Between rock and a soft place

Is the Everyday Visuals' likability a liability?
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  May 5, 2009

SELF-SCREENING "With every song I write," says Christopher Pappas, "I don't ask, 'Is this different? Is this new?' I ask, 'Is this me? Am I on this record?' "

The Everyday Visuals, "Boom, Boom, Boom" (mp3)
There's a blog post on the Everyday Visuals' Web site titled "Pop is fucking (aka. Everything to all people? / a/k/a. Coldplay is just as bad as Wavves)" that I was tempted to cut, paste, and submit in place of this article. That probably wouldn't have gone over well, but the essay by guitarist, keyboardist, and singer Christopher Pappas is still worth paraphrasing. He illustrates the problematic equivalencies of mainstream- and indie-music clusters, and how these disparities mirror the ambition, and the dilemma, of his band. It is of concern to Pappas that the EVs are too inventive for Mix 98.5 but too endearing and catchy for the persnickety palate of the common hipster. That incongruity should render the band audienceless. Yet their new, potato-chip addictive The Everyday Visuals has been bounding all over college radio since its release (which they'll commemorate this Saturday at Great Scott). If the deliberate duality of the Everyday Visuals truly is a hindrance, it's an obstacle they've made their bitch.

"Bad pop music is the same as bad indie music," explains Pappas, "where it's trying to be something it's not, or just trying to be something. Everybody's unique, so if you follow your own voice, you're bound to be different. With every song I write and album I make, I don't ask, 'Is this different? Is this new?' I ask, 'Is this me? Am I on this record?' "

Frustration with the local club scene brought about the EV's exodus from New Hampshire to Boston, where they've made a niche for themselves with Media Crush (2004) and Things Will Look Up (2007). They wound up in Watertown apartments, where, whenever they felt like it, they'd record parts for The Everyday Visuals on their laptops. Tossing scheduling asunder preserved a spontaneity that would've been unfeasible in a studio, or if they had used only one computer.

Pappas: "I fucking hate recording. I feel like it strips all the creativity away. You go into a small room and they're like, 'You play a version of the song that is the version that all other versions will be judged against.' My favorite part of being in a band is playing live, having the songs change, and reacting to the energy in the room. Every song we've recorded is just a version of the song."

Such talk might sound pretentious were it not for Pappas's wide-eyed enthusiasm and his disarming aw-shucks quality, which comes through even on a static-riddled cellphone connection. The Everyday Visuals sports a similar purity, and thanks to guitarist Kyle Fredrickson's acoustical engineering chops, it belies its frugal production. Although they're decidedly non-abrasive, the glimmering, classic-pop stylings of "Limb from Limb" and "Boom! Boom! Boom!" keep things vigorous. The only way the versions of "Florence Foster Jenkins" and "Heal Me" could be more folksy and tranquil is if you were situated in otherwise uninhabited woodland splendor. In fact, while on tour, the EVs shot footage of themselves playing those tunes in just such a locale.

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