Monday, March 14, 2011


Apparently, Restorations plays music for “grown-up punks”—at least that's what everyone seems to be saying—but the band isn't sure what that means. When the question is presented to them, the band giggles together before guitarist Dave Klyman grumbles, “Aw man, do you want to field this one? Because I don't even know.”

Singer and guitarist Jon Loudon jumps in and attempts to explain. “It's funny because [our music] ended up resonating with a lot of old bar dudes, old punks, dudes that work in restaurants now who are like, 'Aw, shit! This is my stuff!'” he says before being interrupted by his laughing bandmates. “It's really flattering because we've been very lucky to be lumped in with a lot of much older people playing much better music.”

All modesty aside, it's easy to see why an older audience might appreciate Restorations and their Self-Titled record, released by Tiny Engines in the spring of 2011. There's something intangibly but undeniably mature—wise, even—about their music, though the band has only existed for a couple of years. Maybe it's their music, which is (somehow) simultaneously folky and fuzzy, hazy with sound the droning organs, with delay and swirling cymbals; in it, it's likely that listeners who have lived through more than one decade of music recognize something adventurous and difficult to define, something experimental without trying to be, something that reminds them of a time when music didn't need to fit so neatly into some sub-genre.

Restorations rose from the ashes of Jena Berlin, the band in which Loudon and Klyman performed side-by-side. “Largely, [Restorations] happened because Jena Berlin had a van that completely exploded,” Klyman says. “We still wanted to play music, but we couldn't do it in the capacity we did before.”

“Basically, it sort of came out of necessity,” Loudon adds. “Dave and I got real stir crazy not touring. It was, what, four months that we weren't a band? So, we were like, 'Oh, hell, we'll just jam,' and kind of ended up doing better than the band we had just put down.”

In an attempt to distance themselves from Jena Berlin's brand of agitated, angular post-hardcore, Klyman and Loudon decided to write songs in a style more simple and stripped-down. “Originally, we wanted to do music that was a lot quieter and a little more folky,” Loudon says. “I think the Weakerthans was the reference point we were going for, but that sort of spun wildly out of control.”

“That would be my fault,” say bassist Mike Drelling with a snicker. “I play a distorted bass and ruined that idea.” Drelling was originally tapped to play bass for Jena Berlin just before the band collapsed, and decided to stay with Klyman and Loudon to form Restorations.

“Most of [our songs are] written basic and plain,” Loudon continues, “and we just turn up the amps when we're at practice. After a while, it sort of became this arms race with everyone in the band getting bigger and louder.”

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: What happens when a folk band turns up their amps really, really loud?

In their first year as Restorations, Loudon, Klyman, Drelling, and Jena Berlin drummer Jeff Meyers approached this question with two records: a 2009 seven-inch on Evil Weevil featuring tracks “Of Tress” and “Frankford”, and Strange Behavior, a four song EP released by Paper + Plastick in 2010. Both releases feature songs that rumble and sparkle at the same time. B-side “Frankford”, for example, showcases Drelling's bass—a sound so distorted, it resembles the incomprehensible buzz of an insect beneath the bird-like warble of Loudon's guitar (Klyman's trills somewhere else in the air). “Documents”, a seven and a half-minute hymn from Strange Behavior, is guided by Loudon's raspy howl. Halfway through, the song begins to build into a bright, echoey blossom of twinkling guitars and a sharp, shuffling drumbeat. Though these tracks seem noisy and inordinate and disorienting at times, Restorations' songs never lose their melody and musicality.

During this era of their songwriting, though, the band felt like they were still searching for their sound. “When we were a band with Jeff coming off of Jena Berlin, not really knowing what to do with this band, we basically made a full-length with the songs,” Loudon explains. “The seven-inch songs were recorded at the same time, same session as the EP—mixed by different people, put out by different people.”

When Meyers left Restorations, they asked their friend Carlin Brown to take over. Later, they added Ben Pierce to play keys and an occasional guitar. “I told him to buy an organ,” Drelling recalls. “I said, 'We need an organ player. If you buy one, you can be in the band.' A week later, he texted Jon to tell him that he bought an organ, so Ben joined the band.” With Brown and Pierce adding to both the songwriting process and their tapestry of sound, Restorations was ready to move away from their previous releases.

The band had an “ah-ha!” moment after writing “Broken Vacuum”, a song that begins with Drelling's throbbing, throaty bassline, slowly oscillating beneath a glimmering guitar that appears and disappears like a playful ghost. After several seconds, the song springs into a mid-tempo tumble, rolls steadily, spun by Loudon's hoarse lines, before dropping into a half-time chorus, where an organ and guitars ring with the resounding chime of church bells. “I think 'Broken Vacuum' was pretty big for all of us because, when we finished writing that song, all of us stood back and were like, 'Oh, shit, that's the song! We need a record full of this,'” Klyman remembers. “I don't know about the rest of the guys but, every time we play that song, I just smile, like, 'This song fucking rocks!' Awesome!”

Loudon agrees. “We were dicking around for a long time, trying to find what we wanted to sound like,” he says. “When that song came around, it was like, yeah, we finally got it.”

“That was like the new beginning for the band sonically,” Drelling concludes, “which is awesome because we love that song.”

“Broken Vacuum” led Restorations to other songs that complimented its musical and emotional mood, including “Nonlocality”, a spectral track that shuffles slowly and sullenly, and the uptempo, upbeat “Neighborhood Song”, which Loudon describes as “a suck it up song, you know? The sonic output to me sounds like walking down York Street or something, getting dirty stares from everybody but, at the same time, enjoying where you're at.”

With songs written and a label interested in releasing (and, more importantly, paying for) Restorations' first full-length, the band became busier than ever, preparing to enter the studio and finish before the label's proposed deadline. “We got really busy between March and August of last year,” Loudon recalls. “It was kind of crazy times. We were practicing three times a week and doing long, crazy, exhausting sessions to get everything together.” Just before the band was set to enter the studio, it became clearer and clearer that the label, who had promised to send a check to the studio prior to recording, was giving them the run around. “The studio hadn't gotten the money,” Loudon says, “so we called them and said, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' and Dave and I basically paid for the whole thing ourselves.”

“That was part of the reason why we realized we really needed to buckle down and finish writing and recording the record,” Klyman adds. “All of the sudden, the budget was our budget. Time was already booked and we're not rich, so we needed to get in there and bang things out or we all had to pay extra, and none of us could afford that.”

Label-less, Restorations found support and solidarity in their old friend Chuck Daley; his label Tiny Engines has released records by bands that revive (or at least reference) the sort of emo that tip-toed just beneath the mainstream in the mid-'90s. “Chuck is someone we've known for years, even before he had two kids and a dog,” Klyman explains. “He's always been great friends and, every time we rolled through his town, he'd give us a place to stay. I've read all his books and eaten all his food and stuff like that. So, when he was like, 'Hey, the hell with it, Tiny Engines will just put out your record,' we were like, 'Aw, thanks!'”

“He's a great punk-rock older brother,” Loudon adds and laughs.

It's here, after the presentation of Restorations' story—their rise from Jena Berlin, their search for a sound of their own, their decision to fund their record independently and leave one label for another—that the band's connection to “grown-up punk” becomes clearer. There's a maturity, a “been there” mentality that pushes Restorations' music away from the mundane; it's the same mature mentality that helps the band make decisions with their best interest (and ability, and reality) in mind. If there's one thing this story suggests, it's that Restorations is not naïve.

Perhaps they play music that pleases grown-up punks, but it also seems that the five gentlemen that perform as Restorations are the grown-up punks—the twenty- and thirty-somethings that pollute bars and scuzzy clubs across the country; those repressed souls that populate conference rooms and classrooms and cubicles, work nine-to-five to fund their modest lives and, if possible, the passions that provide its meaning, the passions they must reserve for their evenings and weekends. This is a generation perplexed by adulthood, who were told that their dreams would be delivered if they fought for them, but find themselves still fighting for their dreams. Like the members of Restorations, some of these people were raised on punk-rock, but stretched toward the other styles and sounds associated with it as they got older; like Restorations and their music, these people somehow still express their punk-rock roots in everything they do as adults, even if they've evolved since this starting point.

If Restorations plays music for grown-up punks, it's because they're what happens when punks grow up.

Loudon and Klyman, on acoustic guitars; Pierce on a Silvertone electric reed organ; and Drelling on "jingle-shaker thing" recorded these tracks on a Saturday afternoon in the early spring. The band performed in Philadelphia, PA at the offices of Sire Press, a printshop and design firm operated by the band's friend.

"Nonlocality" and "Canadian Club" appear on Restorations' 2011 Self-Titled record.

Visit the band's Bandcamp page for more music.

To download these tracks, click on the song titles and download them from the player at

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