Debut album from the Bynars is awash in a different kind of feedback
As strange as it may seem, sometimes honesty really is the best policy. When it comes to romantic relationships and telling the boss whether you were making a personal call on company time, not so much.
But when Boston synth-popsters the Bynars decided to solicit frank feedback from total strangers about the three dozen-plus songs they were considering for their full-length debut album, telling the truth actually came in handy.
“We did this crazy thing,’’ says Bynars singer-guitarist Matt Jatkola. “We workshopped about 40 songs and set up this completely anonymous online ‘song study’ focus group. When we tell people they’re either like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing’ or they’re like, ‘Why? That’s not art.’
“So we asked a couple of questions,’’ he continues. “ ‘Do you like this? Would you buy it? What do you like about it?’ And we ended up with hundreds of strangers giving us their honest opinion.’’ The Bynars also kept their identity a secret. “Because we didn’t ask them to put their name to it, and they didn’t know who the band was, we got a real reaction from people. And some of it was very humbling!’’
Which, Jatkola says with a laugh, was exactly the response the band wanted. “We love our friends and family and appreciate their opinion, but they’re always going to say it’s pretty good,’’ he says. “But when you ask a stranger, that’s when the real, good stuff comes in. And we took the good stuff sometimes as being, ‘You guys suck,’ or ‘This song sucks,’ because bands go through their entire life span and nobody tells them that.’’
The fruits of the Bynars’ labors (not to mention those of several hundred opinionated listeners) can be found on the group’s self-titled album, released this week and being celebrated with a CD-release show at Great Scott on Wednesday night. “The Bynars’’ is a sparkly, spiky, adrenalized dash through a Rentals-meets-Passion Pit electro-pop dream that buzzes with Weezer-y guitars, old school new wave synth squiggles, and perky songs about weighty topics like asking your mom for money.
The album, which follows on the heels of the band’s three previously released EPs, is easily the Bynars’ most focused, fully realized work. It also caps a two-year writing effort during which Jatkola claims he wrote a song a day. “We had hundreds of songs to choose from,’’ he recalls. “And some of them were really bad.’’ Jatkola says he wants to acknowledge everyone who weighed in with suggestions about improving a chorus or deploying a guitar chord.
“Even though it was anonymous, there were a lot of people who did leave their e-mail,’’ he says. “So [when the album comes out] we’re going to e-mail those people to let them know they were super-helpful and that something came of it. These days, making an album is almost irrelevant but we wanted to be able to say we did it — it felt like something we were meant to do.’’
You could argue that the Bynars were also meant to be a band. Avid “Star Wars’’ geeks and “Star Trek’’ freaks — their name comes from the characters from “Next Generation’’ who are part-machine humanoids in constant contact with a mother computer — Jatkola and synth player Ben Mettey went to middle school together in central Massachusetts and sat next to each other in computer class. After attending separate high schools, they regrouped and played in an experimental, harder rocking outfit called Lights before doing a stylistic about-face with the Bynars. “My first choice for a band name was [another Trek-related moniker] ‘The Kind Borg,’ which sounded stupid,’’ Jatkola recalls with a laugh. That idea, he agrees, thankfully got voted down.
Jonathan Perry can be reached at email@example.com.