At the risk of coming off as a bit cocky, Matchbook Romance drummer Aaron Stern admits that he sees no limits on what his band can accomplish musically.
"I think a lot of bands justthey sort of mark themselves as they can only go so far," he says in an interview preceding their Thursday show at Croc Rock, as part of the Sub City Take Action Tour.
"They sort of screw themselves by setting the bar so low, that we can only go so far with music. Instead I feel like our band as people, our personalities, we kind of had the feeling we can do anything and go anywhere." If zVoices, the recently released second CD from the Poughkeepsie, NY band, is any indication, Matchbook Romance may well have the talent to make good on the group's considerable level of ambition.
The band's 2004 debut CD, Stories and Alibis, placed the band firmly within the so-called "emo/screamo" genre, with a set of high-energy guitar pop songs punctuated by a combination of sung and screamed vocals.
Matchbook Romance's songs were better than the average, but the music nonetheless didn't break any new ground or set the group apart from the many other bands working with some variation of the emo/screamo sound.
That all changes with Voices, a CD that will cause fans to re-think their first impressions of Matchbook Romance and should move the band beyond emo/screamo or any other trendy genre.
"This record is a showcase of where we've been over the past two years," said Stern, who, even if he's ambitious, seems quite down to earth and anything but full of himself.
"We've done a lot of touring. We've grown up. We've mastered our instruments much better. We've become better musicians. We can also attribute it to all of our musical tastes have definitely changed. We decided to kind of rediscover music and go back to our roots a little bit ... We went back andlistened to a lot of classic rock and kind of opened ourselves up to all different types of music and be inspired by everything.
"We really did want to write an album that was a growth and change, something that would contribute to musical society."
Where Stories & Alibis stuck mainly to hard-charging songs, Voices immediately sets a different tone. The first song, "You Can Run, But We'll Find You," opens with the gentle tones of a piano before building into a tense mid-tempo anthem. The song more readily conjures thoughts of Radiohead than an emo/screamo act like Dashboard Confessional. The more measured and spacious sound of that opening track carries through much of Voices, as songs like "Goody, Like Two Shoes" and "Say It Like You Mean it" all explore slower, more atmospheric terrain -- while also featuring far more intricate arrangements and richer melodies. Even the songs that rock hard, such as "Surrender" (not the Cheap Trick song) "Singing Bridges (We All Fall)" and "Monsters," have more of an anthemic and multi-faceted feel than the compact rockers that characterized "Stories & Alibis."
The shift in musical direction first surfaced in songs singer-guitarist Andrew Jordan brought to the band while on tour behind Stories & Alibis. Stern says at first he and his other bandmates, guitarist Ryan DePaolo and bassist Ryan Kienle, greeted the shift in musical direction with some uncertainty.
"A lot of his stuff was a lot slower, so there was a period of time where we were all worried," Stern says. "I was really worried because I was like man, this is nothing like our old stuff." In fact, Stern says he was the band member most concerned about whether the new songs would alienate fans of Stories & Alibis. a CD that had sold more than 200,000 copies.
"I was really trying to anchor down the band," he says. "We should explore this new song, but we've got to have a certain element that will have our old fans listening and enjoying it while gaining a whole bunch of new fans. I was definitely worried.
But first and foremost we wanted to write songs that did inspire us. That was the most important part because we didn't want to write an album that we just hated before it even came out."
And the material from Voices makes up a large chunk of the set Matchbook Romance tours this spring.
"We are the kind of band thatwe might sound better live honestly than we mightdo on CD," Stern says. "So we're practicing really hard to get these songs down as tight as they can possibly be. But we really want to keep a good mixture of some of the old stuff mixed in with a lot of the new songs."
"We want people to really be stoked ...The songs are really dynamic and so especially playing them live, you'll be able to experience the highs and lows of all of the songs."
"So we're really excited to play these songs."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun