Mr. Seconds, meet Mr. Wilson

If you’ve been around the

Kevin Seconds—spectacles make the <i>auteur</i>.

Kevin Seconds—spectacles make the auteur.

music scene for any amount of time, you’re probably well aware of Kevin Seconds. You may know him as owner and operator, with his wife Allyson, of Midtown’s True Love Coffeehouse. Or, you may know him as lead singer of the well-known straight-edge punk band 7 Seconds, or of Go National, the more popish group he shares with Allyson. Or, you might know him as a home-recording advocate or as a booker at a variety of area venues during the years.

But none of these descriptions adequately describes Seconds’ new CD, Such a Happy Clown, an EP of four upbeat pop songs that probably would spin his hardcore punk friends into a state of utter confusion.

But Seconds’ new release is not so much a diversion as fans of 7 Seconds might assume. Last year, Seconds released a full-length solo album, Heaven’s Near Wherever You Are, an album that staked a serious claim for Seconds’ pop-songwriting chops.

With his new CD, Seconds makes that claim explicit by referencing one of pop songwriting’s icons: Brian Wilson. “Warren [Bishop] from the Holy Men loaned me the Good Vibrations box set,” Seconds explains, “and I fell in love with Brian Wilson all over again. This time around, I noticed his genius more as a composer and producer, and it’s been a little hard to go back into my little home studio and do things the way I had been up until that point.”

There’s always a closet fear when a musician explicitly marks his or her influences. The cynical critic expects either a cheesy “in the style of” tribute (at best) or an album of hack-job covers (at worst). But, despite Wilson’s influence, Such a Happy Clown is not as over-the-top as one might fear. The reference to Smile-era Wilson is certainly present, particularly in the melodic vocal lines and in the added vocal harmonies, but thankfully, it is not all-consuming. In the end, the record sounds like a Kevin Seconds disc rather than a Brian Wilson tribute. Even the EP’s most specific reference to Wilson—the strange afterward to “I Guess I Could Hear (If I’d Just Try)"— ultimately seems rooted more in Seconds’ own style than in Wilson’s.

It’s apparent from the EP that what Seconds learned from listening to Wilson was related primarily to production: how to layer vocals and how to allow unplanned studio events to filter into the final mix. Like the Beach Boys did with the material recorded during their infamous Smile sessions, Seconds has allowed laughter, street noise and studio accidents to filter onto the CD, injecting a strange sense of mystery into the songs, something missing from the average pop recording all too often.

Despite the pressures of running his business (and his record label, Poprockit Recordings), Seconds’ solo projects continue to roll, including a new release by his current band, Go National, a split CD with Matt Skiba (of Alkaline Trio), and another split with Kepi (of Groovie Ghoulies), Jonah Matranga (of Onelinedrawing and New End Original) and Anton Barbeau. One can only hope that these releases continue to display Seconds’ newfound interests in studio experimentation.

Interested parties are directed to or to the True Love Coffeehouse for more information.