Drew Citron and Scott Rosenthal find musical freedom in 'The Blue Swell'
Going into the making of Beverly's sophomore album, The Blue Swell, musicians Drew Citron and Scott Rosenthal had the chance to carve out a new musical identity — an opportunity hinted at in the album's title, which suggests open waters and broad, endless horizons extending out in all directions.
“We had a sense of freedom and we ran with it,” said Citron, who recorded the band's 2014 debut Careers alongside Frankie Rose (Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls), who departed the group amicably prior to the sessions for a sophomore record. “The whole record speaks to that time very much. … We took a lot of time making a bunch of demos, recording in different rooms [to see what sounds we could create].”
This evolution has continued into sessions for a planned third album — Citron said the band, which will perform as a five-piece during a tour-opening show at Ace of Cups on Friday, Sept. 1, has completed seven tracks — that the singer/guitarist described as having more of a “live-band-in-a-studio vibe.”
“I want to have more mistakes, more unpolished performances, more real feeling, and to do that you have to kind of unlearn what you know, which is that pop music can be perfected with [ProTools] technology,” said Citron, who first picked up an acoustic guitar at age 12, learning Cat Stevens covers from her musician father. “Our ears now are so unaccustomed to hearing flaws on the radio and in new music to where you almost have to swallow your pride and say, ‘You know what? It's OK.' … All of my favorite records were made before there even was digital-audio production. I love George Harrison. I love Phil Spector. I love the Replacements. I love very live, very raw sounding pop music.”
These various musical touchstones collide on dense, dreamy Beverly tracks like “South Collins,” which pairs Citron's gauze-y vocal with layers of churning guitar, shimmering synthesizer and machinelike drums. “I love that Phil Spector, wall-of-sound [approach],” Citron said. “That's the thing that grabs me: a big sound, a minor chord change, something that overtakes you and creates a feeling. It's the thing I'm chasing.”
Thematically, the songs are almost universally dark and noir-ish, offering a shadowy counterpoint to Citron's sweet vocals, a feeling the singer said was largely influenced by the remote recording location in upstate New York, where snow and early sunsets tag-teamed to let in a bit more bleakness.
“We were next to a train that would pass in the night, and it was all very eerie,” said Citron, who noted the songs are still steeped in the same subjects that have been driving her since she first picked up a pen to write as a teenager. “It's heartbreak, desire, frustration, loneliness. It's still the same old, same old.”