Bridge Nine Records, 2013
Review by Kent Manthie
Lemuria, the oh-so-cool indie-pop trio from Buffalo, NY, have come out of hiding (finally!) and just recorded their third full-length CD, The Distance is So Big, for Bridge Nine Records. This is their second LP for Bridge Nine. Their full-length debut, Get Better, was recorded for Asian Man Records, back in 2008. Their second and previous album, Pebble, came out back in 2011, which, for me, at least, seems like just a small ripple in time, two years, is actually kind of a long time to wait for a new album from a band (unless you happen to be incurable perfectionists such as Steely Dan, Peter Gabriel or Radiohead, all of whom have been known to take up to two to three years to get an album satisfactorily finished) when said band has been making a splash and whose biggest fan base, no doubt, in the Buffalo area of New York and surrounding communities, start to get impatient. So, the trio, with the help, again, of J. Robbins, went back to Robbins’s studio and recorded their third CD, the aforementioned, The Distance is So Big, which will be out in about a week or so.
This new one is full of bouncy, upbeat, pop tunes that still retain that indie “edge” to it: not saccharine, not drivel, which is, often, the case with a lot of music described as “pop” – referring here to “Top 40” style “pop”. There are some good, standout tunes on this album, including “Scienceless”, “Dream Eater” and “Public Opinion Bath” – they all have good structure to them, the rhythm, the drumming especially, is really tight and just “pop, pop, pops”. Max Gregor, the current bassist, is a talented player who does more than just hack at one bassline in a song; he’s up and down the frets. What is may lack in originality, it makes up for with catchy hooks, bridges and solos as well as well-written lyrics.
No, Lemuria aren’t that kind of pop band; they aren’t heavy-rotation, Top 40, ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ teeny-bopper crap. They are pop in the sense that they play light-hearted, laidback, catchy tunes that have at least some variety to them as well as talent that goes into the songwriting and performing of the stuff. So, they may not be playing the most original, unique music around, but they have a pleasant vibe that comes across in their music.
Guitarist/vocalist Sheena Ozzella is a high-pitched chanteuse, with a beautifully plaintive voice who gives the songs on which she sings a verve that shimmers; at other times drummer Alex Kerns sings as well and the two often sing together on some tunes. These two are also the main songwriters. Kerns provides much of the lyrics while Sheena contributes her own ideas and the music. The band has had a bit of a hard time keeping bassists around. Their first one, Adam Verrick, left the band not long after they’re inauspicious beginnings in 2004, after they had recorded a number of 7” singles a, demo and played a number of live gigs in March, 2005. Verrick’s replacement was Jason Draper, who, heroically, stepped in to fill the gap shortly thereafter. In that period, Lemuria continued their spree of recording 7” records and playing smallish club shows; they were recording their 7”-ers on Alex Kerns’s own indie label, Art of the Underground (AOTU).
Then, in 2007, the band realized that, after a heavy schedule of touring and of recording more and more seven incher singles for AOTU, they reflected how the fact that Lemuria had never recorded a full-length album but that the fact of this had a positive outcome, thus far, in that, it didn’t lock them into a specific pigeonhole that having an album or two or three might’ve done and instead had given them more time and freedom to “find our sound” and to grow, musically, as a band. This time, they went back to Watchmen Studios, where they’d been making all the singles and finally set out to record a full-length CD, which eventually emerged as Get Better and it was, instead of AOTU, released on Asian Man Records. This debut full length album churned out a series of songs that were more atmospheric and a bit darker than their previous work, in part because of the recent death of lyricist Alex Kerns’s father, the grief of which was a catalyst for some cathartic songs. At the same time, Sheena and Jason Draper were also working, themselves, on some songs as well. This collaborative effort led to a well-developed debut.
In autumn of 2009, Lemuria again lost their bassist, Jason Draper, who wanted to concentrate on his new project, Failures’ Union. This time, a guy called Kyle Paton joined up for the open slot so the band could continue on their busy touring schedule. Still writing and playing shows, Lemuria, in April of 2010 announced they had officially signed with Bridge Nine Records, with whom they are still recording today.
In July, Lemuria decided to go with J. Robbins, who produced and recorded what was to be their follow-up CD, Pebble, which came out at the beginning of 2011. Unfortunately, though, during the mixing process of Pebble, Kyle Paton, the newest bassist, being a Canadian citizen, ran into some legal hassles crossing the border from Canada back to the US and that was a problem for both he and Lemuria, who had to keep the show going. So, what did they do? They hired, straight outta Texas, Max Gregor, who, is still with Lemuria, so it looks like the 4th time was the charm as far as bassists go for these guys.
To herald Pebble, Lemuria toured extensively and worked themselves to death. Then, after a break, in December, 2012 they started work with J. Robbins again and recorded at his studio and after 5-6 months of working -writing, rehearsing, recording, mixing, et cetera, they are now back with this pearly sparkler, The Distance is So Big. Check ’em out on Facebook or their home page (www.lemuria,com) to see about upcoming tour dates to find when they’ll be in your area. I’m sure, after being so accomplished in the live playing department, they put on a good show. –KM.