Riffs and energy

Local alt-rockers Furlough Fridays push forward with new album and new lineup

Furlough Fridays rocking Shenanigan’s during The Maker’s Mile’s CD-release show (Sept. 20).

Furlough Fridays rocking Shenanigan’s during The Maker’s Mile’s CD-release show (Sept. 20).

PHOTO by howard hardee

Furlough Fridays album-release party, Friday, Oct. 10, 9 p.m., at LaSalles. Fall Rise, Dr. Luna and Skattered Bones open.
Cost: $7.
229 Broadway

Before becoming the drummer for local alt-rockers Furlough Fridays, JP Bergmann was the band’s most dedicated follower. As the husband of lead singer Linda Bergmann, he has, with rare exceptions, attended every show since the band formed in 2008.

And there have been hundreds of shows. Through a handful of lineup rearrangements—the four-piece is rounded out by another married couple, bassist Meagan Yates and guitarist Adam Yates—Furlough Fridays has been as active as any local rock band going. Linda estimated they played more than 100 shows in one year alone; for a long stretch, they played in Chico at least once a week.

In other words, JP knows the band’s sound—heavy rock made sticky-sweet with pop hooks—better than anyone. So when former drummer Sam Casale left town to study abroad and the group began auditioning for a new drummer, JP was highly critical.

“I was listening through the wall, just like, ‘No, no, no, no!’ They decided on one drummer and he didn’t have the right feel; didn’t have the right vibe for the band,” he said. “So I was like, fuck it. I’ll just learn the drums.”

The multi-instrumentalist and electronic-music programmer took to the task quickly—really quickly. The only practice JP was granted was running through the set list twice on the day of their first show with the new lineup. As he didn’t yet own a drum kit, he had to borrow one for the gig.

So, how’d it go?

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “It wasn’t the worst Furlough Fridays show ever.”

During an interview following a recent show at Shenanigan’s Bar & Grill (Sept. 20), the band members couldn’t agree on what was the worst Furlough Fridays show ever. Perhaps the time a mountain biker crashed into Meagan’s bass at a house party? Or when a stray dog walked across the stage—in a bar? Or a show in Santa Cruz, when they couldn’t hear each other and winged it entirely?

Of course, the band has had its share of triumphs: playing to thousands of spectators from the back of a moving truck during the Parade of Lights in downtown Chico, winning Z-Rock’s Money Shot Rock Fight at LaSalles last spring, winning Best Rock Act in the 2013 CAMMIES, and competing in the North State’s Hard Rock Café’s Battle of the Bands in 2012.

Now, Furlough Fridays is transitioning. Former lead guitarist Brian Larson moved on around the same time Casale left the band, and as married couples with kids, full-time jobs, and commutes—Adam and Meagan recently moved to Redding—the band has entered a distinctly different phase.

The forthcoming album, Divided, the band’s second full-length studio effort, was recorded at Energy Plant Arts in Chico more than a year ago, before Casale and Larson left the band. But they haven’t abandoned that material. For the last year or so, the band has been performing the Divided songs with their new lineup, settling into a stripped-down sound that has carried over into their creative process.

“We have written a lot of new music that is just formatted differently,” Linda said. “We don’t base our songs around a super-licky lead. We’re based more around songwriting, the riffs and the energy.”

Meagan said Furlough Fridays has always been, first and foremost, a live band. To that end, they opted to record Divided without a metronome. And while they recorded drums and vocals in separate rooms, they set it up so everyone could make eye contact and feed off the group’s energy. It worked. Compared with 2012’s Sliver, their first album, Divided sounds fluid and effortless. It’s also crunchy as hell.

One of the album’s standout tracks is “Still Water.” It starts with pretty chord arpeggiations, subtle amplifier feedback and crystal-clear vocals. In true Furlough Fridays fashion, that gives way to palm-muted power chords right out of the 1990s, with galloping drums building before the whole band comes together behind one huge riff and a wide open, ear-worm chorus.

“We’re not looking for moments to shred,” Adam explained. “We’re looking to unite and make something musical, harmonious and sweet.”