Funeral Advantage stirs emotions with reverb-soaked hooks
With many young bands, tunefulness and style vie for primacy. When the two share equal footing, as on “Body Is Dead,” the debut LP from Boston’s Funeral Advantage, listeners’ rewards are compounded.
But still more important is the emotional takeaway, says Tyler Kershaw, who conceived Funeral Advantage as a solo recording project in 2013, and now leads the five-piece live band. “I feel like style is the least important,” he adds. “I guess what I’m trying to process is a mood. It’s emotional music, any way you kind of cut it.”
What those specific emotions are can be hard to pick out, since much of the lyrical content is awash in effects one typically associates with music that might be labeled dream-pop, shoegaze, or indie: reverb, delay, jangly guitar leads. Kershaw, 25, who recorded the LP and his previous demos and singles between his parents’ home in Mansfield and his apartment in Allston, says he’s come to file his music under a much simpler designation.
“I was going with dream-pop for a while when I first started out, but now I’m just leaning toward pop,” he says. “If you listen to pop music nowadays, there’s sort of a dreamy quality to a lot of it anyway. That’s what is selling now — which is kind of strange.”
The style has recurred consistently among multiple generations of musicians who’ve discovered its blissful appeal and air of nostalgia and wistfulness, most recently during the blog-wave boom of the late oughts. Kershaw recognizes it’s a crowded field, but waves away a lot of it. “A lot of people say they’re shoegaze or dream-pop, but they’re not a purist, they’re just genre tourists,” he says, seemingly only half-joking.
Julio Anta, who’ll release the LP on his label the Native Sound, thinks the moniker fits. “I loved how perfectly this band represented dream-pop,” he said of first hearing the demo Kershaw sent to the label for consideration. It was, Anta says, a rare case in which he genuinely enjoyed an unsolicited project.
“On the one hand, they’re a pop band through and through: catchy choruses, upbeat instrumentals,” Anta says. “But on the other hand, you can’t deny the reverb everything seems to be drenched in.”
But to create songs like “You Sat Alone,” a standout on the record with its reverb-sodden vocals and echoing strums, Kershaw reached back further than dream-pop — even beyond the regularly referenced My Bloody Valentine, whose scope he’s partial to, if definitely not its volume — to an unlikely genre touchstone.
“I listened to a lot of George Harrison’s solo records when writing,” he says. “A lot of people don’t realize he was one of the first dream-pop artists. He had a lot of wall-of-sound, reverb-y, delayed guitar stuff like that. He was a big influence on this album.”
Harrison’s ear for a tune comes into play as well, even if Funeral Advantage’s hooks tend to be somewhat muted, and woven into the fabric of a song’s guitar work rather than pushed to the fore. Kershaw, whose first demos included a cover of a Cure B-side, says that he gets plenty of comparisons to that band — not to mention its frequently coupled contemporary act, the Smiths.
“I feel like it’s getting kind of lazy, some blog comparing us to the Smiths,” he says. “I play a Rickenbacker guitar, the same guitar Johnny Marr plays, so I feel like visually, immediately, people see us and their minds jump to Johnny. I’m definitely into that kind of guitar rock. I get the comparison to the Cure, but not the Smiths so much. Even though they’re one of my favorite bands, I don’t think we sound like them at all.”
Perhaps it’s just the general saddened affect. “The first couple records were really melancholic,” Kershaw admits. “I was going through a rough patch, and didn’t write anything but sad songs — I think this record is like 75 percent sad.” But, he adds, the album includes “Should Have Just Let Yourself Melt,” his first love song: “It’s definitely the happiest song I’ve ever written.” And definitely something to get nostalgic over, someday.
Somerville’s quest to become the cultural capital of the metro area continues apace this weekend with Artbeat 2015. The event brings together internationally influenced dance troupes, more than 80 craft vendors, and 15 bands spread across multiple stages. The series starts on Friday night in Seven Hills Park (behind the Somerville Theatre) with a diverse bill that includes the mariachi act Veronica Robles, ’80s-style saxophone disco from the perfectly named Ronald Reagan, and experimental-jazz veterans Club d’Elf. On Saturday performers spread through the Davis Square area, including appearances by psych-garage rockers Bong Wish and homegrown Somerville rock favorites such as Mount Peru, Soft Pyramids, and Eternals. Friday, 6-10 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.- 6 p.m; suggested donation $3. www.somervilleartscouncil.org/artbeat/2015
Opening for Mr. Twin Sister and Moon King
At: Middle East Upstairs, July 23 at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $14, advance $12. 617-864-3278, www.mideastclub.com