Singer/pianist Jenn Malzone formed Middle Class Fashion in 2010 with a member from each of her two other bands—drummer Brad Vaughn played bass in Malzone’s now defunct baroque pop outfit Paper Dolls, while she and bassist Brian McClelland co-lead the St Louis indie pop powerhouse Tight Pants Syndrome. Additional keyboardist Katie Lindhorst (The Glass Cavalry) joined in Summer 2012.
After some limited touring behind a 2011 4-track self titled EP, the band members recorded the 14 tracks that became their debut full-length, Girl Talk, at home with McClelland filling the role of producer.
It was Girl Talk's release in January 2012 that finally pulled Middle Class Fashion, once jokingly referred to by its members as their "secret band," out of the shadows and into the spotlight. While the record sold well at shows regionally, it was a surprising number of sales from abroad--Australian iTunes, in particular--that gave the band a needed push forward, finally allowing a regular source of income the group could put towards merch, stage production, and going back into an actual recording studio (Sawhorse Recording in south St. Louis) to start recording Girl Talk's follow-up, a yet to be titled LP with a projected release in early 2013.
While Girl Talk's reviews across the country have been overwhelmingly positive, it's the band's hometown support that has raised the band's profile the most:
- The band was recently awarded two BEST OF ST. LOUIS awards (for BEST POP BAND and BEST ALBUM) by THE RIVERFRONT TIMES.
- So far In 2012, Girl Talk has received the second highest number of spins by Midwest independent radio mecca KDHX--that list includes regional and national artists.
- Airplay at KDHX sent Girl Talk to the #1 spot of their CMJ Top 20 Chart for several consecutive weeks.
- The ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH featured the band's yet-to-be-released local fave "Stuck" in their LISTEN video series.
- ST LOUIS MAGAZINE featured a two-page spread on the group in November 2012.
MIddle Class Fashion is closing out 2012 by finishing the new LP and focusing more on making videos--McClelland's created two for the band so far, for Girl Talk tracks "My Attack" and "Sugar Hrt Candy," both streaming at middleclassfashion.com.
"Sugar Hrt Candy" http://youtu.be/L1JmAX3RlEk
"My Attack" http://youtu.be/w-2k4dlf-p4
Brian McClelland - Vocals, Bass
Brad Vaughn - Vocals, Drums, Synth
Katie Lindhorst - Vocals, keyboards, Synth
Jenn Malzone - keyboards, Lead Vocals
Middle Class Fashion EP (Blip! Blap! Records + Tapes) - November, 2010
Girl Talk LP (Blip! Blap! Records + Tapes) - January, 2012
Middle Class Fashion
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Fans of intricate harmonies and smart pop melodies might as well reserve an entire swath of CD shelf...Fans of intricate harmonies and smart pop melodies might as well reserve an entire swath of CD shelf (or hard drive) storage space for the collected works of Middle Class Fashion's Brian McClelland and Jenn Malzone. Together, they serve as co-lead vocalists in power-pop maestros Tight Pants Syndrome, and their presence has been a high point in that band's revolving-door membership. Pianist Malzone leads the more baroque-pop project Paper Dolls (which also features MCF drummer Brad Vaughn), and McClelland's solo project, Whoa Thunder, will be releasing an album this year as well. With such a knotty family tree, the differences between these projects can be a matter of degrees. On Girl Talk, Middle Class Fashion is brighter and more buoyant than the Paper Dolls' Dresden Dolls-y excursions and more restrained than Tight Pants Syndrome's kinetic rock & roll. As such, the album is less a revelation of the members' talents and more a continued document of their strengths.
Malzone's dark-tinted piano pop comes on strong on Middle Class Fashion's debut full-length (a four-song EP is available as a free download on the group's Bandcamp page). McClelland mostly sticks to high harmony vocals and buzzy, fuzzy bass tones, though his jilted-lover "Jamie" is a highlight. Malzone favors the other side of that busted-love coin — her songs treat breakups and dumb boys as an inevitability that's not worth getting upset about. Better to treat such things with a tiny sigh and a smart-ass smirk, as she does on "Fun Whoa": "It was fun while it lasted, but I'm already past it." Being guitar-free doesn't exactly equal a minimalist approach, but the songs have very little fat on them; it's again up to Malzone to set the tone with her cabaret and Broadway flourishes on the piano to fill in the blanks. "July 31" sneaks in a stately string section, while "Barbarella" turns from a '60s spy soundtrack to a Fiona Apple outburst in a matter of seconds. It's hairpin turns like that — and the loud-quiet-loud breakdown in "Birthday," and a whole lot of other sugar bombs — where Middle Class Fashion does a lot with a few rudimentary tools and a boatload of pop savvy.
