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The best kept secret in music

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"Someplace Closer To Here"

LAPUSH
Someplace Closer to Here (456)

First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2005, Volume 12, #6

Written by John Metzger

LAPUSH’s debut Someplace Closer to Here likely will score another major victory for the indie rock scene. Granted, the outing is being distributed through a subsidiary of Universal, and its soaring sonic architecture stands in striking contrast to the sort of lo-fi grit that typically adorns DIY projects. This, however, is merely the much-deserved happy ending that has emerged in the aftermath of the album’s birth within the home studio of front man Thom Donovan. Despite the fact that the group is based in St. Louis, its sound is decidedly British, and although there are hints of Oasis, The Smiths, and U2 lurking beneath the surface of its material, there’s little doubt that its music is aligned most closely with the majestic musings of both Travis and Radiohead.

Indeed, throughout Someplace Closer to Here, LAPUSH adorns its pop-fueled songs with experimental textures that capture the sweeping, bittersweet essence of the ups and downs of life and love, and its melancholy ruminations frequently erupt in a splendiferous stream of passionate, soul-infused elation. Unfortunately, there are a few too many moments on the effort when the band settles for mere mimicry of its idols, meandering through several well-crafted but instantly recognizable appropriations. At its best, however — the skittering beats, gliding vocals, and screaming guitars of Sticking Around; the psychedelic, Stone-Roses-meets-U2 swirl of Tout Le Monde; the aqueous keyboards that ripple through the hypnotically intense yearning of Say Something; and the crunchy, Church-like spaciousness of Aurora; for example — the ensemble certainly equals its heroes, even if it never succeeds in surpassing them. - The Music Box


"Someplace Closer To Here"

-Ian Nelson, June 10, 2005

Allow me to set the scene for you. I am sitting in my backyard with several friends on a temperate spring night. I have a cigar in one hand and a glass of single malt scotch in the other. We have just smoked a joint.* It is an altogether pleasant evening. I put in the latest CD I have for review. One of my friends turns to me and says, “This is the perfect music right now.” I don’t know if you will ever find yourself in a similar situation, but the album was Someplace Closer To Here, and the band was Lapush.
Lapush is a three piece from St. Louis, Missouri made up of Thom Donovan (vocals, guitar) and Brett Voelker (drums), who met while doing session work for bands like Stir. It wasn’t until they decided to move into the live realm that Kevin Bachmann (bass) was added.

I predict these guys will soon be the new indie darlings. They also have a mass appeal that will land their soft, dulcet, tones on such mass media as the OC. This will piss me off when I go to see their show and am surrounded by sixteen-year-old girls. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that I like music that appeals to sixteen-year-old girls.

So why was it the perfect music for that evening? Put yourself there, and imagine what you would like to hear. Heavy Metal? Punk Rock? Stop reading right now and select another review. I’m thinking of something mild. It’s quiet and it’s dark out. Thom singing softly in a slightly raspy voice over an acoustic guitar fit the bill quite nicely.

The entire album is subdued, yet full of clout. Dance party it is not, but if you enjoy the simple, yet beautiful songwriting of a Death Cab For Cutie, then you will probably enamored with Someplace Closer To Here. The electronic aspects are added with a deft touch, nicely complimenting the vocals and chord progressions. “Lucky One” is something of a departure from the rest and has a much more pronounced bass line, a squealing guitar, and spacey noises that float from one speaker to the next. “Hideaway” was supposedly inspired by the musical score of the movie “Lost in Translation,” which should give you some idea of the song’s personality.

Lapush have been described as “an American Coldplay,” and I could agree since most of the band’s influences seem to derive from across the pond. Someplace Closer To Here is the bee’s knees, crafted with a familiar sound that strays far from predictability and boredom, striking a heart felt chord with a catchy, pop sensibility. This, I believe, will lead to their aforementioned rise and downfall in my mind. So all you hipster, indie kids, go out and grab it now while the getting’s good. - Kaffeine Buzz


"DOING MATH WITH LAPUSH"

Laura Hamlett-June 2005

“We were five people; we went to four.” So begins Thom Donovan, singer/mastermind behind Lapush, the St. Louis band whose debut album, Someplace Closer to Here, comes out June 7 on 456 Entertainment. We’re discussing math again, but while our chat last summer focused more on addition, this time we’ve turned to subtraction. Less is more, if you will, and Donovan’s about to tell me why.

Lapush formed as a project between brothers Thom and Steve Donovan; Thom gave birth to the songs, and Steve gave them a voice. His delicate stylings and far-reaching falsetto were the perfect articulation to this Brit-influenced indie rock band. Brother Steve provided the name (Lapush is a seaside town in Washington, meant to evoke a place as much as a sound) and Thom pulled together some players, adding Kevin Bachmann on bass and Brett Voelker on drums. To round out the live show, Casey Bazzell came in on keyboards.

The five made an immediate splash, both in their hometown and touring throughout the Midwest. They self-released an EP, began receiving airplay both locally (101.1 The River, 105.7 The Point) and nationally (Indie 103.1 L.A. and XM Satellite Radio). Then Bazzell’s coursework began to interfere with rehearsals and touring, and subtraction began to factor into the band. “We were bringing in a laptop anyway,” explains Donovan of their gigs. “We just decided to go that route and drop down to a four-piece.”

They continued to tour, attracting fans nationwide, before recording and shopping around a full-length album. “We were talking to two or three labels,” says Donovan, “had a couple of offers in; we were starting to negotiate contracts.” And then brother Steve dropped a bomb. Recalls Donovan, “Stephen just called me up—literally, contracts were being negotiated, the whole deal—and he was like, ‘I’m out. I don’t want to do it.’”

