"Pappas is an experimental pop maverick"
- All Music Guide
"...beautiful melodies over shimmering musical arrangements"
- Consequence of Sound
The Everyday Visuals
Stowaway Among The Surf
By Peter Jesperon (Twin/Tone Records Co-Founder / Replacements Manager)
I first heard recordings by the Everyday Visuals after they’d relocated to Los Angeles from New Hampshire by way of Boston. Purveyors of an almost maddeningly catchy sort of pop-folk-rock, they quickly captivated me. I first saw them perform at the Silverlake Lounge, a long running indie rock club on LA’s east side. Rarely had I heard vocals sound so skillfully delivered in a live setting. And not only were the vocals strong, the harmonies were impeccable.
About half a dozen songs into the set, the band all stepped off the stage and into the middle of the crowd. Lead singer Christopher Pappas had an acoustic guitar, drummer Joe Seiders carried a kick drum, and, together, all five of them sang a song from their 3rd album called “Florence Foster Jenkins” (Google her, it’s quite a story!). I was gobsmacked. They had it all: great songs, top-shelf musicianship, spirited and ambitious arrangements, a sense of playfulness … and those killer vocals. As it turns out, the Everyday Visuals aren’t so everyday after all … in fact, they’re what I would call an uncommon occurrence.
Frontman and primary writer, Christopher Pappas, rarely sits still and he has a habit of doing things … well, differently than most. As a child, he wrote songs before he learned to play an instrument. When he learned to play guitar, it was specifically to be able to play his own songs. He credits a bluegrass version of Paul Simon’s “Red Rubber Ball” by the Spectrum as the song that set him on his path. Later inspiration came from the likes of Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and R.E.M. Constantly writing and recording, Christopher often takes on side projects, like his one-man-studio-band Miracle Parade and his recent synth-garage outfit, Elle Belle. He also composed the music for the award-winning off-Broadway musical, Pope! An Epic Musical, garnering features in the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In May of 2010, Christopher startled the Boston music community when he brought a 30-piece orchestra into the downstairs music room at the Middle East and conducted them as they performed three new orchestral works he had composed. Once, when asked what he hoped to achieve with his music, he replied, “I’m trying to replicate what I hear in my head.”
The Everyday Visuals essentially began when Christopher Pappas and Joe Seiders met as 8th graders in the mid-nineties. They formed a high school band and, over the course of the next couple of years, self-released three albums and two EPs and played 50-some regional gigs. After graduating, Christopher attended the Hartt School, a performing arts conservatory at the University of Hartford, where he met guitarist Kyle Fredrickson. Christopher was studying music education; Kyle, engineering and guitar performance. Kyle joined the group and quickly made himself indispensable. In 2003, after a couple of line-up changes, Christopher, Joe and Kyle became The Everyday Visuals. Their debut full length – Media Crush – was recorded in the attic of Christopher’s childhood home in Auburn, New Hampshire, an hour or so north of Boston. All three were gifted musicians who did the best they could as novice recordists. The album is a dichotomy - a low-fi work of sophisticated, literate pop-art that focuses on voice and harmony. Their depth and versatility as musicians was clear, their trademark meticulousness begins here.
In order to kick the band into higher gear, the Visuals moved to Boston in 2004. They began gigging at places like T.T. The Bear’s, the Middle East, and the Lizard Lounge (“the first club we officially sold-out”), playing with groups like Taxpayer, Session Americana and Berklee grad Bleu, who signed with Columbia Records and took the Visuals out on tour with him, both as opening act and backing band. The second album, Things Will Look Up, came out in the spring of 2007. Roughly every other month, the Visuals did the NYC-DC-Philly run, picking up fans and steam as they went. A loop out to Chicago and Nashville was done every three to four months and the band worked their way to the west coast and back at least once per year. They did dates with Low vs Diamond, Pierre de Reeder (from Rilo Kiley) and Juliana Hatfield, the latter who they again toured with as opener and backing band. A third, self-titled, LP followed in 2009, making many publication’s top ten lists, including the Boston Metro. Major labels began knocking with Epic Records leading the charge, though the band has remained steadfastly independent.
Over the next few months, Christopher kept in touch with Pierre (also a gifted musician who lived in Los Angeles), and found himself getting restless and sharing his father’s dream of moving to the west coast musical mecca. He took the plunge in late 2010, with Joe and Kyle following a year later. Pierre provided two immediately welcome functions – first, stepping in as the E.V.s’ new bass guitarist; and, secondly, introducing the group to esteemed producer, Dave Trumfio (Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Built To Spill), who immediately took a liking to the Visuals latest tunes. Never one to rush anything, Christopher played his cards carefully, writing and rehearsing the group while keeping active with side-projects and delving into the new film and television composing opportunities offered in his adopted home. Joe is doing double-duty, now also drumming with The New Pornographers. Recording a new Everyday Visuals album began at Trumfio’s Kingsize Soundlabs. Waxing emphatic, Christopher praises the producer, “Dave Trumfio was awesome to work with. He’s just so quick and can get from “cool idea” to “realized part” super-fast. He also knew when to get out of the way and let us work stuff out in real time. He was very intuitive to when we needed a push and when we needed a moment to dig for a better part.” Wanting to get it right without being overly fussy, they recorded when time allowed and when inspiration grabbed them.
The result is a brand-spanking new album called Stowaway Among The Surf. Stylistically varied, tightly arranged, full of melody and heart. The opening title song is a multi-voiced, harmony fest with electric 12-string guitar, reminiscent of the Byrds and Big Star; the baroque pop “Madeleine” is a jaunty number with horns and a walking bass line; “Beautiful Illusion” and ”Gold/Silver” show off the E.V.s ability to handle intricate, Beach Boys-style polyphony; “Strange Waves” is a clever exercise in two-syllable wordplay married to a melancholy tune. “Children Of One Big Myth” is an exuberant, ear-worm with a snappy beat. “Wane, Yellow Moon” features delicate acoustic fingerpicking with singing that may remind you of Simon & Garfunkel; we recommend you pay special attention to the epic, stomping, distorted, impassioned cry of love, “Her Breathing Is Music” (recently featured in a Lexus TV ad); and the perfect radio song, “Hey Brothers (We’re The Echo Of Stars),” where, in another Byrds-like hail of electric 12-string guitars and glorious “la-la-las,” Christopher succinctly sums up his unconventional credo: “I’m obsessed with impossible.”
Stowaway Among The Surf is a work that has been carefully thought out and constructed as an album (though listening a la carte works marvelously too). A set of songs that will make you feel and think. We encourage you to give it a careful listen. It may just take you somewhere else for a while. And it could be that the Everyday Visuals won’t sound so everyday to you either!