Concert preview: Connections rips it up on melodic new album

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From the July 31, 2014 edition

Even at its absolute scruffiest, Connections can’t shake its love of melody.

This holds true throughout the band’s latest full-length, Into Sixes, whether the musicians are describing a woman as “an icepick in the eye” (the otherwise lovely “Angie”) or harmonizing about highway residential life as the guitars rev like passing motorcycles (the jangly, garage-rock bitten “Apt. By the Interstate”).

“I don’t see the point in making a song if there’s not a hook and it’s not immediate,” said singer/guitarist Andy Hampel, seated alongside fellow singer/guitarist Kevin Elliott during a late-July interview at a Clintonville coffee shop. “It’s rewarding for some people if you have to work for it, but not for us.”

It’s a sensibility the songwriters developed during childhood years spent absorbing everything from Billy Joel to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” countdown.

“We were raised on ’80s radio,” said Elliott, who also played alongside Hampel in local legends 84 Nash. “We’ll quiz each other about how many singles Peter Cetera had in 1988 or something (answer: three, including ‘One Good Woman’). Nothing is off limits.”

Connections’ roots stretch back to 2010, when Hampel and Elliott reconnected following a four-year gap where the duo fell out of touch. At the time, Hampel said he was certain he was through making music, and he hadn’t touched a guitar in nearly five years. Even so, the two displayed little rust — “It’s muscle memory,” Hampel said of his musical partnership with Elliott — and it wasn’t long before they were cranking out lo-fi indie-rock gems on a battered eight-track recorder. Shortly thereafter the pair recruited drummer Adam Elliott (Times New Viking), guitarist Dave Capaldi (El Jesus de Magico) and bassist Philip Kim (Andrew Graham & Swarming Branch), who helped thicken and round out the music, freeing Hampel to better realize the sounds that reverberated through his skull.

“Dave is the key ingredient,” Hampel said. “He’s an amazing guitar player. I’m just a rhythm guy. In [84 Nash] we never had a lead guy, so for me it’s been a thrill because the shit I hear in my head that I can’t do? Dave just does it.”

Regardless of the players’ skillsets, the band’s music has retained its immediate, crafted-by-human-hands feel, which is reflected in everything from the rapid pace of recording (the band recorded Into Sixes one day and mixed it the next) to the scrappy appeal of its music.

“We grew up in the Dayton scene and got to see Kim Deal and Guided by Voices, and that was our school,” Elliott said. “We’re not sitting around the studio trying to incorporate a Moog [synthesizer] or horns. We wanted to make 30-second little songs, and once something is done you rip it up and go on to the next thing.”

Photo by Meghan Ralston

Kafe Kerouac

8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1

2250 N. High St., Campus

kafekerouac.com

ALSO PLAYING: Daycreeper, The Gotobeds