By Ian S. Port
By Tony Ware
By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
While Clapp's One Hundred Percent was bursting with fresh ideas, the Orange Peels' Square squeezed those ideas into tight song structures, inventive arrangements, and punchy playing. Winther's guitar leads moved effortlessly from surf rumble to country twang, adding depth and breadth to the songs, while Pries' bass playing and Vickers' drumming fleshed out the material further. Clapp's songwriting sounded more confident and his singing felt sugary in all the right places. In another time or place, songs like "Love Coming Down" would've been Top 40 hits.
Unfortunately, the band claims that the label had a laissez-faire attitude toward promotion. "Minty Fresh's philosophy was just "Put it out there and see what happens,'" Winther says.
""You guys will be just like the Cardigans,'" Clapp mimics.
Saturday, March 3, at 1:30 p.m. The Aislers Set, the Shins, and the Henry Miller Sextet also perform. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.
Sample of Orange Peels' "Mystery Lawn," from the CD So Far. Click the "play" icon in the control console below.
Instead, the record spent a couple of weeks on the college radio charts and then dropped off. After hearing what the label thought of its new demos, the band requested it be let out of its contract in 1998, then sent the tracks to other labels. "SpinArt was the most compatible," Clapp states. "We said, "We want to record in our garage and own the record and just license it to you,' and they were OK with that."
The group rerecorded its demos minus Vickers, who had left to care for his newly born daughter. The band tried out a few drummers before settling on John Moreman, 31, whose similarly minded band had previously shared bills with the Orange Peels. "We liked his chops and his hair," Clapp jokes.
"John was seriously the savior of the band," Pries emphasizes. "After the Minty Fresh experience, it helped to have John around. We were all a bit down."
Winther was so depressed by the state of the band that he quit, despite Moreman's presence. "We weren't getting paid anything, nothing was happening. We were just playing these little shows," Winther says. "But then the record was about to come out and I thought, "I've got to be an idiot to quit the band right now.'"
"If it's any consolation, we still think you're an idiot," says Vickers, who also returned to the fold, making the band a quintet, with Moreman on drums, Vickers on organ, and Winther on guitar.
The band is comfortable laughing at its past revolving door policy. Now it can be. The completed album So Far -- which was recorded in Clapp and Pries' Sunnyvale garage -- sounds better than the Peels' last, studio-produced effort.
With the band's makeup in flux throughout the recording process, Clapp returned to his solo record's multitracking style, playing acoustic and electric guitars, Hammond organ, and even drums himself. Unlike One Hundred Percent's ramshackle feel, however, the new record is lushly orchestrated and vividly performed. "Girl for All Seasons" has the loping bass line and ringing guitars of work from '60s pop producer Joe Meek, while "Mazatlan/Shining Bright" moves from AM radio folk strums to '70s soul riffage. "Every Single Thing" glides on a disco beat, jangling guitars, and warm electric organ; "The West Coast Rain" applies a squirming guitar lead to a propulsive Chuck Berry rhythm.
The album's biggest surprise isn't the high fidelity, though. Whereas the first two albums were full of wistful longing and quiet spirituality, So Far is ripe with acrimony and simmering rage. "Redwood City" is a condemnation of a lousy landlord at the Peels' last practice space. "Every Little Thing" mourns the bad state of modern Top 40 radio as well as the band's poor treatment by Minty Fresh. On "The West Coast Rain," Clapp tosses dirty looks in the direction of fair weather fans and industry goons.
"A lot of these songs came from the bitterness of the last record," Clapp says of his lyrics. "We were thinking we're really valuable and worth something, and the label was always telling us we weren't."
Fortunately, the band's rich sound and Clapp's sweet singing make sure the songs don't descend into pitiful whining. And there are signs that the new record will outsell the last one: Already it's climbing the college charts in Japan, and "Mazatlan/Shining Bright" received commercial airplay there. As for further expectations, the quintet is playing it close to the vest.
"I have no expectations now; whatever happens, happens," Winther says.
"We don't want to go broke driving around doing our own headline tour," Clapp says.
"And John's pregnant, but keep that under your hat," Pries adds.
"Maybe we're a little different than a lot of bands. We actually like to be around each other," Winther says.
"That's kind of important, because when you're on the older side of the standard rock age, all the other stuff becomes a lot less important and just getting along becomes really important," Moreman offers.
"And when Larry's ego isn't getting in the way, it's great," Pries says.