BOAT HAS ACQUIRED a bit of a local following. At all of the Seattle band's recent Portland shows—and I haven't missed one, because BOAT is fantastic—a group of overexcited young bros clamber to the front of the crowd, singing along to every word, gesticulating wildly with every note, tossing homemade confetti over the rest of the audience. It's the same guys at every show, a small group of ecstatic superfans that feels a little like a fraternity. While it sounds obnoxious, these guys are exactly right about BOAT: A little confetti in the hair never hurt anybody, and this is fun music, meant to have fun to.
Perhaps most importantly, it's still fun for the band, even five albums in. Just-released fifth effort Pretend to Be Brave was recorded last summer in Portland at Jackpot! Recording Studio with famed producer/engineer Larry Crane. "We worked on it from 10 am to 8 pm for five days," says the band's frontman, David Crane (no relation). "For us, though, it was really like a vacation. It didn't really feel like working. Jackpot! is right across the street from those food carts, and since there are no food carts up here [in Seattle], it was kind of like a haven for us.
"Larry, as it turns out, is really goofy, and we all followed his Tape Op books, so it was like recording with a legend," Crane continues. "I thought you would never talk about Elliott Smith with him or anything, but he was always bringing up ideas that Elliott Smith used to use to record things. He taught us this trick that you can add a chorus, so that you start with the chorus of the song and then delete it later, but it gets the energy of the song right, so that when you start the verse, it feels right and has a good tempo."
Pretend to Be Brave is not an about-face for BOAT. Its 12 über-catchy nuggets light up like firecrackers, popping and cracking and sparking, threatening your fingertips and annoying the neighbors. They're over almost as soon as they've begun. It is true, perhaps, that Pretend to Be Brave bears tiny motes of maturity, a few instances of somber awareness that maybe we're not as young as we used to be. For example, the album begins with a cowboy-movie minor chord, as opening track "Sharpshooters" examines a domestic relationship and the inevitable passage of time (exemplified by the lyric, "On the day that I turn 33/I'll be eating nachos but it won't be with my mom/It'll be with you"). Meanwhile, a baroque acoustic guitar and a guest vocal from Shelley Short propel the restrained, resigned "With the Sea at My Back" (before it concludes in an explosive, tropically tinged chorus: "Someone come save me, I want to survive!" sings Crane).
"I am still kind of afraid of dying and things like that, and so I think that comes through in some of the lyrics," Crane says. "This 'pretending to be brave' idea of just trying to—not hide from the inevitable, but sometimes I spend a lot of time dwelling on death, and making the most of every moment.
"A couple years ago we adopted the dog that's on the [album] cover," he continues. "And this whole idea of 'pretending to be brave'—he's a big coward, but he sticks his neck out for us and tries to scare people off, and I was obsessed with that idea: Is he really brave, or is he super freaked out and scared, and ends up scaring people away with his scared-ness? I was always scared of dogs growing up, and I was always a pretty timid kid. People say they feel this way when they have kids, but for me this dog has been a life-changing event."