Although firmly rooted in psychedelic rock, 54 Seconds excels at creating catchy, well-crafted pop songs.
Consisting of Spencer Gibb (guitar/vocal/songwriter), Stewart Cochran (keys, backing vocals), Rachel Loy (bass, backing vocals), and Jeff Botta (drums, percussion), 54 Seconds has a wide variety of sounds with which to weave their musical fabric. Gibb’s songs are accessible yet deep, with poignant stories and infectious hooks. Loy’s voice provides an excellent counterpoint to Gibb’s. And Cochran, who by day plays piano for ballet and modern dance performances, brings the keyboards to the fore in a way that I wish more bands would.
Gibb is the creative center of the band, writing lyrics and singing lead vocals. Despite being the son of legendary Bee Gee Robin Gibb, he’s determined to make it the old-fashioned way – by traveling around the country and playing at clubs like Rehab and Cicero’s .
Although regulars to the Austin scene (having snagged an SXSW award for Best Music Video ), 54 Seconds recently embarked on their first national tour to promote their new album, Postcards from California .
I had the pleasure of seeing them perform at Rehab last Saturday, where I filmed them playing Dirty Little Secret (video above), That’s How I Roll , and California . Before the gig, we walked up to Tompkins Square Park, where I had the opportunity to ask them a few questions. (Our Q&A after the jump.)
neighborbeeblog (NBB) : So, I’ve heard that Austin is sort of this big melting-pot for musicians.
Gibb : It used to be more so, for sure. When I first moved there, there was definitely a lot more of that. It had more of that underground, sort of hippie mentality … it’s become a little less like that now, but it’s still an amazing place to be creative with people and run things cost-effectively.
NBB : Tell me about the new album, Postcards From California. Spencer, you were saying that it’s more stripped-down than your previous albums, more of a raw sort of feel?
Gibb : Yeah it is, it is. There was a lot more live stuff that went into it. The record before was very melancholy, very psychedelic. And this is definitely more of a pop record, for sure.
Cochran : The previous record was more of a studio record, a sound canvas. I mean, these songs play themselves live, because we kinda cut them that way.
Gibb : There’s different aspects to it. It’s more in-your-face. There’s a lot of vocal interplay with Rachel and I. That often comes to the front, the dueling lead vocals – the harmony textures from her in the back that give it a “sparkling” quality.
NBB : So, Spencer – growing up in a musical family, did they encourage you to seek a career in music, or was it more of a “no, no, don’t do what we did” kind of thing?
Gibb : No, there wasn’t a whole lot of encouragement. On my father’s level, his attitude was “you know, you’ve really got to think about, is this a business that you want to get into? It’s a shitty business, it’s a lot of hit-or-miss, it’s a real struggle.” I mean, these were guys that came from nothing, and struggled for a long time. And then they had some success, and then they had none, and then they had some incredible success again. And it had been a long, long road for them, and, you know, dealing with a lot of really sort of crappy people along the way. … My mother was a lot more enthusiastic about it, which was odd to me, ’cause she was sort of usually the straight-and-narrow person. I mean, the cool thing about having a family like that is that there are people you can go to talk to when things really suck. Especially my uncles were great with that, you know, “hang in there, keep doing what you’re doing. Keep writing, keep playing, keep loving it.”
NBB : So any thoughts about being on the road, places that you’ve played?
Botta : Actually, it’s been really fantastic, I mean, the hospitality that we’ve gotten on this tour has been absolutely fucking ridiculous. It has been so great, we’ve been treated so well, in so many places. … And that really goes further than anything, you know, even further than, like, having great shows as opposed to bad shows. Just having somebody make you feel at home somewhere that’s 1500 miles away from your house. It just makes all the fucking difference in the world. It really, really does.
Next Friday, celebrated Brooklyn band Apes and Androids will play a long-awaited gig at the Bowery Ballroom . Come and join us for their unique blend of early-70s glam rock and 21st-century dance sensibilites.