ARCHIVES: Less labels mean more for Scranton/Boston rock band Lesser Animals
“Whenever I show my friends this music, the first question they ask me is, ‘What would you call this?’ I’m really at a loss. You can call it millions of kinds of things. You can call it rock, and you pretty much call it every single subgenre,” bassist Zach Bilson replied when asked to describe the sound of Lesser Animals.
“But it’s music. It’s rock, I guess. It’s pop. I really don’t know.”
With six members citing influences ranging from metal to hip-hop to indie to electronica, it’s easy to see why the indie band can’t exactly pinpoint where they fit in, but any attempts to do so would be missing the point.
“I think we’re playing music that you don’t really expect to hear from the people in the band,” guitarist/bassist Noel Friesen said.
Formed in 2008 by former Awkward Silence singer James Sanderson, Lesser Animals started in Scranton but grew exponentially when he and drummer Roland Greco left for Boston to attend Berklee College of Music. By 2011, they had formed what Sanderson refers to as “the official lineup.”
“Lesser Animals, I’ve got to say, is the most cohesive and easier to perform and write with. It flows very naturally,” Bilson said.
“We started writing new songs. The creative cohesion has been amazing,” Sanderson agreed.
“Everyone comes from very different musical backgrounds, but we all sort of have this have this shared aesthetic appreciation,” Bilson continued. “We just sort of developed as friends, really. We took influence from different people in the band, our different lives and stuff, and the music sort grew by itself. It is what it is because it is.”
It is Lesser Animals because, as Friesen puts it, “It’s funny.”
“Every band is named after a specific animal. I can probably name you 30 right now. None of the lesser-known animals were every really used. Nobody names their bands after guinea pigs or anything, so we thought that was kind of funny.”
What they are became “Parasalene,” the group’s debut EP that was recorded at The Record Company in Boston during an all-night 12-hour session, with producing and mixing by Pat McCusker and mastering by Nolan Eley, both musicians they admire.
“We made really good use of the time we had. We tracked pretty much everything live and then did piano and vocal overdubs. A lot of time that we took was just getting a really awesome sound in the room, and that’s an incredible space to record in there,” Friesen recalled.
“I think all [the tracks] complement each other very well. They all revolve around that central theme of overcoming. I think the big thing I write lyrics about is how difficult it is to grow up, for no particular reason I guess. I guess I have this weird fear of getting older, and I think it comes across in a lot of songs,” Sanderson shared.
“Music is very emotive, and I put a lot of myself, literally as much as I can, into what I write. … We all try to put as much of our personalities and each of our tics into the songs and into the feel.”
While the album is only three songs, each delivers a full wall of sound that can only come from six dedicated members.
“We wrote most of ‘Beast Blood’ on the spot. We had most of it going in, but the ending was written 15 minutes before we got in the car to drive to the session. To me, that’s a testimony to how amazing these dudes are that I’m playing with. We just click on such a chemical level,” Sanderson noted.
“‘Rare Candy’ is probably the least serious, but it’s also the most intense at certain points.”
While they’ve played many house shows in Boston, which they say are the best shows in the city, the 22-year-old vocalist/guitarist is looking forward to coming home to Scranton and playing on an actual stage at The Vintage Theater on Saturday, Dec. 15.
“We’re playing with A Fire With Friends at this show, and I’m so excited to be back home and be back on that stage. … The reception is normally positive because people just want to be enjoying it as much as you are when you’re playing it. I guess the [Boston and Scranton music] scenes aren’t that much different when you get down to it,” he said.
“I just want to know how [these songs] are going to affect other people. I want to know how I did. I want to see how my friends feel and how these bands that I grew up with feel because their opinions and criticisms are really important to me.”
“Whether it’s in Boston or Scranton or anywhere else, people come not knowing your music and still just really enjoy it and want to talk to you about it,” Bilson added.
“It’s great to see your friends, but even if there’s just one person who comes and checks it out and didn’t know anything beforehand and now are a fan, that’s a feeling that’s really hard to beat.”
with A Fire With Friends
Location: The Vintage Theater (326 Spruce St., Scranton)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 15
Time: Doors at 7 p.m., show 8 p.m.