The power of four rolled into one
Found Audio bandmates tune into their early influences to make their own sound
It must first be said that the Dokken influences are not readily apparent. Nor is Found Audio’s collective history of listening to Fugazi or Fiona Apple anything you’d likely notice on the first - or 50th -spin of the Boston band’s subtly delectable debut album, “Chalk.’’
Still, those cumulative touchstones, plus many more (the Minutemen, R.E.M., er, Norah Jones) make up what the Found Audio foursome say has been the defining music of their lives. And it goes to the heart of the moniker they chose when forming three years ago.
“Found Audio is a collection of all of our influences,’’ singer-multi-instrumentalist John Bragg says over drinks with his bandmates at Allston’s Deep Ellum, a few doors down from the group’s rehearsal space. “And it’s about how we mesh together as a whole.’’
The name Found Audio was inspired, Bragg says, by Found magazine, a publication that throws open a perversely funny, occasionally poignant window into people’s lives via discarded detritus such as birthday cards, notes on napkins, and jarring kiss-off letters between jilted lovers.
Likewise, the 10 songs on “Chalk,’’ whose release Found Audio will celebrate with a show at the Middle East Upstairs on Monday, veer and swerve in tone and temperament. From the Midlake-esque baroque folk of the opener, “Walker, Riddley,’’ the album dips into the loping country-rock leanings of “It’s Not Love’’ and the languid, slacker pop of “Struck Out Again.’’ In between lie minefields and sunken treasures of the heart; ancient family plots and schemes; and odes to fleeting days and dreams.
The instrumentation, meanwhile -with its washes of acoustic and electric guitar and dusky flourishes of keyboard, clarinet, and banjo coloring the mix - is supple and sure-handed. Throughout, the harmonizing between Bragg and fellow singer-songwriter Terrence Mulhern and the pairs moody lyrical imagery are at once lovely and fretful. I think the best thing we came up with was, [it sounds as] if you put Simon and Garfunkel over Meat Puppets songs," says drummer Denny Kennedy.
Kennedy’s comparison elicits self-conscious laughter from a group of guys who know they’ve made a richly rewarding, if slow-burning, record they claim surpassed even their own expectations and ambitions to create a lasting work.
“The albums that I’ve loved the longest are the ones that stick around, and those that I didn’t get right away,’’ says bassist John Stricker. He recalls, for example, hating Radiohead’s landmark 1997 album, “OK Computer,’’ upon first hearing it. Stricker obviously doesn’t wish that kind of negative reaction to his own group’s new work but says, “I think we’re all aware that it’s going to take some time [to catch on].’’
The bulk of “Chalk’’ - which, ironically, refers to the ephemeral nature of that easily wiped-away substance - was home-recorded over the past year in various band members’ apartments in Allston, Jamaica Plain, and Somerville. It was painstakingly mixed by Mulhern, an audio-visual technician by trade who makes his mixing debut here.
Dokken references aside (“Horrible singing, but great guitar licks,’’ Stricker says in good-humored defense of his teenage taste for the ’80s-era metal band), the softer, more introspective moods on “Chalk’’ stand in striking contrast to the dissonant punk and raucous rock the band members made with a number of earlier bands. In fact, all but Stricker, who joined Found Audio through a Craigslist want ad, had played together previously in a Boston-based garage-punk outfit called the Bludlows.
Ask whether Found Audio’s approach represents the more mature, musical and emotional flip side to the band’s punk predilections, and the guys grin.
“Not really,’’ Mulhern says of the stylistic about-face. “We just wanted to get good at our instruments.’’
Jonathan Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.