Photo: Joe Lamberti
South Jersey indie rockers By Surprise will release their new Criteria EP on January 15th via Topshelf Records. The EP was produced and engineered by Dave Downham (who was also at the helm of their 2011 Topshelf debut, Mountain Smashers) at Familyre Studios in New Jersey, where such artists as mewithoutYou and Sufjan Stevens have recently recorded.
Alternative Press is exclusively streaming the title track at: http://www.altpress.com/features/entry/song_premiere_by_surprise_criteria. The band will be premiering a music video for the track in January.
Safely guarded behind four pairs of glasses and an arsenal of awkward tendencies, the members of By Surprise have spent an equal amount of time combing through the forgotten dust-filled grooves of 7-inch records released during the 90’s indie label boom, as they have with the off-beat and inspirational works of Henry David Thoreau, Jack Kerouac, and Douglas Adams.
Topshelf has launched pre-orders for the Criteria EP at: http://www.tsr-store.com/artist/by-surprise.
About By Surprise:
Five years ago, when I met By Surprise, they were part time coffee-shop workers and college students, bespectacled record store stalwarts barely old enough to drink. They had just self-released 478 a promising 8-minute manifesto engaged in playful grapple with life in suburban New Jersey, replete with its awkward romances, late night diner pow-wows, and karaoke bar letdowns. They played sweaty sets in basements in Philadelphia and across the Northeast, breaking strings and slipping discs (we’re talking hernias) in between discussions on the merits of kraut-rock and finishing another chapter in a Sarte novel.
Mountain Smashers, the 2011 full length released on Topshelf Records, showcased a more focused sound; a bildungsroman of a record, neck-deep in literary references, drive-and-jangle guitarwork, and a masterfully weird balance of youthful disquietude and reluctant optimism. Soon after, instead of yelling over an unresponsive PA system in a local VFW hall, By Surprise found themselves, surprisingly, fulfilling their fanboy fantasies and opening for Archers of Loaf during the band’s 2011 reunion tour.
Almost two years later, flash forward to the present, the dudes in By Surprise have full time jobs, they are buying houses and are getting engaged, willfully entering into the terrifying construct of adulthood. They don’t tour and don’t really play out very much at all. The good news in all of this is that they haven’t sold their record collections or lost their sense of youthful wonderment fantastically exuded in 478, recently rereleased on 7” through Kat Kat Records, and perfected in Mountain Smashers. In their latest offering, Criteria, a 3 song 7” also being released on Boston’s Topshelf Records, By Surprise prove that getting older isn’t all bad.
Criteria, recorded to analog tape with Mountain Smashers producer Dave Downham at Familyre Studios, begins with a blast of feedback, guitars riffing fuzzily, ringing out, and pick sliding with some twinkly bits thrown in. The title track features Pat Gartland’s off kilter voice, sometimes terse sometimes warbly, intoning lines with a directness not audible in past recordings — “Just because I don’t open my mouth as much you, doesn’t mean that I’m down or out.” The chorus showcases By Surprises’ penchant for layered vocals and a sensibility for sneaky melodies, hooks that catch up with you unexpectedly. The three song offering is familiar without treading old territory, masterfully embracing adulthood while conjuring a sense of youthful splendor; a glimmering self awareness swirling around every song.
Criteria was mastered by Carl Saff (Guided by Voices, Braid, Code Orange Kids) at Saff Mastering in Chicago, IL, and pressed at Gotta Groove in Cleveland, OH