Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Majorleans & Sundelles Play Real Indie Rock at Mercury Lounge

Over the years, the definition of "indie rock" has morphed from a business term into a genre.  Originally a way to categorize rock bands who were independent from the major record labels, it has become more a descriptor of a sound.  This is semi-logical, as many of these "indie" artists are now on thriving smaller labels.  And while they may not possess the coffers of the industry giants, they still have enough clout to garner airplay and sell tickets.  The fundamental flaw in using "indie" to describe what you're actually hearing is that the gamut is stylistically too diverse.  Does a grunge revival band count as indie even though they're paying tribute to a major label genre?  How atmospheric must a song be before it's considered indie?  At what point does the singer's voice become too tonally developed that the moniker no longer applies?  Last night, I went to the late show at Mercury Lounge to catch two Brooklyn indie bands, Sundelles and the Majorleans.  They're unsigned, so they are truly independent, but they don't sound anything alike.  And they shouldn't.

First up was the hirsute honcho of Sundelles, Sam Sundos, who exemplified 
the jangly lo-fi found on Teenbeat Records in the early '90s.  After opening with a medley of three of his oldest ditties, Sundos shifted the tides towards his latest release, No Milk, released a few weeks ago for free via Mediafire (download here).  Entirely backlit, Sam was hard to see, save for a shimmering crucifix dangling from his left earlobe.  "Are you guys taking me seriously?" he questioned halfway through the set.  "I wore this earring for Christmas, and no one's taking me seriously!" he shouted, feigning a temper tantrum.  The poppier No Milk numbers were definitely the crowd favorites, along with an unexpected cover of Big Star's "Thirteen."  "I didn't write that song, and I didn't sing it right," Sundos remarked before bringing his set to a close with the Beach Boys-flavored "Blue Sky."  I was a little let down that he didn't play my favorite song from the album, "Why (Make Up Your Mind)," but I guess that means I'll just have to see him again.

The Majorleans seemed looser than when I first saw them in April.  Perhaps it's because their long-overdue debut, Black Belt, is looming just around the corner.  Perhaps it was the inherent confidence that comes with headlining.  Perhaps they just felt at home in a room thick with friends.  No doubt it was a combination of all these things, and it resulted in a relaxed hangout vibe.  The feel of the show could be summed up by the enthusiastic yell of "One more!" from a crowdmember after the rocking opening cut "Go Down All the Time."  Nicky Francis laughed, and the band continued with nine additional tunes, including two I'd never seen live: "Mercy" and "Real Bad."  For the latter, dancers in the front row took to reenacting their roles from the music video (below).  Sound issues with the acoustic forced Francis to forfeit his guitar before the second verse, but that didn't stop him from miming a jam with his bandmates.  It was also nice to hear the song minus the harmonica that at times overpowers the studio version.  The Majorleans then moved the party to the roadhouse with the country-stomp of "Under Ma Wheels," another highlight.  And while they may have kept the mood casual, they still put the music first, as evidenced by Chris Buckle's searing classic rock solo on "Coal Mine/Cold Mind" and the tight pocket stitched by Hurricane Bells' rhythm boys on "Mr. Magic."

The plan is to spend next week pumping out the backlog of podcasts, which includes an interview with the Majorleans and Black Belt co-producer "Bassy" Bob Brockmann, so get your ears ready.

SUNDELLES - 12.18.13 - MERCURY LOUNGE (29 minutes)

Gold > Dead Youth > Waiting / Can't Win / Fight for My Time / Taking All the Fun / I'm Trouble / Thirteen / Blue Sky

THE MAJORLEANS - 12.18.13 - MERCURY LOUNGE (44 minutes)

Go Down All the Time / Coal Mine/Cold Mind / Imaginary Plane / Baby, Where Have All Your Lights Gone? / Real Bad / Under Ma Wheels / Never See the Seams / Mercy / Mr. Magic / Never Had Enough

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