Making hay with the dudes
The sun is still shining on Chico’s favorite pop-rockers
Every once in a while there is a special Chico band with a far-reaching sound (think: Mother Hips, Number One Gun) that puts out a recording that not only makes them big fish locally, but also makes waves in greater musical waters outside of our little pond. And for the past couple weeks I’ve been telling everyone who’d listen about a great new recording that would seem to have the potential for such a splash.
Post-Heroic, the new self-recorded, self-released album by local rockers Surrogate, is jarringly good. The 10-song collection is a perfectly recorded mixture of strong, tuneful, mostly mid-tempo pop rock held together by the inviting tenor of front man Chris Keene. If one of the songs showed up on your playlist between Death Cab for Cutie and Radiohead, I doubt you’d even blink. To put it succinctly: It sounds like music that is popular now, so much so in fact that the first thing that comes to mind is, “Why aren’t these guys signed?”
Well, they used to be. Thanks to ties that Keene had left over from his days as a member of Number One Gun, Surrogate was on Tooth & Nail Records for their first two albums. But since the release of the Diamonds and Pearls EP in 2011, the band has been on its own. And despite the obvious appeal of their recorded efforts, they’re not looking to do the get-signed/tour-the-country thing. So, the real question for a band still putting in the work might be …
“Why do we do this? … That’s kind of our persistent existential quandary,” said bassist Daniel Taylor during a recent conversation with him and Keene. “[I want] people who might like it to hear it, as opposed to people not hearing it all,” he explained about the band’s recordings, but mostly he said that creating and playing music with friends is satisfaction all its own.
Taylor has been busy pushing the band online, spreading the new recording across social media and sending it to music blogs in hopes of finding ears for the music. “In lieu of touring, this is kind of the next best thing,” he said.
Even with label support, touring would be tough for a group at the age where “real life” has mostly taken over band life: Taylor is finishing up law school. Keene is married and works full time at Build.com. Keyboardist Daniel Martin is a teacher and also married, and guitarist Michael Lee works several jobs and is recently engaged.
“We’re not really in a place where we can leave [for] three weeks,” said Keene.
In Chico, though, the band has been fully in the game. Post-Heroic is Surrogate’s fourth release recorded in town by Keene; the band has regularly taken home trophies in the CN&R’s annual CAMMIES awards (including Best Local Act, Best Album, Best Male Vocalist); and when they play LaSalles, as they will at a CD-release party Friday, April 5, they pack the large downtown club.
And Post-Heroic finds the band at the height of its powers. Part of the new album’s strength, and where its sound differs from the band’s previous recordings, is the comparatively raw overall sound and palpable energy of the playing. It was a concerted effort on Keene’s part to beef things up and capture more of a live-show sound. Additionally, with the departure of founding drummer Jordan Mallory last year, there naturally was a change in the sound of the drums, which were recorded by a rotation of the remaining members of the band, mostly the two Daniels.
After the CD-release show, the four will go back to their busy lives, and will even take the summer off as Taylor takes a hiatus to study for the bar exam. As for what’s next, that will likely include what it always has, namely the dudes getting together to make music, hang out and, as Taylor put it, “To make hay while our sun is still shining.” To which Keene added on without skipping a beat, “Before they put us out to pasture.”