Charting the Music: Middle Class Fashion, 'Girl Talk'
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Middle Class Fashion's three members are no newcomers to the local music scene. Singers Brad Vaughn...Middle Class Fashion's three members are no newcomers to the local music scene. Singers Brad Vaughn and Jenn Malzone of Paper Dolls founded the group, while Brian McClelland became the duo's drummer later, after playing with Malzone in Tight Pants Syndrome. With Middle Class Fashion, the musicians have stripped down their sound and put the focus on their vocal harmonies, while still maintaining the fun, lighthearted feel of their other work.
"Girl Talk" as a whole has a theatrical quality both in its lyrics and composition. The tracks have a narrative tone to them, with songs like "Jamie" and "Vacation" coming on like playful musical rants on love and friendship that fit well with the album's title. The dramatic feel of the lyrics are echoed by the piano, which constantly builds in intensity before suddenly backing off and conveys a sense of urgency with repeating chords. The title track combines more piano with punctuated bass drum and cymbal crashes for a rock-inspired feel that gives variety and character to a fun and engaging album.
On the KDHX Charts: #3 on CMJ for January 10, 2012.
This album can be heard on: Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst, Mystery Train and the Mixtape.
Concert review: An Horse and Middle Class Fashion ride through the Old Rock House
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A Sunday night at the Old Rock House can be a touch-and-go affair. I've been there when the band out...A Sunday night at the Old Rock House can be a touch-and-go affair. I've been there when the band outnumbered the fans and the music bounced around like ping pong balls during bingo night at the rec center. I've also been packed in on the floor with no room to move.
Last night, the Australian duo An Horse drew a decent crowd, a fact that wasn't lost on them since they thanked us several times. St. Louis was apparently the start of a 40 stop tour and Kate Cooper seemed a bit overwhelmed and slightly sad.
I think we forget how much work musicians actually do when they tour. Most of it isn't glamorous and all of it isn't home, but that aside, these two are going to have fun. They have a devoted fan base and extra doses of the typical Aussie "can do." If they started out a little bumpy in St. Louis, I'm pretty sure they're going to hit their stride in Chicago.
I'll get back to An Horse in a second, but first a bit about the opening band Middle Class Fashion.
Last night was the first time I caught the St. Louis band's show, but it's a good one. If they seem familiar that's because they are: Half the band play in the Paper Dolls and the other half play in Tight Pants Syndrome, with Jenn Malzone bridging the two. She sings and bangs on her keyboard with the enthusiasm of a happy, sugar-high kid (the best kind). I loved "My Attack," in which she flat handed chords like playful biatch slaps for a staccato effect. But really the whole set was fantastic and fun. If you get a chance to see them play, in any of the bands many manifestations, don't pass it up.
An Horse is a much different style, not so much fun filled, as angsty with a touch of leave me alone, wait don't go. Reading the lyrics now, a day after the show, I'm struck by how depressing some of the songs are. "Airport Death" is pretty much about pessimism and tragedy. While "Company" is essentially the struggle to maintain a brave face against mounting fears.
The material belies their engaging stage presence, but it's sincere -- never self-indulgent or overly broody. "Company" in particular is a great example of their style. It's plaintive and powerful, and when Kate sings, "I'm trying to be brave," you want her to succeed.
If you choose to, you can read into those lyrics and get the sense they are at profound odds with the displacement that comes with touring and traveling. There's a persistent longing to Kate's refrains and comforting reassurance with Damien Cox's harmonies. They obviously depend on one another way beyond just the music, as fellow journeymen, friends and refugees far from home.
Best Female Vocalist 2011 - Jenn Malzone
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Between her work with Tight Pants Syndrome, the Paper Dolls and Middle Class Fashion, vocalist/keybo...Between her work with Tight Pants Syndrome, the Paper Dolls and Middle Class Fashion, vocalist/keyboardist Jenn Malzone has released dozens of songs in the past twelve months. If her various projects hardly stray from power pop, it's because she embodies the phrase. Her powerful pipes never pull back to manufacture cutesiness or vulnerability, and she never strains her breezy alto into a growl to contradict pop's friendliness. Malzone's middle-of-the-road delivery is not unlike Neko Case's confident crooning; both sound excellent when double-tracked in the studio, and both are universal enough to avoid a write-off as an "acquired taste." Jenn Malzone deals in quantity and quality. Few make such prolificacy seem so effortless.
