Once upon a time there was a band called Pela. Pela captivated me with their 2007 album Anytown Graffitti, regrettably released just when my show at KCRW was ending or I would have played the hell out of it there. As it was, I included their song “Lost To The Lonesome” on my “Best of May 2007” list and told anyone who would listen all about it. In October of 2007 I attended the College Music Journal convention in NYC and was lucky enough to catch them at the Bowery Ballroom. The show was memorable to me not only for their amazing performance but because the lead singer Billy McCarthy looked more like a highschool quarterback than an indie rocker. Not to mention a voice that could either be raspy and energetic like Bruce Springsteen or gorgeous and haunting like Gary Lightbody. Lush guitars that were engaging but not overly grand. Their influences, Bloc Party, Springsteen, Interpol were apparent but combined in such a non-conventional way, and with such a distinct sound of their own that it was only appealing. They were indie for sure and I was hooked. I was bummed when I heard that Pela were breaking up in 2009 after just one album and one EP. But looking on the bright side, I thought that maybe the breakup would eventually lead to more wonderful music, like when Uncle Tupelo morphed into Wilco and Son Volt. Or Minneapolis’ Lifter Puller became Brooklyn’s The Hold Steady.
Luckily, my wish came true. By 2011 Billy McCarthy and his Pela bandmate Eric Sanderson had formed a new band called We Are Augustines, recorded a bunch of songs they had been working on when Pela broke up, and released an album titled Rise Ye Sunken Ships that painfully (but beautifully) dealt with the death of McCarthy’s mother and the suicide of his brother. Three years later (they don’t rush things, do they?) we have what is already a 2014 highlight, the new Augustines album, self-titled. (Slight name change for the band from We Are Augustines to just The Augustines) It has all the qualities I loved about Pela and they’ve settled into themselves with a confidence that makes it even more appealing. It opens with a beautiful instrumental and the next song, Cruel City, should convert you if you are not already a fan. If you are tired of The National because their songs all sound the same or feel like The Arcade Fire is just a bit overwrought, The Augustines’ passionate restraint (I know that’s an oxymoron) might be just the ticket for you. And with about 50 U.S. and international dates coming up, they are sure to be near you soon!