Victory at Sea
Reflect on a band like Victory at Sea and the ocean metaphors roll in. They were timeless and powerful, comforting and familiar. In performance, their songs often surged past their own limits, sweeping up unprepared listeners. And, like other waves, they gently crashed, fanned out, and vanished without fanfare. But if the sea inspires one thing, it’s nostalgia, and after a dozen or so years of Victory at Sea’s producing songs that were stark and stormy, gloomy and aglow with hope, songs that couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else’s, it would be easy to dote on what once was and would be no more.
No need for that. This is the new year — and nearly a full year has passed since V@S ran their course. In their wake comes a trio of upstart bands as different as each member, and as intriguing as you might expect.
We’ll begin with the Men. Yes, the Men. On a cold drippy night in Allston, the members of the Men are huddled in the kitchen of Mad Oak Studios, reading from a scrap of aluminum covered in Sharpie scrawls.
“Math Potatoes!” “Bitch Corrector!” “Glass Napkin!”
It’s a comprehensive and cherished studio archive of potentially awful band names. For the five men of the Men, the name came as easily as agreeing not to disagree on which one of them was “the Man.” This magnanimous display of unanimity is at the heart of the fivesome’s MO. Their songs have the spontaneous celebration of high-grade pop punk, but with the meticulous neatness of something more consciously crafted.
“It’s been different because we all met through this band,” says Dave Norton, long-time V@S drummer. “It’s like, ‘Hi, nice to meet you. I’m gonna go do my tracks now.’ ” Which isn’t to say these guys are all business, but there’s a palpable sense of mission in the air of the kitchen. At least, that’s what I hope that is.
Fronted by former Lost City Angel Chris Duggan, with Kevin Smith on guitar, Nick (“Nick-Nick”) Hayes on keys, and J.R. Roach (formerly of Sam Black Church) on bass, Man aren’t a quiet group, but neither are they a one-trick pop-punk pony. Dusty-sounding pianos give “Me Against the World” a dash of barroom grit, Norton’s smart drumming refrains from spasmodic wailing, and Duggan’s hard raspy holler keeps things from getting too pop.
For a band so new, their momentum is freaky. Their first show was a sold-out affair at the Middle East upstairs last fall; the second was a CMJ showcase at Union Pool in Brooklyn. Next month, they’ll finish tracking tunes at Mad Oak, and a full-length will be on the way.
Meanwhile, Victory at Sea founding multi-instrumentalist Mel Lederman, who’s been backing Thalia Zedek of late, has adopted a straightforward new performing name — M.G. Lederman. “I feel like I’ve been struck by lightning,” he says over the phone. He’s talking about being smitten with someone, and when I ask whether that means no more sad songs, he lets out a laugh. “I don’t know about that. I’ll find something to worry about.”