the overriding force for change has simply been growing older. And the Like are far better as currently incarnated than in days of yore. The band’s recently issued second set, Release Me, eschews all the Josie and the Pussycats trappings of its predecessor and frolics between retro rock and hipster pop. The results are not strikingly novel, but Berg and company manage to marry the garage-y energy of ’60s stalwarts such as the Animals and the Kinks with the sugary taste of Weezer at their sweetest. The songs have a raw emotion and blissful energy that is lacking in our Pro Tools world, but they hold fast to the adage that a good melody is paramount—recording technique be damned.
That said, Release Me was recorded live in less than two weeks—including mixing and mastering—and was granted a helping hand by such “it” producers as Mark Ronson and Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald. While Berg served as the album’s visionary and architect, it was the production team who interpreted her message.
“I always wanted this sort of retro sound, but we weren’t able to capture it before,” Berg says. “During the recording process, we really worked to do it like they did in the old days. In fact, we recently toured the old Motown studios in Detroit, and we pretty much did everything like they did back then.”
The Like plan to tour the world as a “co-dependent gang”—Berg’s words—for the foreseeable future, but even as the miles on the van’s odometer rise, she’ll be working on new material. Songwriting isn’t just her career; it’s also her mechanism for coping in the world that surrounds her.
“I’m always writing new songs. . . . I have to,” she says. “If I weren’t allowed to, I think I’d go nuts. . . . It’s the way I process everything.”
While Berg has most recently interpreted her viewpoints and emotions into an upbeat low-fidelity bundle of fun and furry, things—like the world—are always changing.
The Like perform with DJ Rob Acosta at the Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; www.detroitbar.com. Thurs., Oct. 7, 9 p.m. $10. 21+.
This article appeared in print as "Ch-ch-ch-changes: The Like develop a new sound as they—literally—grow up."
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