The A-Sides were my first brush with Philadelphia's indie rock scene and, I must say, the group knows how to represent.
John Barthmus (Guitar/Vocals), Mike Fleming a.k.a Flem (Bass), Christopher Doyle (Keyboards), Patrick Marsceill (Drums) and Charlie Cottone (Guitar), most of whom met while attending Drexel University in PA, are the talented Toms behind the psychedelic-meets-pop sound I was fortunate enough to experience at the intimate Lower East Side venue Mercury Lounge.
"We like music with dense levels," said Fleming, just minutes before taking the stage.
"Music with a lot of layers," Barthmus added.
Fleming: "I don't think we're ever trying to emulate. We're always trying to come out with what's unique to all of us. We're trying to do what's genuine to us."
To that end - The most outstanding quality in The A-Sides' short set was how each of their songs managed to take unexpected turns. In the relaxed yet upbeat, most likely-to-be huge hit, "Cinematic," the band incorporated faint Beach Boys' "oohs" and "ahs" into the chorus which led into an experimental rolling drum sequence - lending an unpredictable, innovative edge to a classic, somewhat '60s-sounding pop rock foundation. What's more: lead singer John Barthmus' soothing, understated vocals served as a pleasant compliment to the group's overall, complex instrumental progression.
So how does the city of Philly, I wondered, factor into The A-Sides' creativity?
"Philadelphia is a very small arts city," Doyle commented.
"It's a very tight-knit community. Very laid back and cheap to live in, too," added Barthmus.
Fleming: "There's a group of bands we're friendly with. We love their records. And I'm sure somehow that'll come out in our music, too."
The A-Sides released their first full-length album Hello Hello in 2005 on small Philly-based indie, Prison Jazz Records. Their new album Silver Storms is scheduled to hit stores in early 2007 via a label TBD.
Bottom line: The Philadelphia five piece performed a head-turning live show. Their music pushed the indie envelope and crossed into uncharted pop terrain... (I just made up the kitschy phrase "uncharted pop terrain," but am sticking by it as it does accurately describe The A-Sides' style, ability and sound). As Star Trekkie LeVar Burton used to say on the popular children's program Reading Rainbow: "you don't have to take my word for it." Check out The A-Sides!
"We're The Trees" MP3
Story by: Jamie Lee