After hearing Unamerican's self titled CD, I thought to myself, how brilliant that it took a pack of Brits to come to America and teach us about our American roots in music! How cheeky and bold and absolutely brilliant! With American music constantly changing and growing into new sounds and fusions and taking off into different directions, its nice to stop and remember what turned us all on to this in the first place. Explains singer/song writer Steve McEwan, "See, we're British, but the music sounds kind of American. Being in England, it makes sense. Being called Unamerican in England, we may sound like kind of a classical American rock band, but we're not, because we're from Britain. Hence Unamerican." Everyone clear on that now?
Unamerican is an English band, living the American dream with a story that is the stuff kids dream about when they are playing air guitar in their bedrooms and driving their parents crazy in the garage with mistuned guitars and loud, unfocused drum beats for hours on end. Their music is a mixture of airy melodies, blusey harmonies and catchy guitar pop that's loaded with hooks. Guitarist Matthew Crozer describes the music in this way: "We're a very, very powerful live band, you know? Very, sort of, loud and in your face. Not in a heavy rock or metal sort of way, right? But in a kind of . . . a kind of . . . its just good fun playing it is what it is!" And its good fun listening to it too! If you haven't already heard their first single, "She's a Bomb," you probably don't have the little ditty rolling around in your head constantly, like I do. But one listen and it sticks like glue. Some have likened it to the stylings of the Wallflowers, while others R.E.M., or even Nirvana. I personally hear many of their influences in the music and in McEwan's vocal style, but I also hear a freshness, a mark of their own in this music that makes it less of a rehash and more of a reminder and a thank you for their years spent listening and learning from such greats as Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Chuck Berry, and yes, even a few of their own - Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Genesis. I see things that I haven't seen in a while, like Matthew Crozer's inventive, percussive style of strumming the guitar with a drum stick to add a little spice to the music and inventive rhythms from Pete and Tim and Steve's "Nashville" tuning in several of the songs on the CD.
If you haven't bought the CD yet, you've only heard a tiny part of the stuff that people are talking about with the single. Other notable songs on the CD include "Mary's Son," "Wicked," "Make Up Your Mind," and the haunting and beautiful "If This Is The End." This song is one of my personal favorites, as it has quite the story behind it. Its sweeping guitar choruses and beautiful string arrangement (done by none other than Beck's father David Campbell) mask the dark, true story of a school chum who was so despondent after a break up with his girlfriend that he shot her and later hung himself in prison on Chirstmas Day - at the age of 16. Does it get any more tragic than that folks? Yet the beauty of this song is like a feather down quilt on a snowy day. It wraps you in its moment and soaks into your skin. It is worth the price of the CD in itself.
You might be asking yourself, how did these lads come to America in such a whirlwind and (currently) end up touring with The Who? You wouldn't believe it if I told you. No, really, you wouldn't. This is the most unusual story I've heard in a while. I am so used to interviewing bands who suddenly make it to the public's attention through one lucky break or another. But these breaks usually come after an average of ten years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Not so with Unamerican. They've been together a little less than three years. Several days prior to their first gig as "Unamerican," McEwan was faced with the departure of his drummer. It was a set back that almost caused the guys to pack it in. Fortunately for them, there was another musician out there who was contemplating "packing it in" and returning to a career as a sales associate at The Gap. That musician was current drummer, Tim Bye. McEwan asked him to help out and he figured he had nothing to lose, so he accepted the gig, 48 hours prior to their debut in a London club. That may not seem so unusual, but it gets better. After finally getting together, McEwan boasted that they would have a record deal by the time they played ten gigs! Can you imagine the nerve of someone saying that? Guess what? They were offered a record deal by a Universal affiliate within seven gigs! How's that for being the latest studs on the ranch? Too cool. So they are wisked off to America where they work with a who's who of talented people and laid down the tracks for this CD in a Nashville studio.
So after this fairy tale ride to the American public's attention, we are here in the present day, on tour with The Who. I asked to spend a few minutes with the guys after their set recently so I could give you all the straight scoop on their vibe. What I found were four guys, totally into their thing, making great music and having a ball tripping around with The Who. When asked if The Who was treating them well, I was told they were, but even if they stripped them naked and beat them, they would still be grateful. They made light of things like the over heated little dressing room they were in, prompting drummer Tim Bye to say "Sorry about the smell, it's not us." They give general propers to the musicians who came before them and couldn't be happier to be "Unamericans" in America. If you are lucky enough to see them in the near future, get ready for a night that is filled with musical memories of yesterday and their fresh sounds of today.
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