Middle Class Fashion - GIrl Talk Album Review
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As musical projects go, St. Louis-based Middle Class Fashion falls into the category of what is atta...As musical projects go, St. Louis-based Middle Class Fashion falls into the category of what is attainable by shuffling the deck, seeking out new angles and placing trust in the musicians with whom you are working.
On January 14, the self-described “weird piano group,” released their début full-length album, Girl Talk, on Blip! Blap! Records.
In 201o, singer/pianist Jenn Malzone decided she needed a new creative outlet for her work. As a member of two other St. Louis bands Malzone said she formed yet another “to create an avenue for my songs that didn’t seem to fit as well with the other bands.” Tapping Brad Vaughn from her baroque pop project Paper Dolls to switch from bass guitar to drums and bassist Brian McClelland from the indie pop Tight Pants Syndrome, Malzone found a chemistry that allowed her to quickly craft ideas and realize results in a short amount of time. The group released a self-titled EP, but continued over the next year to work at the project. “With Brad and Brian’s aptitude and enthusiasm for learning and developing new material we were able to speed up the creative process in a way we weren’t able to in the other bands — basically, to write a song on Monday, learn it on Wednesday and play it in front of an audience on Friday,” explained Malzone.
The tightly crafted indie pop songs on Girl Talk contain plenty of strong hooks and melodies to reel in the listener. The vocal harmonies add a lightness while the minor keys stand the pop vernacular on its ear as classical undertones peek through to fill in the edges. Malzone’s piano playing conjures a Broadway style flair for the dramatic that adds depth and richness to what might otherwise come off as bubblegum pop.
Conversely, the tight arrangements keep the album’s running time to scant 37 minutes. The group achieves this as twelve of the fourteen songs clock in at less than three minutes. In contrast, many albums of the past 20 years with that same number of songs run close to double that total running time.
Further, the production does not overwhelm the ears with a busy sonic atmosphere. While far from sparse open sound landscapes, the group shied away from the typical “Wall of Sound” tribute. The simplicity of the main trio is supplemented at times by overdubs of strings, guitar and a casiotone keyboard.
Malzone possesses a breathy Liz Phair style vocal delivery that carries an appropriate amount of snark, which works well with the band’s blend of pop and rock. While her vocal range is nothing special, the timing of her singing is spot on. Plus, the attitude in her voice resonates and her smart ass lyrical style owes much to singer Jenny Lewis.
McClelland’s fuzzed-out bass lines and Vaughn’s roaring drums on the opening bars of “Powder Blue” easily bring to mind Ben Folds Five though without some of the wry lyrical wit and undeniable piano chops Folds possesses. Across many of the other songs on the album, other obvious comparisons surface for the listener: Regina Spektor, Tegan & Sara and the band of the aforementioned Lewis, Rilo Kiley, come to mind.
Lyrically, Malzone writes in a poetic journal style that reveals a love life filled with stupid, self-absorbed men that don’t understand the complexities of the female emotional condition. “In your nice neat life, there’s me outside, I can’t see clear,” she sings in the opener “Lightning Bugs.” On “My Attack”, however, she becomes more blunt – “I don’t think I like you anymore like that./Starting today when I see you I will look away /Now, every time I see you I will look away/take that.”
The sentiment continues on “Fun Whoa” where Malzone lampoons a love relationship with a fellow hipster musician that is ending. Written from the perspective of one of the participants this is not the jilted lovers’ track. The narrator, resigned to the fact the relationship is over, recaps to her former lover in a break up tone of “well duh.” She sings the stinging assessment, “You only liked me for my hooks/I only liked you for your albums and books/Your daydream record was released/I much prefer you on the CD sleeve.” Clearly, Malzone’s protagonists are still dealing with young, immature boys still looking for that one experienced man to spend the rest of their life with.
“Jamie” begins with a signature blended vocal right out of the Folds songbook. The harmonies between McClellan and Malzone shine brightest here as the two share lead vocals on the only co-written track on the album. Drummer Vaughn even adds a rare guitar solo for the album that strangely sounds reminiscent of a Steve Hackett solo culled from an early Genesis record — I have the solo in “The Musical Box” specifically in mind. Before you dismiss the comparison give a listen to the dramatic progressive rock during the early period before Peter Gabriel left the band.
