POSTED ON FEBRUARY 27, 2013:
Minding Oklahoma roots to stay golden
If you've been plugged into the local music scene, you probably remember Taddy Porter's emergence as the quartet showed up from Stillwater with a rock swagger and a sound that shared as much with the mid '70s arena and Southern rock of Grand Funk and Skynyrd as the garage rock energy of Jet and The Hives. There was an undeniable energy and charisma with the band, so it came as no big surprise when the band landed a record deal with Primary Wave Records.
By backing up their album with extensive touring, the group was able to start building a strong following amongst rock fans, even when paired up with modern rock acts like Saving Abel. Two years of touring took the band across the country and back, playing everything from clubs to theatres to arenas when opening a string of shows for Slash.
While such heavy touring could wear out some band, it merely fed the fire for Taddy Porter. Armed with even more experience and a refined vision for its music, the band hit the studio last fall and hunkered down to plan out the next step in its ascent to the top. The results of that planning were released this past Tuesday, as the band's sophomore album, Stay Golden, hit stores and digital outlets, revealing yet another layer in both the band's sound and influences.
Stay Golden is a bold step for the band in that instead of staying the course with the Southern rock swagger of its self-titled debut or playing towards the modern rock audience that it had been playing in front of, the band reached even further back into the rock and soul cannon to shape its latest disc.
Instead of digging into '70s rock, the band goes backwards, digging into British Invasion bands like The Zombies, The Animals, and Dave Clark Five as well as the early soul of Mavis Staples and the psychedelic rock of The Doors.
When discussing the new album with lead singer Andy Brewer, he said, "We took certain songs in the studio with us that just felt right. We knew that was us: we're not afraid or ashamed of our influences and at the end of the day we want to play what we like to listen to. When we formed, I was listening to a lot of Free and early Fleetwood Mac, with Peter Green, the bluesier stuff, so that's what came out."
"So, as we're listening to The Zombies and The Who, that's what's coming out with this record," Brewer added. "That and stuff like Mavis Staples. I owe a lot my style and vocals to the Motown artists. I wanted that call and response of the Motown sound and we wanted to get those background vocals that sounded like a group singing into a can -- dirty, but cool and with that kind of energy."
File Photo/Sarah Martin
"I have a certain style of singing," he acknowledged. "I'm more comfortable in a bluesy, soulful style, kind of like Joe Cocker, and we wanted to stay true to our influences, knowing we play a certain type of music, but not get put into a box with Southern rock or a certain type of music."
"We could go in a fuzzed out pop direction or a more soul driven Motown direction," Brewer continued. We had different areas we wanted to address, both as music listeners and musicians. If people listen to the record and don't get it, then it's kind of like a music lesson to me. I think ultimately that's what we wanted to do. We want people to know there's more than just '80s revivalist music -- and I don't know my way around a synth anyway. We just wanted to dig in and go back even more with this record."
And dig in, the band did. Tracks like "Changes" fully expose the band's British Invasion influences while lead single "The Fever" mixes in Motown influences and "You Can Count on Me" is straight soul, drawing form Stax and Motown.
When discussing the album's title, Stay Golden, Brewer said, "For us, it has multiple meanings. Even when we're making some changes, what we're doing is being honest and true to ourselves while still taking a step to a place we've never been before."
"There was a lot of symbolism in the first album for us, putting the Scissortail on the cover," he explained. "I was born and raised here and above all else, we're a band from Oklahoma."
"Stay Golden also pays homage to Oklahoma," he continued. "The Outsiders was written by a woman from Oklahoma [S.E. Hinton] and the movie was filmed in Oklahoma. The album title kind of references that, plus is an homage to Robert Frost that she included in the book, from his poem 'Nothing Gold Can Stay.' It's just really about staying true to who we are."
With Stay Golden, Taddy Porter has tapped into its influences and mined a whole new layer in its sound, taking classic rock and putting a modern spin on it. Fortunately, the band's label, Primary Wave Records, is supportive of the band as it continues to develop. That's not something that's lost on brewer or his band mates.
"We're REALLY one of the few bands that have the opportunity to write albums that are not necessarily influenced by the record label," Brewer said. "We've looked at a few friends that got signed around the same time we did and they're not bands anymore. A lot of bands only get one shot to prove themselves, and sometimes if you're a good band it takes time to gel and find your place."
"We've been lucky enough to be part of a label and group that allows us to experiment and try new things," Brewer said. "They want us to find ourselves and our comfortable spot, and they've given us the freedom to find ourselves."
"We have it a lot better than some bands do. You can take that for granted sometimes -- almost everybody does," he admitted. "But now that we're a little more seasoned, we realize just how good we have it. I remember the words they told us: 'We're going to break this band.' But I didn't really know what that meant. Now I know: They're giving us a great opportunity and putting us in front of enough people and places to get the chance to actually make an impact and win people over. That's a great thing and we're doing all we can to make the best of it."
With Stay Golden, Taddy Porter is moving in the right direction: staying true to themselves and giving rock a breath of fresh air by referring back to its roots. The band has a busy year ahead, as it plans on following up the album's release with a week of appearances at SXSW, then hitting the road in support of the record. Plans are in the works to play the summer festivals in front of large crowds as well as take the music to the clubs, so the band can really connect with its fans and hopefully get to Europe, where listeners have already been extremely receptive.
As for now, though, the band celebrates Stay Golden with a CD release party at Cain's Ballroom this Friday night, March 1, with The Bourgeois and The Del Toros opening the show at 8pm. Tickets are only $10 in advance, but you could win a pair by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and telling me why you love Taddy Porter or sharing your favorite Taddy song and why it's your favorite.
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