The packaging for Endless Interstate's debut record, Roadsigns, is maybe the best I've seen locally, in terms of presenting standard CD packaging information in original and holistic fashion. The name of the band is the look of the band, a roadmap with a key for who plays on which song and an overall aesthetic just perfect for point of sale at Sonic restaurants.
Given that, you might expect '50s-style sock-hop fare, or maybe Highway 61 folk tunes for the American dream, but the band's sound is actually more in the '80s/'90s pocket, with frontman Mathias Sampson sounding like Glen Phillips (has he played here since that Asylum show in 2006?) crossed with Layne Staley, especially from the Alice in Chains Unplugged turn.
You might find it pretty familiar, actually, if you caught Liquid Daydream at all over the past couple of decades. Sampson, guitarist Chris Muccino, and drummer Jordan Warsky are all holdovers, plus bassist Tom Doucette. These guys have been at it for a while and there's no doubt the album is consistent and ably executed.
"Miles" is about as loud as they get, hard blues with a soul twist from Ryan Zoidis'S guest spot on sax. Sampson's vocals are mixed to the middle here and could pop more. Similarly, in the nostalgia-fueled "Do You Remember" there's something of a call-and-response section but you can't quite make out the response, which gets drowned in the instruments.
There's a good bounce to the song, though, as there is in the danceable "Comes and Goes," which borrows from the jam crowd and features an active bass line from Doucette and crescendoing cymbal work from Warsky. The bright music is tempered by the lyrics, though: "Had some money yesterday/But there's addictions, bills, and debts to pay."
Late in the album, things get more positive as they slow down and lean toward the balladic and acoustic. "Diamond Blue" is a straight devotional ode to a girl's eyes — "they sparkle, like diamonds in the sky" — and "Take It Easy" has a bit of country rock to it as Interstate go for a classic encore singalong piece.
"The World" is downright new-agey, with some "Walk on the Ocean" to it and a laid-back attitude that fits with the nature imagery in the video they've produced, and "Again" leans that way with an atmospheric open, but picks up after the open.
Largely, that initial impression of poppy alt-rock carries through. And, hey, that Alice in Chains Unplugged appearance was pretty good.
ROADSIGNS | Released by Endless Interstate | with Hawthorne + Paul Houston Project | at the Big Easy, in Portland | March 23 | facebook.com/endlessinterstate