Recorded by Jimi Gunn at Brewhouse Studios, the album from beginning to end is a labor of love crafted from the Gateway City. While Malzone is responsible for the bulk of the music here, McClelland took on the production and mixing roles, oversaw the overdubs as well as created the album art. The group of people behind the album are just as tight-knit as the songs contained herein.
The band took McClelland’s album artwork up a notch for a video shoot for the LISTEN video series produced by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Utilizing a local St. Louis hair salon, Tami Scott Studio, as the backdrop, the band recorded a live performance of non-album track “Stuck.”
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to my stylist for a cut and a splash of color. What?! Can’t writers look good for their readers?
Album Review: Girl Talk by Middle Class Fashion
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In 2012, I’m going to venture in to some new territory with an occasional album review. The catalys...In 2012, I’m going to venture in to some new territory with an occasional album review. The catalyst for this review arrived in my inbox on January 5th. Jenn Malzone, of the band Middle Class Fashion, sent me a copy of the band’s upcoming release Girl Talk. As most know, I do my best work in-person, so a quick check of the calendar revealed I would be working my real job on the night of the release party. Damn the luck. Alright, guess I’ll give the album a listen and maybe catch the band on a different night.
From the opening notes of “Lightning Bugs”, I knew this band needed some press. The band was formed in early 2010 by Jenn Malzone (vocals/keyboards) and Brad Vaughn (drums), two bandmates from the St. Louis-based band, Paper Dolls. A third bandmate, from Malzone’s other band Tight Pants Syndrome, Brian McClelland (bass) was acquired to round out this trio. The band’s website describes their sound as “Tegan and Sarah scoring a Tim Burton movie with Danny Elfman. Couldn’t have said it better myself. As I said, the first track, “Lightning Bugs”, caught my attention with its catchy piano line and witty lyrics which explore the possibility of trapping feelings in a jar like lightning bugs. “Powder Blue” follows with an equally attractive piano piece and Malzone’s voice hypnotizes on this number. The third track is a song entitled “My Attack”, which is intended to be a mean song but leaves one with the feel of a 70’s TV show theme-song and overall groovyness. The fun police and 80’s keyboards are summoned for “Fun Whoa”, a song about a good time that was had, but now I’m moving on. The male vocals have a chance to blend with Malzone’s on “Jamie” and the boys do a respectable job.
Next up, the title track “Girl Talk”, which briefly sums up all of the things that girls yak about and all of the emotions involved. “Abomination” has a great mix of a Gilbert and Sullivan piano, Dresden Dolls vocals, and 70’s synthesizer. After the track “Vacation” my second favorite song on this alubm can be found, ” July 31st”. This song has a dark feel which is brought to life through Malzone’s vocals and an eerie-sounding piano score. The tenth and eleventh tracks, “Griffin” and ”Barbarella” respectively, are in a perfect spot on the album as they are a couple of the weaker numbers found on this production. “Sugar Hrt Candy” brings it back to life with the band’s signature pop sound and great opening lyric, “You’re my sugar heart candy/just give me cavities/It’s pretty clear you’re no good for me”. The album comes to a peaceful end with Malzone toning down her vocals for the final two tracks, “Sweet” and “Birthday”. A fair number of three-piece bands, in my opinion, often have holes in their sound but this full length album should be a model for other three-piece bands to follow. With a full, rich sound and a rare playfulness, Middle Class Fashion brings a breath of fresh air to the St. Louis music scene.
The album is set for release on January 14th. The album release and show with Scarlet Tanager and Cassie Morgan + the Lonely Pine will be held at Foam Coffee & Beer. Don't forget to check out (and download for free) their debut EP on their Facebook BandPage.
Middle Class Fashion LP Review
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Nestled in St. Lous in Missouri in the US of A…. no I am not going all poetic. Middle Class Fashion ...Nestled in St. Lous in Missouri in the US of A…. no I am not going all poetic. Middle Class Fashion a trio comprising of Jenn, Brad and Brian have a new LP Girl Talk released on 14th January 2012.
A 14 track release, Girl Talk opens with Lightning Bugs – Immediately we find this is an album with a story to tell, as the slow opener sets the scene to the album. Piano accompanies the harmonised vocal. Don’t get that wrong, one of my favourite LPs of all time is by Sham 69 ‘That’s Life‘ their debut album followed a ‘day in the life’, makes for a sublime album when done in the right way and already with Middle Class Fashion I am in the space.
