It's cool to be able to observe a band's development from their beginnings as they plot and plan and record and gig and generally just try to make it in this crazy music industry. My good friend Sean is one part of the Embassy Sound Productions duo which is the nerve center of The Phenomenal Handclap Band. I remember Sean talking about everything from recording sessions, songwriting and label shopping so its great to see them getting some attention lately.
One thing I can say about PHCB is that they are not one of those, 'oh, we were just jamming one day and decided to form a band' kind of groups. No. Daniel Collas and Sean Marquand started with a vision, a sound and they built their band to play the songs and to project the aesthetic in mind. Now, I'm sure there have been changes along the way, but its refreshing to see a musical and aesthetic vision being fleshed out in real life. Sure, you might be saying, most "pop" music starts with a concept and then the evil record companies hire songwriters and pretty faces to embody the concept. These guys are way more old-school in that respect, more like Phil Spector or Motown's "The Corporation" - they have a musical vision and have pulled together the best team they could to make it sound and feel just the right way.
Listening to their soon to be released album (June 23, 2009) there are lots of different styles represented and unlike other old-school styled bands (Sharon Jones, El Michel's, etc) these guys don't stick that closely to tried and true genres. Some songs have a Brazilian flare (Sean is one part of the Brazilian Beat Brooklyn DJ duo and also produced, with Daniel, the Banda Uniao Black "comeback" album from a few years back), some chunky & funky seventies rock (think James Gang, Three Dog Night or Doobie Brothers), dance-floor funk (think Sly & the Family Stone), soundtrack moodiness and quirky soul music (think The Sylvers). Visually they have a coherent presentation in the couple shows I've seen with everyone dressed in white and a nod to Sergio Mendes' combos in their twin female vocalists. It's really something impressive to see.
The Phenomenal Handclap Band - Baby
YOU MUST CLICK ON THE ABOVE PLAYER TO LISTEN TO THIS TRACK - the Yahoo Media Player won't play this one.
This is their first single released stateside on Truth & Soul. I had the good fortune to see the core band members play this one at Sean's wedding last summer. I've ordered mine, have you? You can buy this single on Truth & Soul's website.
Another standout track ("15-20") has been released in the UK in limited supply, so grab it now before it's gone.
Some videos of them in action:
"You'll Disappear" - Live at The Rivington Lounge in New York City
"I've Been Born Again" - Live at SxSW and captured by NPR Music
Here's some great press they've gotten lately:
Playboy's 10 Bands To Watch For.
PHCB in NME
PHCP on Radio 1
The Phenomenal Handclap Band on MySpace
The Band's blog