The packed stage at the Camel is smoky and dimly lit.
The packed stage at the Camel is smoky and dimly lit. The room is warm – it’s the end of April so there’s a pretty gross mix of heat and humidity in the air outside and it’s managed to move inside as well.
But that hasn’t stopped RVA’s own Imaginary Sons, fully clad in shimmering sequined jackets like living rock’n’roll disco balls, from nearly busting the doors down at their recent record release show.
Blowing through their new album at break neck pace, the three-piece consisting of Kyle Hermann (bass and backup vocals), Tommy Crisafulli (guitar and vocals) and most recently Drew Shamyer (drums), had a lot to celebrate. The release of Don’t Impress Me is the culmination of a number of new stages for the band. It had been about a year and some change since the release of their first full length, Let it Beer. They also lost their former drummer and fellow song writer, Russell Redmond, as of early this year (though he’s featured and credited on the new release.)
But, going back, Imaginary Sons started about three years ago as a project for Crisafulli, Hermann and Redmond. Party sets and house shows lead to album releases (Let it Beer, recorded at Sound Check Studios by Brian Farquhar), and relationships with other local bands (Toxic Moxie) lead to collabs, but Don’t Impress Me shows an unanticipated maturity for a band known for burying themselves in elaborate, space-themed lore and generally having a cut-loose, party-time presence.
But don’t think that lore is missing on this new release – there’s plenty of space to explore and meaning to find between tracks.
“I would hope someone would delve into it pretty deeply, that’s what I do with my favorite albums, I dive in and make up stories about them even if they weren’t intended,” said Crisafulli when asked about a narrative behind Don’t Impress Me. “I think that’s the purpose of doing something like this is leaving it up to interpretation. I could tell you what it’s about, but everyone has their own thing about it.”
Recorded at Sound of Music Studios here in Richmond by John Morand and Greyson Goodenow, and released on Bossy Lil’ Thing Records, the new album was mostly recorded during a marathon, one day session in late December, 2015. With most of the tracks recorded, the Sons found free time between other recorded sessions at Sound of Music and tinkered for a few months to get the sound exactly where they needed it.
“There’s time’s I’d be there at 3 AM with [Morand],” said Crisafulli. “It was pretty much whenever we could get time.”
Planning on having such limited time, the Sons went into the studio with most of the album written, but that didn’t stop some of the surprises in studio.
“We did a lot of weird stuff with vocals like recording them in different rooms… tracking guitars using several amps at once to create a strong effect with a few delay channels,” said Crisafulli who, among other things, was pumped to have gotten the chance to sing through a telephone receiver.
“We had separate effects going to separate amps to make one giant tone,” he said. “It’s only the three of us, so the tone has to be pretty thick.”
Some of the tracks are updated versions of recent releases like “Taste the Waste” and “Sloburd.” But tracks like “Transmission from a Dead star” were only written about a week before and had only been played live twice.
“I wanted to do that on purpose so it seemed more organic,” said Crisafulli. “So it seemed like we were figuring it out while we were recording it.”
Other tracks, like “Palace of Electricity,” show the band getting into a bit more of a noodley-place.
“It’s fun, it’s one of those songs you can fall into,” said Hermann about “Palace” which he said was one of the more fun tracks to write. “When we came up with the heavy part initially, it was a lot of goofing off and laughing at it… but we ended up keeping it that way.”
The chemistry and studio time paid off as they managed to impress Bruce Smith who works at Sound of Music and runs Bossy Lil’ Thing records. They’d had a relationship with Sound of Music since recording “Taste the Waste” there in the fall of last year.
Smith brought the Sons on board and footed the bill for mastering the record at Kitchen Mastering in Chapel Hill. Crisafulli and Hermann traveled with the record to get it mastered and it was there the stars truly seemed to align for their new release.
While they were recording, the band found themselves flipping through a compendium of Scientific American articles. The archaic technical drawings would end up getting photo copied and collaged together to make the album cover, but one article in particular stood out – How to Forge a Rose out of Iron. The article would end up inspiring a track name, “How to Forge a Rose.”
So back at Kitchen Mastering, the two band members are sitting there watching their record get mastered, and Crisafulli notices one of the few things in the room that isn’t a speaker: a little rose forged out of iron.
“It brought everything full circle for me,” Crisafulli said. “Whatever it was, we were meant to master in that studio, cause that little iron rose was sitting there in the middle of the room.”
Was it fate? Will the Don’t Impress Me‘s and Imaginary Sons success hinge on such a star-crossed incident? Who knows – but you can play your part by buying the record here, keeping up with them on Facebook and catching them at their next live show, May 7th, at Gallery 5 with Channel 43 and Headless Mantis.