Ask anyone and they'll tell you that being a band is like being in a serious romantic relationship: there's bickering, there's doubt, there are times when you don't see eye to eye and when it's good, it's really fucking good. The mechanics of band marriage are what got in the way of Portland quartet Stateside last fall, when they took a little hiatus. "After the first CD came out, I was wondering basically, I was being a little baby, a little shit; I was sort of questioning if we were changing into something I was still excited to be a part of," says singer/guitarist Ben Whitesides. Like any mature relationship, Stateside decided the best thing was to take a break--get their bearings, see what they wanted to be.
But before the break, something magical happened. "We had one more show we had to do," explains bassist/vocalist Darrell Bourque, "and we were like, we don't have to do it cause we're no longer a band, but we felt obligated, so we did it and it was fun as hell. We didn't get together right after that, but it left it on good terms."
"It was like really good sex," confirms drummer/ vocalist Jake Morris.
So they left it to destiny. A few months later, Stateside (who also consists of guitarist/vocalist Murphy Kasiewicz) decided to give it one more try, and something magical happened--a new charisma was born in their rapturous, complex pop music; luckily for us, something clicked, and they decided to stay a band. But they changed their name to The Joggers, thanks to some poseurs in Tennessee who were already called Stateside, and they added huge harmonies over their crinkly triple-interplay of guitars. On their new record, The Joggers, the sound of four men harmonizing is almost maniacally gleeful, and their guitars are often all playing different notes at once, over danceable, accomplished drumming--it's really full, extra charming, and scrappily sounds like it's going to fall apart half the time from total exhilaration and it is Awesome.
"There's this one album of shapenote singing; it's old white spiritual music from the South, like an Alan Lomax record," explains Ben. "It had the coolest harmonies that were really unconventional, and I always thought it would be neat to take those harmonies and put them into a rock song. So the second track on the CD, we really emulate that. These songs are hundreds of years old, so we try to put them in a broad context. We don't want to take it too far, though; we don't want to do any 'four harmonies in rhapsody' or anything. But one part of bringing in more harmonies is trying to simplify the songs, breathe a little space into them, because so many of them had been such busy, noodle-y songs." Murphy's explanation of The Joggers' incredible harmonies is simpler: "We all have such big mouths, and we can't keep them closed, so it was really easy."
The juxtaposition of noodling and harmonizing works well for The Joggers, though; it makes it so their songs are extremely catchy and fun, but they don't step into piles of cliché or oversimplicity. Unexpected quirks, such as weird little guitar parts or drum fills that show up only once in a song, paired with the fact that all four of them have great voices, seem to be the key to Joggers longevity. So maybe they found true love, or maybe just a method that works. As Ben notes, they're always a work in progress: "We're just trying to do music that we're all proud of. We feel like we're on the right track, but we're definitely not there yet." Whatever path they choose, their distorted, raucous pop is paved with a shitload of fun; we should all be thankful The Joggers didn't get divorced.