Austin Tirado and Joel Plotnik
There are nine people in front of the stage to see Arrows play their first gig at Soda Bar. Just nine. And that includes me.
But the band either doesn't care or can't count and thinks it's actually playing for something close to 90 people. Frontman Austin Tirado dances around the stage like his name is Rio and there's a sandy beach nearby. Bassist John Fredericks keeps his back to the crowd for almost the entire set—not because he thinks he's a rock star, but because he and drummer Joel Plotnik seem to feed off their own parts and like to face each other as much as possible. Most guitarists have the urge to show off, but Andy Breihan is focused and alert, shifting effortlessly between jangly indie-rock solos and a more rhythmic style to accent keyboardist Brian Willett.
They've got a little more than half a dozen songs to their name, and Tirado points out to the crowd, almost apologetically, that this is only their sixth show. But they already perform and sound like vets. Their musical heroes are easily referenced, and the band's mix of glo-fi and that white-boy African-influenced bastardization sound that's all the rage—thanks to bands like Vampire Weekend and Fool's Gold—makes them well suited to be the next big blogosphere hype. Shit, if these guys lived in Williamsburg, they'd already be signed. Did I mention they're all dreamy in the looks department?
“I've learned that people always love and want new things,” Tirado tells me later. “Even if it sounds or reminds them of something, it's still different. People like that.
“The thing is that we're all very particular musicians,” Tirado later adds. “It just so happens that, nowadays, that's what's getting popular again. In the '60s, '70s and '80s, there were these bands that were doing such simple things, but the way they wrote songs was so genius. Now, I feel like indie-rock is such a cliché. It's not even a genre; it's like a lifestyle. These bands love so many kinds of music, and it's so vast. It's like everything's been kind of done before, but at the same time, there's still room to present it as something new.”
I believe Arrows when they say they're not following the trends, if only because they don't get defensive when I point it out to them—not to mention that if they were some trend-hopping group of poseurs, they almost certainly would have picked a better name than their Google-ambiguous moniker (it was either Arrows or Elephant Knuckle, so they made the right decision). In actuality, they'd never even considered themselves glo-fi until a certain music critic (me) labeled them as such. They don't mind the label, but Tirado's quick to point out that bands often get pigeonholed for sounding a certain way when, in reality, it's just that they can't afford good recording equipment.
“I wasn't trying to do that or sound like a certain genre. I was just trying to do the best I could with GarageBand. If we had our way, we'd make a record in a mansion for a couple months with amazing gear,” Tirado says.
While Arrows' music can sound effortless, the formation of the group was anything but. They're not part of the incestuous hipster music scene. Most of the members grew up in various parts of North County and Tirado says he had long been looking for people to play with before finally jamming with Plotnik and the current lineup gelled. They've been a band only since January and have played just a few shows around town and in L.A. But they're starting to see regular faces at their shows even if they don't have a demo to offer patrons.
As catchy as they are, it seems likely the band will soon be fielding more questions from opinionated music journalists about their sound and their intentions, but Tirado already has a no-nonsense answer for any questions or criticisms that might come the band's way:
“We just want to play and have fun. All of us are still super-young. It feels natural and people seem to really like it. That's enough for me.”
Arrows play with Seven Saturdays and Marcelo Radulovich at Soda Bar on Tuesday, May 11. www.myspace.com/dancersofdelphi.