PUT TO BED: “The fact we’re actually on Slumberland may have had something to do with knowing this was a good time to stop,” says Andrew Churchman. “Where else could we go?”
Everybody loves a tidy ending. Episodes of Seinfeld, fireworks finales, a sturdy hem at the base of a pant leg — these things give us faith that the designer knew what he was doing.
Andrew Churchman tells me — in a royal-purple font via e-mail — that Slumberland Records ended up offering the perfect, most fitting ending for Pants Yell!, his soft-spoken indie-pop project of the past six years. "I've drawn countless inspiration from their catalogue over the years, and thinking about it now, the fact we're actually on the label may have had something to do with knowing this was a good time to stop the band. Where else could we go?"
The precise path that Pants Yell! have cut through indie pop has always seemed bound for Slumberland — the home of cozy combos like the Softies and Boyracer. It almost seemed fated that their fourth and final album, named Received Pronunciation and set for a release party at ZuZu this Monday, is now a jewel of their roster.
Since Churchman (guitar, lead vocals) met Sterling Bryant (bass, keyboards) at MassArt in 2003 (Casey Keenan joined on drums in 2007), the music they've been making hasn't changed much, and in this case that's a good thing. A Pants Yell! song is more about what they're not doing than what they are — which typically is not a whole lot. Guitars stay sparse and dry, the bass bup-bup-bups along, the drums gently hop from one beat to the next. The formula — jilted chord progressions and shy '70s harmonies tucked under simple melodies — has been assured and effortless from the beginning.
"Everything we do has a very precise imagery and æsthetic that I'm very conscious of," says Churchman. "Even our album art, T-shirts, and fliers, even what clubs and bands we choose to play with."
Not to say that Churchman and company are finicky friends, but the members of their collaborative orbits make a pretty impeccable bunch of strange bedfellows, reaching to the arguably even-more-twee Ponies in the Surf, the sputtering garage mechanics of Reports, and the psych-freaks of Major Stars.
The first time I heard of this outfit was during an interview with the taste-defiant noise-rock band Life Partners, whose trumpet player, Greg Kelley (also of free-improv and Nmperign fame) had just finished recording with Pants Yell! When I finally got to see them live, they shared the stage with the excruciatingly loud Big Bear. I can't blame myself for being surprised at their set.
"It was helpful early on just meeting like-minded music people in the city," says Churchman. "Getting to know the lay of the land. Making friends with bands that you wouldn't be embarrassed to play with."
Now at the end of the line, he seems focused on adding the finishing touches to a modest legacy. "I'm drawn to the mysticism of pop music. Four albums is a good run, and I want to end on a high note. Also, I want to make a little bit of a statement, too — 'This was Pants Yell!' "