March 4 2015 03:34 PM

Philadelphia band evokes arena-rock ambition

From left: Dave Klyman, Jon Loudon, Ben Pierce, Dan Zimmerman and Carlin Brown
Photo by Andrew Swartz

One of the most heroic rock songs of 2014 wasn’t written by Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen—or The War on Drugs, for that matter. And you won’t likely be hearing a Coachella headliner cover it anytime soon. It’s “Separate Songs,” the second track on LP3, the literally titled third album by Philadelphia’s Restorations.

It’s a heart-on-sleeve anthem that milks the loud-quiet-loud alt-rock dynamic for all it’s worth, escalating from a gracefully moody verse into a soaring chorus that the band plays only once. There are three guitar solos from Jon Loudon and Dave Klyman, some melancholy Hammond organ from Ben Pierce, a number of rhythmic shifts by bass player Dan Zimmerman and drummer Carlin Brown and a hands-to-the-heavens bridge in which vocalist Loudon commandingly howls, “Imagine going outside to hear the sweet sound of separate songs.” And it all happens in three minutes and 39 seconds.

Last September, when Restorations debuted the song on National Public Radio, Loudon said it was about “throwing your computer out the window,” but in a phone interview with CityBeat from his home in Philadelphia, he elaborates on the inspiration behind the seize-the-day anthem.

“There’s part of Philly pretty much every year where the weather finally cracks, and you can walk or ride your bike around the city,” Loudon says. “And almost every car or radio station is blasting the same record or whatever, and it follows you around the city. Every two blocks is the same Eminem song.”

The song is about “just exploring things in front of you,” he continues. “It’s sort of about embracing what’s happening, I suppose.”

“Separate Songs” is a concise summary of the many musical directions and influences that Restorations explore on LP3, which was released in October via SideOneDummy
Throughout the album, the group maintains a steady balance of punk and post-hardcore intensity à la Fugazi, with the melodic sensibility and earnestness of a stadium-rock hero like Springsteen. Songs like “Wales” and “It’s Not” showcase the band’s meaty, hard-driving punk guitar chops, while “Misprint” is much quieter and more elegant, as the band sheds its fuzzboxes for a pretty waltz.

Not that Restorations don’t take every opportunity they can to let those burly guitars fly, like on “No Castle,” which is easily the heaviest track on the album. As Loudon explains, the eclectic nature of the band’s listening habits ultimately feeds into the sound of the songs.

“We all come from a punk background, but we all love metal, and British guitar rock, or ’90s stuff with lots of reverb on everything—like Spiritualized or Catherine Wheel,” Loudon says. “It all comes together, and we decide what’s appropriate and what’s not to pull into our sound.

“There’s a huge hardcore influence,” he continues. “We’ve all been in hardcore bands. But everyone loves just, like, a good, dumb, fun heavy part. It’s really gratifying to do, and it’s interesting to interpret that into a pop-indie sensibility. I really like the way those things meet in the middle.”

Restorations play March 7 at The Hideout

That Restorations don’t hew too closely to any particular rock genre or style has allowed them greater leeway to make career decisions without worrying too much about being painted into a demographic corner. In 2010, the band released a split EP with Philadelphia post-metal band Rosetta, and this spring they’re touring with ’90s emo pioneers The Get Up Kids. As Loudon told Vice’s music blog Noisey last year, “What we think the band sounds like and what anyone else thinks is nowhere near the same thing.” And for that reason, Restorations aren’t afraid to shake up their approach whenever the mood strikes them.

“I feel that we’re one of the few bands whose fan base doesn’t get mad when we try something. There’s no, like, vocal opposition to it,” Loudon says. “We were always joking that we could put in ska parts or lounge parts and no one would blink. Which is really fun writing, because you’re never thinking, Oh god, people are going to get so mad about this. You could just have fun, write what you feel is appropriate and move through it. I think people that follow us are that way.”

For a band whose background is primarily playing punk and who still largely self-identify as a punk band, Restorations aim for something much bigger and more universal than simply staying true to any particular ideal of what a punk band is. While there’s a rawness to Restorations’ approach, there’s also a stadium-ready appeal to their music, which can largely be attributed to Loudon’s charismatic presence. With his husky, masculine voice, Loudon is prone to dropping earnest, irony-free statements like, “I’ll take you all, I’ll set you free” or “I’ve always liked you, because you think about the future.”

That kind of emotionally charged approach has also occasionally gotten Restorations lumped into the “emo revival,” but all earnestness aside, Loudon just wants people to have fun when they listen to the band’s music.

“I just hope some of the joy comes through,” he says. “I realize we can come across as a dour-sounding band. But, at this point, we’re really having a good time, and this last record really hit that mix of maybe a little bit of a downer but maybe will help people feel a little better at the end of the day. This band’s taken off in a more positive direction at this point in our lives, and hopefully that comes across in the record.”

Email or follow him at @1000TimesJeff