Sitting with Eddie Japan frontman David Santos, there is suspicion he might be a spy. He's well-dressed, to suit any occasion that might arise, and he refuses a drink. It might be a sign that he wants to keep his senses sharp in case he's surprised with questions that probe deeply into the subtle cynicism that runs though Eddie Japan's new EP, Modern Desperation, Part One. "Everything's gotten a little too cute," says Santos of the indie scene that left him cold in the decade leading up to Eddie Japan's rise.
After a four-year run with the guitar-focused Mercury Quartet from 1994 to 1998, the Seekonk-native and current Western Mass resident took a sabbatical from music while his musical mind mulled new ideas. Eschewing the virtues of the Pitchfork scene, Santos decided to clap his hands and say no, instead looking to the fertile past for inspiration. As a bit of an outsider himself, Santos found it in the sympathetic guise of '60s outsider pop — such as the melodramatic music of Scott Walker and Love.
The infatuation started with Love's 1967 classic "Alone Again Or" (famously covered by the Damned). "I wanted the band to sound like that trumpet solo!" says the singer of the song's dark-hued mariachi vibe. The question for Santos, though, was whether these sounds might actually be achievable. He got his answer when he fell hard for former-Bostonian Paula Kelley's 2003 orch-pop gem The Trouble with Success. "I thought, wow, this can be done on a local level," recalls Santos. From there he reached out to Kelley's horn player, Chris Barrett, to bring Eddie Japan to life.
"I have always been interested in incorporating horns into modern pop/rock songs in more imaginative ways than most rock bands do," says Barrett, also of Kingsley Flood. "That seemed to be David's bag, so I was in."
After bringing in other key players, like Tribe's Eric Brosius, a debut EP, 4 x 6, was released in late 2009. The addition of such a well-known Boston guitarist was not insignificant. In addition to getting a gallant read on all of Santos's musical ideas, Brosius also recorded three of the EP's five tracks in his home studio — including Eddie Japan's masterpiece-to-date, "A Town Called Nowhere." While the crisp production on the EP's other tracks nod to greats like the Jam and Dexy's Midnight Runners, the ultra-lush and melodic "A Town Called Nowhere" is a full-on descent into a John Barry Bond-fantasy. Its beguiling string section and distinguished tremolo-guitar make its message known very quickly.
It all adds up to a band that's sneaking up on the Boston scene. Kind of like a spy.
JONATHAN DONALDSON » CRAZYINBOX@YAHOO.COM
EDDIE JAPAN + GENE DANTE & THE FUTURE STARLETS + THE DAILY PRAVDA:: Lizard Lounge, 1667 Mass Ave, Cambridge :: November 17 @ 8:30 pm :: 21+ :: $10 :: 617.547.0759 or lizardloungeclub.com