Lapush still had words and music—but what about the voice? This time, the subtraction seemed, at first, an ending. “The rest of us were fairly devastated,” Donovan admits. “We were excited about the opportunity and had worked really hard. As much as we were sympathetic to the reasons he was leaving, we all felt betrayed.”

But Thom was the words, and he had his own voice. “I started thinking,” he says now, without a trace of bitterness. “I wrote the songs; I had to sing them in the first place. I was like, ‘I’m just going to do it.’” Having convinced himself, Donovan now faced perhaps his biggest challenge: convincing the record company.

He called 456’s Jon Rifkind, who admitted, “We loved Stephen’s voice; we loved that record.” Still, 456 offered a compromise: Have Thom re-record three of the tracks with himself on lead vocals, and the label would give them a listen.

“So I did,” Donovan says. “Five days went by and I didn’t hear anything,” he tells me, remembering every tick of the second hand. “I was like, ‘OK, they hate it and they’re not calling back; this is it.’ A week later, [Rifkind] calls me at home and said, “We absolutely love it. Let’s do this; let’s recut the record.”

And in two weeks, the Lapush of four became the Lapush of three. “I ended up redoing all the vocals. It was a pretty emotional process. When I would pull up the tracks with my brother’s voice on it, it was really difficult. I was so excited to be able to share this aspect of the dream with him, so I was going through the emotions. I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. There’d be times when I’d be on my knees in the middle of the studio, literally freaking out, going, ‘I can’t do this. It’s too much.’ It was such a weird two-week period.”

The advantages to signing with an independent label seem readily apparent. For one, says Donovan, “We’re making the record we want to make, doing the music we want to do.” The label is releasing Someplace Closer to Here as Lapush recorded it, in Donovan’s home studio. Though it was mastered in New York, Lapush stayed on to produce. “On a major label, you’re working with a quote-unquote producer who knows best,” Donovan scoffs. “These [musicians] explain what they’re trying to do to a producer who knows best, but who doesn’t share their vision.

“We have all the resources we need,” he continues. “I can phone up the label and I don’t have to explain who I am; I know everyone on a first-name basis. The last band I was in [Stir] was signed to Capitol; the last time the singer was at the Capitol tower, he had to wear a nametag. I think the problem with the majors is that you’re so easily lost in the shuffle.”

Now a threesome, the leaner, tighter Lapush is poised on the brink of a slow-building but measurable success. Their debut single, “Say Something,” was number six on the KOTO CMJ Playlist for the week of May 9, and number one on Les Aaron’s “New Music Sunday” (105.7 The Point). Mid-May, Lapush played two high profile shows in New York City, and Donovan deejayed alongside British music hosts The Queens of Noize and Andy Rourke of The Smiths. “Johnny Marr is probably my number one guitar influence,” gushes Donovan. Rourke sued Marr and Morrissey, I remind him, to which he quickly responds, “Yeah, he did. But I’m not going to hold that against him or bring it up.”

Listening to Someplace Closer to Here, I’m hard-pressed to remember Steve’s voice; Thom’s is just as fragile, and very unique. The songs have a way of reaching deep, insinuating themselves into your subconscious; just this morning, I woke with “Aurora” running through my brain.

So it’s true after all, this math lesson of Lapush’s: Take away two from five and you really do end up with more. - Playback STL


Discography

"Someplace Closer To Here" (2005 456/Fontana/Universal)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

You wouldn’t expect a band from Middle America to list their musical influences as bands like U2, Oasis and The Smiths. You also wouldn’t expect such a band to be one of the bands creating the most chatter in the NYC and L.A. indie rock scene, and yet LAPUSH is quietly winning fans among some of rock’s most critical patrons with their debut album Someplace Closer to Here. As lead singer and guitarist Thom Donovan says, “We have the mind set that you can say something and be powerful without always being loud/heavy”.

LAPUSH quickly earned a reputation as one of the hottest bands in their hometown of St. Louis, MO., and they have watched their fan base spread throughout the Midwest. After countless shows, LAPUSH found themselves in the middle of a growing and flourishing scene. As a tremendous testament to the “word of mouth” groundswell that surrounds LAPUSH, the band’s demo made its way to prominent radio programmers, both in their hometown at St. Louis stations The Point and The River, but also to seminal rock stations like Indie 103.1 L.A. and XM Satellite Radio where the band was featured while still unsigned. With such momentum, the band decided to take their music back into the studio and recorded a full album set for release this summer.

The album created by LAPUSH is one of the most fluid, haunting and melodic musical journeys to be recorded independently. Of this musical journey, Thom says “the mood or emotion captured was always more important than the ‘perfect take’…From time to time, we would encounter these beautiful accidents that happen in the studio...certain sounds or melodies that sort of force their way onto the recording.”

Of LAPUSH’s future, the band are cynically optimistic in knowing that they will continue to grow and evolve, and yet also knowing that the constant in their music will always be their ability to evoke emotion from their audience, who include young “hipsters”, college kids, and a wide range of people who love and are passionate about music. Asked what the band’s goals are musically in terms of their audience, lead singer and writer, Thom, quotes a lyricist to whom he has often looked to for inspiration, Bono… “The goal is soul”.

For a new band committed to the “truth” of music and the emotions it evokes there is no better decree. ”There is no façade…we mean what we say”.?