Ready, steady. Pop.
High Strung have paid their dues in full-and it's payoff time!
Published: May 9, 2012
More, Stocker says things are different now and that they've stabilized as people, living somewhat simple lives in Detroit.
That stability has carried over to the new full-length. In the past, the band had been making albums more in a flurry of nervous activity, involving harried stops back home to Jim Diamond's Ghetto Recorders and banging it out in three or four days. O' Imposible? is different. It's paced, and it breathes more, as if they really took time. And it's anything but burned-out sounding. It's vital and real. It's their best yet, to be sure. You can hear how the group has evolved, particularly in terms of execution and writing. It still features that nervous high-strung energy, but it's harnessed and redirected, arranged and doled out when needed. And there's a real sense — just upon listening — that something is about to pop for the quartet.
"I feel like [?Posible o' Imposible?] as an album, is something that needed to happen," Stocker says. "Because if we would've just made another album the same way we've been making albums, I don't know if the songs would have been there."
All of them, including relative newcomer Palmer, echo those feelings, that there's excited pressure. Malerman says, "something's bubbling between us."
All agree that Palmer has brought another bubbling dimension to the band.
"I was over the moon when Josh called me in late 2009," Palmer says. "Literally, jumping up and down. I'd been a fan for so long and I was just hoping that it would snowball into — y'know — what it has, which is me being in the band for two years, now."
The guitarist had been a Strung fan since 2003, when he was "awakened" by the group playing live just outside his bedroom window during an annual Detroit street fair. "I was blown away."
Palmer calls them brothers and joining them felt like coming into the family. And that was definitely a factor for him when he first started rehearsing with them in January of 2010.
Now, Palmer says, "When we get in a van, an 11-hour drive feels like just two hours — we're laughing the entire time."
"But," he adds, "I'm in a different position than the guys, having a family, that's a heavy thing. But, hopefully I can ride off into the sunset with these guys as long as I can." Palmer marked one year of fatherhood last month with son Arthur.
Others have lives beyond the group: Stocker, for example, plays and records with his non-Strung musical pursuit, a psychedelic noise-pop band called the Mythics. Malerman, meanwhile, continues to write. Berk works when the work is here — he's a studio painter and set-dresser for a variety of productions that enjoy Michigan's dwindling film tax incentives.
The drummer was working on the Sam Raimi-directed Disney reboot of The Wizard of Oz, but that was back in late November. "We'll see. It will come around again. But, I mean, hey, three years ago, I didn't even have this job, so, nothing lasts forever," Berk says. He pauses, and then he adds, "Except for the band, but, nothing else lasts forever."
Stocker, meanwhile, is blunt about begrudging the dishes he'll be washing at his day job the next morning — it's one thing, among many, that spurs him to continue pursuing music, performing it, recording it.
This band has experimented a lot within the rock song format: jangly pop songs, firestorm freakouts, lo-fi tumblers and even Beatle droning. O' Imposible? is sure of itself, the instrumental elements sound synchronized, sparking a newfound confidence. No longer nervous or roaming, it's focused, now.
"At home," as Stocker put it.
Or, as Malerman sees it, a transformation: "While [2006's] Moxie Bravo was a boy, [2007's] Get the Guests' became a man. [2010's] Dragon Dicks was a transvestite, for sure!
"But o' Imposible? is graceful, pretty, leggy, strong-willed, smarter than I am."
The singer recalls rehearsals for the album as being "colorful. Palmer trying out strange solos, Derek accenting parts that didn't exist until a certain fill declared they did; a hail storm of Chad's bass notes. I felt great. It felt like we'd already caught the thing in a net in Palmer's basement. Putting it to tape was just lifting the net."
What's "highly unknowable," as Berk says is if o' Imposible? can be like a "new book" not just another chapter.
Berk calls the band their "life's work together," something for the ages, but he can't help wondering how things might have been different. He echoes Malerman in acknowledging there'd be no way they'd have had patience for each other had they hit the road at 21. He wonders, too, what impact Palmer might've had if he'd joined the Strung when he was initially invited, back in '06, during Moxie Bravo? How would o' Imposible? have sounded if this were their first time working with Jim Diamond, instead of their fourth?
Stocker says time tells, while new songs like "On Your Way Up" swagger but preach patience: "Good News coming in the mail / You're not quite there but breathe / Right on time, there's good fortune at your door." The Strung needed that breath. In the middle of that same song, right at the bridge, it stops, Palmer roars his Gretch upward like some overworked motorboat engine, until the ripples peter out and Malerman's voice soothes over silence to bring it back: "Alright, here we go ... not yet!" Anticipation builds in those four seconds. "Not yet ... O-K!" And it all crashes in again, drum, bass, guitar, voice.
Upticks in YouTube views and a flare of downloads for "Luck You Got" are one thing, but when all four of them look at this new record, they each say they feel something else, something different, it's that thing about popping. Malerman says he's anxious to reach that next level of band success while still maintaining integrity and without sacrificing their signature quirks.
"You just start wondering," Berk says.
Jeff Milo is a freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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