Powder Blue finds the tempo steps up a pace and I can hear the war-paint going on – This looks like a fiery day as the acerbic lyric slices like hydrochloric acid in contempt.
My Attack opens with similar keys, a little more jolly than may be expected, but a point well made. The concept of Middle Class Fashion is one of that self-effacing diatribe. Who said Americans don’t understand irony?
The guitars are let loose on Fun Whoa as the day breaks to a less introspective space.
Jamie finds a new dual vocal plaintiff to an even more classic construct as guitar and drum come to the fore. The use of the second male vocal adds a layer of depth and the band come together far more instrumentally, this is a decent story, stick with it.
The title track – Girl Talk – has some wonderful construction as Middle Class Fashion head out of the woods to let their hair run free, we find some natural space in which the band resonate.
Abomination picks up the theatrical constructs from earlier in the album. I have a sense we have classically trained musicians and a visual band here, as the storyline develops towards the half-time curtain.
Vacation opens the second-act with the tempo raised and the listener looks forward to the story unfolding.
July 31st – and the band take us to another stage setting with a reminiscence as the depth song-writing skills are permitted to come to the fore. The construction here is sublime.
Piano, percussion and vocal sit with equal power on Griffin as the band head towards the final section of the album, the real strengths come bouncing out of the speakers, I did say sit with this.
Will Barbarella live up to the expectations now raised? Once again the band play in harmony and the whole construction is making sense. I am happy to wait for the abilities of the band to be given space to develop, but will the short term concentration, now so prevalent allow this indulgence, of that I am not so sure, but it is that short span which misses out on so much.
Sugar Heart Candy, does exactly as you would expect on the tin. Popping corn in the saucepan comes lightly floating out in to the room. I wish Middle Class Fashion had arrived here earlier, the album is on a roll, but we only have two more tracks to go.
The penultimate track is another delightful tune, Sweet is the pinnacle of a superb release, which in my perspective took too long to showcase the superb abilities of the band.
Girl Talk finishes with Birthday, which resonates with piano, bass and vocal. A lyric sheers away façades as the music develops an ever present cloud.
Middle Class Fashion performs live for LISTEN
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Middle Class Fashion performs "Stuck" at the Tami Scott Studio in St. Louis. Band members • Jenn ...Middle Class Fashion performs "Stuck" at the Tami Scott Studio in St. Louis.
Band members • Jenn Malzone, Brad Vaughn and Brian McClelland.
Genre, in their words • Minor Key Piano Pop
About, in their words • Tegan and Sarah scoring a Tim Burton movie with Danny Elfman
More info • middleclassfashion.com and middleclassfashion.bandcamp.com
See them perform • Middle Class Fashion just dropped its newest CD, "Girl Talk," last week. You can see the group perform live at Cicero's (6691 Delmar Boulevard) on March 10.
Special thanks to hair and makeup stylists Tami Scott, Kelly K. and Kayla Funke.
Special appearance by Rusty Oakes and Kimberly McClelland
Audio engineered by Matt Meyer
Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/music/listen/middle-class-fashion-performs-live-for-listen/article_78a43a70-429f-11e1-b31b-0019bb30f31a.html#ixzz1o5HzzEb8
New Music - Middle Class Fashion
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"Middle Class Fashion's 'Girl Talk' is a very cohesive and highly energetic album. The delicate str..."Middle Class Fashion's 'Girl Talk' is a very cohesive and highly energetic album. The delicate stressing of consonants in lead singer Jenn Malzone's vocals is startlingly pleasant, especially when paired with the rhythmic piano and sometimes-subtle minor harmonics used throughout the album.
"'Jamie,' the only song not written exclusively by Malzone, features prominent vocals from co-writer Brian McClelland, and the result is delightful. The two singers' voices mesh incredibly well, and drummer Brad Vaughn's addition of an exit guitar solo ties the entire pop tune up in a nice little bow. 'Girl Talk,' the album's title track, breaks up the previous melodic sound with some clangs and bangs from the piano and drums, with percussive vocals to match. The track is distinct from the rest of the album, but it retains the brightness and resilience that seems to be a signature of the group.
"Although at certain points the instrumental sound feels oddly flat, the resilient lyricism cannot be denied. Middle Class Fashion has a definite proclivity for impertinent and sharp songwriting. Girl Talk ends on a somewhat melancholy note with 'Birthday,' a melody of drunkenness and more than a hint of paranoia."
There are no upcoming dates at this time.