It’s been a fantastic summer for music and I didn’t even have to leave my apartment to discover new talent! I just open my inbox and there is great music waiting for me. But after having various publicists send me links galore of insanely good shit all summer long, everything from ME & LP’s Chez Raymond, to The Nocturnes’ Aokigahara and Maps & Atlases’ Perch Patchwork, I didn’t think it could get any better! But then I was sent Santah’s debut album White Noise Bed, which I fell hard for like three weeks, listening to it endlessly. This summer has been heaven.
But then a week shy of Labor Day, the signal for the end of summer, I received a random email from what I thought was Ultravox’s publicist. I was stoked because I love Ultarvox! But then I realized it wasn’t. It was Rob DeCarolis, the bassist for the Philadelphia quartet, Univox. I was less crestfallen than curious, as any band name with “vox” in it will get my attention. Rob entreated me to listen to their new 7” single, “Tonight” (currently available for purchase on Bandcamp) — a progressive pop tune that David Bowie and the Shangri Las would be proud of.
I did listen to it, and laughed thinking it was silly and overwrought, but I didn’t dismiss it outright. In fact I listened to it again trying to figure out what the hell the song was about as the narrative and musical style shifted a few times. Obviously, it’s a “romance gone bad” type of jam but has some bizarre allusions that don’t really make a whole lot of sense, but that’s actually part of its charm. The song is catchy but not cloying, humorous but, ultimately, not silly, smart-ass but not snide. In fact, all of their songs bare this quality, which will also get, and hold, my attention. I like smart (ass) lyrics especially when they skewer pedestrian tropes such as romance and love lost. So I listened to it again and again and then I was hooked (In fact, I’m probably listening to their music right now…I am!).
I was convinced the band had to have at least six members to achieve those vocals affects, but upon doing some research I discovered they are four unassuming dudes in jeans and t-shirts — certainly not what I was expecting. I expected a 50s greaser-style look with pompadours, jackets with velvet lapels and wing tip shoes – all the visual accouterments of some bands currently mining similar music genres as Univox. You know the band with the throwback, derivative look a la Sha Na Na or The Stray Cats (or I suppose The Shangri Las, which would actually be hysterical since these guys are, well, guys. Though drummer Kent Boersma has been known to wear a dress while performing. But I am sick of reading the Shangri Las comparison in press releases!), but (mercifully) you won’t find any of that here, instead you can focus on the genuinely perfect blend of 50s-era Everly Brothers vocal harmonies mixed with the earnest dark comedy of 80s-era Violent Femmes. DeCarolis described their sound as “progressive pop.” I was skeptical but since they perfectly embody several eras in pop music history – all at once , and do so with great aplomb, I guess I agree.
I spoke with Rob about their history, future and musical style, as well as listened to my favorite Univox track off their self titled album You Don’t Know.
Visit Univox on the Interwebs: