GROUNDERS with TOPANGA, DANGERBAND and KOKO BLUE at the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina), tonight (Thursday, December 20), 8:30 pm. $7. 416-975-0909. See listing.
On first listen, Toronto's Grounders don't seem dissimilar to psychedelic pop bands like Grizzly Bear, Wolf Parade and Dirty Projectors. Sure enough, those bands were reference points for the five-piece when they started jamming together three years ago. But repeated listens reveal another element that's tougher to place.
"We still draw a lot of influence from [bands like Grizzly Bear and Wolf Parade], but lately we've been listening to stuff like Chris Isaak and David Wilcox," says bassist Mike Searle.
Paradoxically, it's those straightforward roots influences that give their sound a jolt of weirdness. A bit of rockabilly guitar twang and some slapback echo on singer/guitarist Andrew Davis's crooning goes a long way toward corrupting the jangle-pop formula.
Another factor that helps their four-song Wreck Of A Smile EP stand out from the pack is the involvement of producer Dave Newfeld, best known for his work with Broken Social Scene. Though he didn't produce the EP, over the past year he's helped Grounders hone their sound into something more heavily textured.
"It's sort of been an ongoing process," says Searle. "He lives outside Toronto now and has a great studio in an old church. We're going to put out some of those recordings in January or February as a split 7-inch with Volcano Playground."
Newfeld is such a hands-on producer that the band had to rethink how to present the recordings they made with him.
"Dave had so much influence on the stuff we recorded with him that we're going to present them as Dave Newfeld versions. Or basically remixes."