A Collisions course with '80s new wave
Nodding in sound and style to new wave's heyday in the late 1970s and early '80s is one thing. Lots of bands have done it - some with a dash of fashion-conscious fun (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), some with a deadly dose of seriousness (Interpol). Doing it well enough to attract the attention of a bona fide member of one of the era's most iconic bands - and then recruiting him to play on your debut EP - is quite another.
But that's exactly what happened when the New Collisions, a fast-rising Cambridge band, reached out to former Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes online and invited him to check them out sometime.
"He came out to one of our shows and we just sort of asked him [to play], and it just happened," says New Collisions singer Sarah Guild, whose platinum-blond locks are nearly as bright as the hooks on her band's self-titled EP, which is being released digitally today. "It was as easy as it sounds, really."
Well, technically, flattery and a few old friendships might have had a little something to do with it too, according to Hawkes.
"[New Collisions guitarist Scott Guild] said, 'Whenever we try to get a keyboard player, we tell them we want them to play like Greg Hawkes' - so I liked him already," recalls Hawkes, breaking into a chuckle in a separate phone interview. "I saw them at Great Scott and again at the Middle East, and I thought they were really good. And as it happens, they were recording their EP with [producer] Anthony Resta, who is a friend of mine. I had been corresponding with Anthony and mentioning that we should work on a project together sometime, and this came along."
Hawkes, who played on four of the EP's five tracks (the lone exception being "The World Transformed," which is more of a brief atmospheric interlude, really), even plans to sit in with the band when the New Collisions take the stage at T.T. the Bear's tonight to celebrate the EP's release.
The material, written over two months and recorded during a three-day span at Resta's Bopnique Musique studio in Chelmsford, is nearly as new to the group as it is to the rest of us. Sarah Guild confesses she only just heard the final mixes for the EP - which, besides getting a digital release, will also be available as a customized multimedia flash drive - a couple of days before.
"Yeah, we were cutting it close," says Guild, who, with her husband and co-writing partner, Scott, had experimented as an acoustic duo before settling on the New Collisions. "This is our first rock band and our first opportunity to do what we love. I grew up with Pat Benatar, singing along to the radio, and Blondie. The strength of their vocals really inspired me to gravitate toward that '80s sound."
So too, she hopes, will audiences. The signs are encouraging. Clubgoers have quickly embraced the outfit, which formed roughly six months ago and now includes a rhythm section plucked from the excellent Britpop-leaning Boston band the Sterns. Even before they went into the studio to write and work on the EP, the delightfully frothy "Parachutes on the Dance Floor" fast became the group's calling card. On the EP, the number greatly benefits from canny, colorful production supplied by Resta, who knows a thing or three about the '80s new wave aesthetic, having played guitar with Missing Persons and produced sessions for, among others, Duran Duran and Blondie.
"I started off in the music business during that era, and it's funny how things come around," says Resta. "Kids today are digging that kind of sound, and that's exciting for me. I've got all these great old analog synthesizers and a lot of the instruments from that period. So we started hashing out arrangements and we had a chemistry, and it worked.
"When somebody has as much charisma as Sarah, I think there's an enormous potential," adds Resta. "They call it that 'certain something,' and they've got a lot of that going on. And I think they're going to continue to develop as songwriters."
Hawkes agrees with Resta's assessment, but sounds a tad startled that, some 31 years after the Cars released their debut album, fizzy pop melodies stirred by synthesizers are again in vogue: "It's obviously a nod to the '80s new wave sound - it's retro but it's modern."
SOUND & VISION In a mixed-media marriage of music and film, some of the city's most adventurous artists are collaborating on an audio-visual project being held tomorrow at the newly opened Center for the Arts at the Armory in Somerville. Mission of Burma's Roger Miller, Cul De Sac, and Caspian are just a few of the musicians and bands set to perform original musical works to accompany silent films by Rich Remsberg, Handcranked Productions, Dado Ramadani, and others. The show, dubbed "Split/Signal," starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 at www.brownpapertickets.com. For more info, go to www.SPLIT-SIGNAL.com.