The garage rock group, consisting of Kemper Blair (bass), Stuart Holt (drums), Mark Miller (guitar), and Brent Delventhal (guitar), have been gracing Richmond with their electrifying tunes for years. Blair and Miller, the prominent songwriters for the band, started Sports Bar back in 2009 with another guitarist who promptly moved out of the country, resulting in the addition of Holt and Delventhal, which has been the static lineup for the last five years.
In that time, they have had a few releases, but this album is a particular point of pride for the band. Holt said Sports Bar recorded eight to 10 songs roughly a year ago and three made the cut for the 7”.
“They just kind of made sense together,” he said.
The band tracked the songs themselves in their Richmond practice space and recruited local music magician Bryan Walthall,to mix the songs. Finally, Dan Millici of Engine Room, a New York-based studio took care of mastering.
It was upon hearing those final tracks when the band really got excited. “After Bryan mixed it, we were super pumped, we were like, ‘this is awesome,’” said Holt. “But when we heard the mastering, that was the first time we were like ‘holy crap.’”
They definitely have something to be proud of. Surf feels with garage drive have seldom coexisted so naturally.
The three-song release makes for a short listen, but boy is it a sweet one. Bright clean guitars with some grit and driven, fuzzy, bass – this album doesn’t lose momentum. Even in the theatrical few second pause in the first track, “Roll High, Lie Well (Kuriki)” you’re waiting on that dormant energy to be launched in your ears for a full on blitz of whatever part of the brain makes you need to dance.
I looked it up, it’s the cerebellum. These songs are gonna light that bad boy up.
“Roll High, Lie Well” is Sports Bar’s first time featuring a guest vocalist. Candace Kramer, who is in fact married to Holt, gifts the song with wonderfully animated vocals – the chemistry shows.
You can really hear why these three songs were chosen from the pool of ready material. “Free Drugs” is the second track and it’s the perfect buffer between “Roll High, Lie Well”, and “Cut the Cord”, the closing track. It slows things down in tempo but not in energy. A gradual build up through the song led by clever, sappy lyrics reminiscing a seemingly strained romance and taking drugs.
“Cut the Cord” brings it home perfectly. Arpeggiated chords with just enough grittiness layered with a dreamy descending guitar melody starts the song with a school dance-ballad vibe. Sweet and touching now, but you know it’s only gonna get saucier after. And boy does it, just to bring you right back to that familiar melody with a bit more intensity.
The album is now available on bandcamp, but if you have the means to spin it, you should absolutely consider picking it up on vinyl.
“We like having it on vinyl,” said Holt. “Having it physical so if you come to a show you can buy it, take it home, listen to it. You know, the digital thing’s great, super convenient, but I think having it on vinyl – that’s what we are the most pumped about.”
Words by Greg Rosenberg, photo via DJ Williford