Line-up: Danny Dunlap (Vocals, Guitar), Cordon Simons (Guitar, Vocals), Josh Power (Drums), Brandon Tucker (Bass)
Hometown: Austin, TX
Story: Following on the heels of 2013’s self-titled debut EP, Austin’s Gentlemen Rogues are back with A History So Repeating: six songs of chiming, pulsing guitar pop, hooky as hell and proof that this four-piece knows its way around a melody and a fuzzbox.
The EP packs the usual Gentlemen Rogues punch, but also finds the band – guitarist/vocalist Danny Dunlap, guitarist/vocalist Cordon Simons, bassist Brandon Tucker, and drummer Josh Power – venturing into shoegaze and folk, and even exploring synthpop territory with a cover of Erasure’s "A Little Respect." A History So Repeating is the sound of a band bursting with ideas and influences, moving forward with shark-like necessity.
"A few albums that we were listening to a lot going into the studio were Superdrag’s Head Trip in Every Key, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, and The Replacements’ Tim," says Dunlap. "How those albums shaped this record isn’t necessarily obvious, with the exception of the shoegazey moment in ‘Cap in Hand,’ which was, admittedly, my attempt to channel Kevin Shields for a minute!"
Energy and immediacy were touchstones for the band with this set of songs. "For A History So Repeating, it was really important to us that we record the entire band live, and do as few overdubs as possible," says Dunlap about the EP’s production. "We knew it would sound good, sonically speaking, but we wanted it to feel good, too. We captured what Gentlemen Rogues sounds like live. You’re hearing us playing together and loud, in one room."
Producer Kevin Butler worked with the band to realize their sonic vision. "This is our third time working with Kevin," says Dunlap. "He mixed our first EP, and we recorded a 7-inch single with him. He’s a fan of the band, and he’s seen us play live a lot. Kevin knows where we’re coming from; he knows what he likes about the band. As a result, I think it’s a pretty exciting listen."
The songs on A History So Repeating benefit from the dynamism and volatility of the live approach, urgency bleeding through the speakers in waves. Each track bears a desperate vitality, twin guitar attacks laced with heart-scarred vitriol and upbeat cynicism, touching on physical, emotional, and sexual distance; the guilt that springs from mistreating friends and lovers; and coming to terms with doomed relationships.
The choppy chords and spidery, stuttering leads of opener "Your Armageddon" recall the barbed romanticism of golden-era emo acts like Jawbreaker and Weston, while propulsive major-key burner "Mocking Love Out of Nothing at All" rides the electric rush of the verses to the chorus’s cascading melody. The Knapsack-channeling "Empathy For the Devil" and "Thin as Thieves" are object lessons in indie songcraft. EP closer "Cap in Hand" features a swirling breakdown that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Ride or My Bloody Valentine record, dreamy feedback and distortion washing over crashing cymbals.
The decision to include an Erasure cover seems like a departure for Gentlemen Rogues, but their interpretation of the electro ballad "A Little Respect," built on stripped down, cleanly amplified guitars and soaring backing vocals, places the track securely into the band’s stylistic wheelhouse, conjuring up memories of Back to Basics-era Billy Bragg.
"When I was young," says Dunlap, "my older sister would blast Erasure in her bedroom while she was getting ready for school, at top volume, so she could hear it over her hair dryer. My room was next door to hers, and Erasure served as my alarm clock for what felt like years. Initially, I was not a fan. I listened to punk rock, and liking Erasure was against ‘the rules.’ As an adult who no longer played by those rules, it became clear to me that I did, in fact, love ‘A Little Respect.’ It’s a perfect pop song. I just started thinking, years ago, that ‘A Little Respect’ would be a great cover to do, but to totally reinvent the delivery of it. Take the dance club vibe out of it and strip it down to something more melancholy."
Gentlemen Rogues plan to follow A History So Repeating with another EP in 2015. Says Dunlap, "We really like the EP format for several reasons. It’s redundant to talk about how ‘the digital age’ has changed the musical landscape, or short attention spans. However, these are both reasons we like EPs. They’re short blasts of music, and the listener doesn’t have to be burdened with a lengthy listen. It’s a quick experience. We want people to listen to the entire record, from start to finish. If you keep it short and sweet, then it’s more likely that will happen."