Matt Curreri and the Exfriends are like a hesitant skydiver. Imagine a person who has always wanted to skydive convinces a few friends to come along, does the training, gets in the plane, straps on the parachute and then, at 30,000 feet, with the side door wide open and the wind rushing in, stalls.
It's not that the person won't jump. He might, but he hasn't decided what he's going to do yet.
With their second self-released album, Exercise Music for the Lonely, Curreri and friends have kept that same rock 'n' roll sound from their debut, How to Play the Songs of Matt Curreri. And it's working for them.
"I have been exercising a lot to it-jogging," Curerri says, noting he didn't just want to make the record for elliptical-machine-heads. "I had to put a little emo, indie affect to it, to keep the kids interested."
The songs borrow from country and rock but are more pop than anything. If I was the publicist, I'd package "From Picked On to President" as the first single. It features Curreri singing in a tone like The Decemberists' Colin Meloy, without the weird Jeff Mangum rip-off distortion. The song could be a letter to his family, almost a celebration of liberating himself and coming of age. The melody and rising action move the song into a beautiful moment at the end.
Curreri, who lives in Carlsbad with fellow Exfriend and girlfriend Joanie Mendenhall, wrote all the songs for this album at the same time he wrote How to Play.
"I got so many I liked," Curreri explains. "I liked them all. It was totally useless, no reason to write another song."
This album is different because they've gotten better, and because they've added more professional musicians. Curreri plays guitar and sings; Mendenhall plays the Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes keyboards and sings; Pete Hamilton plucks the bass, Ray Suen plays the violin and guitar; and Tyler Ward drums. The songs are fast-moving, in quick progressions, and most of them are around two minutes-succinct and to the point.
"It's not super-intentional," Curreri said. "It's my own attention span."
Curreri wrote the songs in New York, where he met Mendenhall. He's from Virginia; she's from Oceanside. They moved back to San Diego together. Mendenhall teaches music in Carlsbad; Curreri teaches music and math in Del Mar. But they're contemplating making the jump to full-time musicians.
"I'm at the point with the band that if it's going to go any further, we need to spend more time with it," Curreri says, wondering aloud if quitting a solid job to be a musician is such a great idea.
"I think, so far, the response to this album has been so amazing that it's tempting to go further," Mendenhall interjects. "I feel like it's a hit album. I love this thing."
Mendenhall wouldn't need much convincing-all she'd need is a good booking agent to land some solid shows.
"I love our band," she says. "These guys are just the best."
All they need is a little push.
Matt Curreri and the Exfriends play with Dirty Sweet, Emery Byrd and Ryan Ferguson at House of Blues on May 31. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. $5. 619-299-BLUE.