Not getting stuck in a rut is what’s going to separate Acute from the indie-pop pack.
Whether that’s going to be the band’s M.O. over time remains to be seen, but for now, Acute is beating boredom for itself, and its fans, by using all the paints on its sonic palette, making for indie-pop that’s sweet as candy, rich in variety and multi-layered for the discerning listener.
Gorgeously arranged, Acute’s newest LP, Arms Around A Stranger ? produced by pop wonder boy Dave Trumfio ? is surprisingly ambitious for a newcomer. Guitars, fuzzy and crunchy, play with orchestral instrumentation and space-age keyboards for a sound that’s part Cars, part Todd Rundgren and part Grandaddy.
A slight country twang and baroque strings find common ground in the meditative ballad, “Saint,” while the insanely catchy, sugar-rush of “Take A Step Back” is a power-pop dynamo. “Trouble” bounces like a pogo stick, while “Follow You Home” is a slick, solar-powered guitar anthem that spins out tight, playfully inventive hooks that catch you and don’t let go.
In the following interview, Goldmine introduces you to a Los Angeles-based band whose reputation is growing by leaps and bounds. Is Acute the next Big Star?
Goldmine: Being from different bands, Poulain and Ozma, how did Acute come to be?
Isaac Lekach: The short story is Poulain needed a drummer for a tour, Ozma was on hiatus ? so Patrick (Edwards) was gracious enough to come along. Shortly thereafter, both bands broke up and Acute rose from its ashes.
GM: Acute is one of those bands where the talk always gets around to songcraft. What does songcraft mean to you?
IL: I guess, not sticking to a specific formula ? thereby not regurgitating the same material. For us, the diversity is what’s exciting, being able to make a record with some sense of cohesion while also maintaining uniqueness with each song.
GM: How was working with Dave Trumfio (Wilco, OK Go, My Morning Jacket)?
IL: He was terrific. We are fortunate to have worked with him. (keyboardist) Jason (Borger, aka “The Professor”) has collaborated with Dave before, but for the rest of us, who have been admiring his records for a while now, it was a first. Dave has a fine ear, and he’s also an incredible engineer. We took our time finding the right amp/drum kit/mic configuration, and I think it shows. Also, as a producer, Dave took the time before any of the recording actually started to fine-tune some arrangements and work the songs into shape.
GM: One of the things you notice about Arms Around A Stranger is how diverse it is. At its heart, it is a great pop record, but that doesn’t seem to do it justice. If you were to describe it to someone, what would you say about it?
IL: “A great pop record” is what we aspired to make. So thank you! That’s a tremendous compliment. Dave coined a term to describe our sound ? “Orch Pop,” “Orch” being short for Orchestral ? which I’m kind of fond of.
GM: Talk about how you added in horns and strings. How much care was given to making them fit within the framework of different song?
Jason Borger: I had a meeting with Dave and Isaac. We listened to the roughs of the seven tracks they thought would benefit from strings and/or horns. As we listened, they each mentioned some possible approaches (for example, Isaac said Ennio Morricone when we listened to “Saint”). I was also checking out the Burt Bacharach instrumental album Reach Out when I was working out parts, so that possibly seeped in. Basically, I try to find melodies/countermelodies that work within the track. Given that Acute