Our Cat Philip makes simple music, though not as simple as their favored description, "kindergarten rock," would imply. The quartet of Ohio State undergrads may not craft tricky melodies or attempt instrumental acrobatics, but their melancholy balladry offers more depth than your average Kidz Bop comp.
Max Sollisch writes songs with the emotional bareness of Elliott Smith, and like Smith, his permeating sadness shows through whatever shroud of pop accessibility and exuberant melody his band cooks up.
Over string-laden arrangements that recall the elegance of early Belle and Sebastian, the 20-year-old sings about a bleak existence where we're all just prolonging death and grasping whatever kind of meaning we can in the meantime.
Such emotional turmoil might sound rather excruciating, but Sollisch doesn't see it that way.
"There's a sort of happiness in melancholy lyrics," he said. "I can listen to a really sad song and just feel incredibly happy at having an emotional response to a song. There's a happiness in having an emotional response to anything, that you are actually feeling something."
What: Our Cat Philip
When: Friday, Aug. 29
Where: The Basement, Arena District
Debut Apart of Someone is sure to inspire some sort of feeling - such unrepentantly intimate music practically dares you to love it or hate it. Listeners who gravitate toward playful-but-vulnerable acts like Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and The Boy Least Likely To will likely land on the "love" side.
The album comes out Friday when Our Cat Philip plays The Basement. Fellow breakout locals Karate Coyote and Couch Forts will perform as well, providing an opportunity to witness a new flock of Columbus bands playing accessible songs outside the conventional guitar-drum-bass setup.
"None of us have really grown up around classic-style rock 'n' roll music. All of us have grown up listening to pretty progressive stuff," drummer Nick Held said. "Now that we're at the point where we're making serious music, I feel like all of us are really itching to take advantage of a lot of those progressive elements."
For Our Cat Philip, that means employing an apartment full of organs, autoharps, wood drums and whatever else they can get their hands on.
"It's just fun to toy around with them and see what you come up with," Sollisch said.
That wide-eyed, adventurous spirit fits well with the "kindergarten rock" tag they've adopted. And it jibes with the band's carefree attitude towards the music they create. More than a chance to win an audience or even strike a chord with listeners, Our Cat Philip is a chance for Sollisch, Held, Jeremy Hendricks and Emily Ng to enjoy the mutual bond that's been building since college orientation two years back.
"Making music is just sort of a byproduct of our friendship. If people are listening, that's great," Held said. "But if not, music's fun for us."
Now that's the kindergarten spirit.