Photo By Lizzie Leigh
You hear a band name like "Robbers On High Street" and your mind runs through dark, seedy streets while you hold your wallet tight hoping you don't get mugged. When I first heard it, I was expecting some angry punk or something heavy. Instead, my ears were gladly surprised by the fun, pop sensibilities of Robbers on High Street
and their new album Hey There Golden Hair
. The six Brooklyin-ites are successfully able to blend brass hooks, catchy keyboards, and memorable melodies into a cohesive sound that brings back memories of when pop music was actually fun and interesting, not whatever is being auto-tuned through the airwaves of today.
Today's scene is one where tone trumps content and style kicks the crap out of substance. By choosing not to buy into this, Robbers On High Street stand apart. They utilize the rhythm section and the melodies of Ben Trokan to create something that stands out. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that it is a groundbreaking sound. You've heard before if your parents ever played the radio for you growing up. But Robbers On High Street are damn good at updating it for the contemporary landscape. You'll find yourself wanting to listen to Hey There Golden Hair
whenever you walk down the street on a sunny day. It's that kind of record.
The band has drawn comparisons to Spoon and Wilco, something that singer/guitarist Trokan has mixed feelings about. I was able to chat with Mr. Trokan recently as we discussed his band's new album, giving fans rides in their van, and his hatred for Aerosmith.
Your last album came out in 2007. Since then you've released two EPs. But why such a long gap between full length releases?
Actually we put out a 45 and a handful of songs, mostly covers on various compilations. Why so long? We just needed some time to regroup, take some time off and figure out if we wanted to keep going. Plus I had to finish up the songs and there's no reason to rush that. If we had put an album out in 2008 or 2009 it would have been awful.
You guys have been compared to bands like Spoon, The Avett Brothers, Wilco, and even some Elvis Costello. How do these comparisons make you feel? Does it add any pressure or influence how you write songs?
Sure I'll take it but the comparisons don't add any pressure or influence. I'm unfamiliar with The Avett Brothers and I'm not a huge Wilco fan but I love Elvis Costello and the first few Spoon records are awesome. I personally seem to get berated for sounding like Britt Daniels meanwhile there's dudes like Devandra Banhart who can rip off Marc Bolan (pun intended) to a tee and still get to boink Lindsay Lohan. When will our day come Lindsay?!
You guys are offering rides in your van, The Gentleman Cruiser, and even offering to record covers of fan requests to those who pre-order the new album, Hey There Golden Hair. Do you think being readily accessible by your fans is an important thing in today's music scene? And is there any song you would refuse to cover?
It's absolutely important given how saturated with music and bands everything has become. There's a ton of songs I would refuse but my all time most hated song is "Dude Looks Like A Lady." I wish that whole band would get shot into space already. I hope they wake up every morning and light a candle on their Jam-Master Jay shrine and donate millions annually to the Hollis Community Board in return for having a f*cking career beyond the '70s..
Back to The Gentleman's Cruiser, are you guys always gentlemen? Have you ever wanted to act un-gentlemanly at a show or to a fan?
We're followers of the Golden Rule. We're always Gentlemen to our fans and there's rarely occasions when we don't behave that way towards everyone, the occasional vending machine perhaps. Also, there's six of us man, do the right thing.
Hey There Golden Hair was recorded on analog. Do you think analog had a charm that digital recording doesn't? Does it help your sound? Would you ever consider making the jump to digital recording?
It absolutely has a charm and a sound. We did it for that but the process as well. We work on computers all day so the last thing we wanted was to go into a studio and hunch around a Mac, instead you're listening more and not editing bullshit that no one cares about anyway. Staying on tape the whole way makes for an active mix which is fun. We've recorded digitally before and who's to say we won't again, but we'd always start out tracking to tape.
You guys are from Brooklyn but you don't sound like most Brooklyn based bands. What do you think sets you apart?
There seems to be a heavy '90s influence in Brooklyn bands these days. That's not to say there's lots of great bands here but it's easily my least favorite decade for music. I think our songs are focused more on the melody and the rhythm section than say guitar distortion and vocal effects. I guess it's just different influences and song writing.
What's next for Robbers On High Street?
Going to do a West Coast run of shows, a record release at home, then some East Coast dates including CMJ and stuff. I dunno, I'm ready to make another record already.
Be sure to grab a free MP3 sample below, and if you like what you hear, buy Hey There Golden Here here
(out now!) and check out Robbers On High Street on their west coast tour.
9/14 San Diego - Bar Pink
9/15 West Hollywood - The Roxy Theatre
9/17 San Francisco - The Hotel Utah Saloon
9/19 Portland - Dog Fir Lounge
9/21 Seattle - Fun House
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MP3: "Hey Unbelievers"