Return of Simple
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Return of Simple

Cleveland, Ohio, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2003 | SELF | AFM

Cleveland, Ohio, United States | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2003
Band Alternative Indie




"Return of Simple - Saffron"

Return of Simple bandleader Rob Kovacs turns in one of the year's best vocal performances on "Let It Stay Lost," a single that finds the BWC Conservatory of Music grad singing in a woozy Rufus Wainwright croon as he jabs his piano like Ben Folds. The crisply self-produced debut recalls the glory days of the '70s, before piano rock was totally dainty. Kovacs shares tales of a twentysomething guy who's bright, but can't figure out the women around him. It's not a unique flaw, but it's the only one this disc brings to light.

- D.X. Ferris - Cleveland Scene

"Local Indie Pop Act Return of Simple to Play Its First Show in Seven Years"

After forming in 2003, the local indie pop band Return of Simple, a “guitar-less trio of classically trained musicians” named after a Langston Hughes novel, released a couple of records and became a fixture on the local scene before splitting up a few years ago.

The group recently announced it’ll reunite for the first time in seven years to perform at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, March 30, at the Grog Shop. Extra Medium Pony, Kitschy and Hannah Stak share the bill. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

For the latest incarnation of the group, founder Rob Kovacs has recruited a couple of new band mates, Alfredo Guerrieri and Stephen Klunk. The Grog Shop gig will mark the trio’s first show since it played in April of 2011 in Brooklyn, New York.

“Rehearsals are going well," says Kovacs in a press release announcing the show. "It’s been a while since I’ve played some of this material with a band, and it’s sounding great. We’re gonna melt some faces." - Cleveland Scene

"Return of Simple"

Long lives the piano on indie pop band Return of Simple's latest effort "Saffron," which is referred to as an EP despite the fact its nine tracks clock in at 35 minutes. If Ben Folds and Brian Wilson were to jam, the output would be something similar to the melodic waves of aural bliss that dominate this mature album from the Baldwin-Wallace College trio. Give "Hover" a listen, and you'll swear it's a "Pet Sounds" outtake, with its precisely layered harmonics and genius pop structure. There's a tender side to singer-songwriter-pianist Rob Kovacs' pop approach that gives "Can You Hear Me Say Goodbye" a tearful reality. Despite a few shaky vocal parts, "Not Awake" contains an infectious early R.E.M. falsetto vibe on its chorus that will ring around your brain for weeks. Invariably, there's nothing simple to be heard on "Saffron." - The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Return of Simple - Saffron"

Return of Simple, which revolves around the songs and trained piano skills of former Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory student Rob Kovacs, wears its Ben Folds influence on its sleeve but brings quite a bit of its own thing to the mix. It aptly calls its music "chamber pop," and this collection of nine dreamy, sparkling confections shows why. From the bouncy Beach Boys-like chords of the title tune which opens the nine-track CD to the prog-rock feel of the rapid-fire "Flying Blind" with its flashy piano outro, the trio (at the time of the recording; they're now a quartet) shows off without burying the songs' appealing melodies in virtuoso drek. Tunes like "Hover," which pours lush "ooh-ooh" vocals over shimmering piano arpeggios, and the fluttering but translucent "Can You Hear Me Say Goodbye" are accessible and technically impressive. At worst, a few songs are meandering and unfocused, but they're so pretty, they're like candy you can't stop eating. — Anastasia Pantsios - The Free Times

"Return of Simple - Saffron"

Keane already proved you don't need a guitar in the band. Ohio trio Return of Simple is echoing that ideal with this debut. With more of an edgy strangeness ala Ben Folds and a less produced more earthy feel, the music grabs you right out of the gate. "Hover" has a burbling intensity graced with a haunting piano melody. "Flying Blindly" has a bit of a jazz inflection while "Opportunity" shows a bluesy side. Add to this vocals in a mid ground between Sting and Jon Anderson and you have a recipe for riveting music. - Music Morsels

"Return of Simple - Saffron"

Not likely as addictive as The Reign of Kindo, but I do like a lot of this. It's almost like catchy piano-driven raggtime jazz-pop with Beach Boy-like vocal arrangements at times. People who dig The Reign of Kindo should check this out no matter. - All Media Reviews

"Return of Simple"

Return of Simple is an indie piano pop band out of Cleveland, Ohio that caught my eye with a comparison of Ben Folds, who I personally think kicks ass. And I can definitely see why this guitarless trio got that comparison. They employ poppy, driving piano extremely reminiscent of Ben Folds. Added to the piano are light catchy lyrics with soulful explosions.

The band recently independently released a nine-song EP titled Saffron EP. I highly recommend buying it. Check out their myspace, and here is their site. And, some mp3s... - Glass Elevator to a Better Place

"Return of Simple - Saffron"

From the fluttering open to the title track to the almost mournful refrain echoing through the end of “Can You Hear Me Say Goodbye”, Return of Simple’s Saffron proudly wears its Ben Folds influence on its sleeve.

“Saffron” opens the disc with a light and sunny piano intro, straight off of the soundtrack for a summer day. While tracks like “Let it Stay Lost” and “Opportunity” build more of a pop vibe into the sound, they still maintain that same light stream of consciousness. If “Saffron” is a day at the beach and “Let it Stay Lost” is a summer afternoon at the park, then “Line and Fear” is an early morning watching the sun come up over the Grand Canyon, a breathtaking display of artistry and imagery.

The disc does suffer at times from its own simple genius. Tracks like “Hover”, “Not Awake” and to a lesser extent “Say It’s Alright” have a tendency to wander. The simple charms of the songs, however, make them more like those endless summer days than any prolonged meandering. At times, as on the track “Flying Blindly”, songs tend to lose some of their focus for all of their showy exposition. Again, though, the simple honesty of the songwriting makes the offense more than forgivable.

While not everybody enjoys the bitter taste of saffron, Return of Simple combines an uncommon musicianship with a grace that is sadly lacking in much of today’s mainstream music to return the listener to simpler, more honest time with their sound, which carries the same summery aroma for those who are looking for something just as vibrant as the spice that the album takes its name from.


Larry "LarryMac" McCloskey -

"Local Singer-Songwriter Rob Kovacs to Host New Singers' Night at Bar 107 in Berea"

A few years ago, after getting "burned out" in New York, Return of Simple frontman Rob Kovacs moved back to Cleveland and relaunched the popular indie rock band.

Now, Kovacs has just announced that he’ll host a monthly Singers’ Night at Bar 107 in Berea. The first event takes place at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. 

The event will feature local singers taking turns getting up on stage to perform a song while Kovacs accompanies them on piano. Singers are encouraged to bring sheet music or choose from Kovacs’ song list. Lyrics aren’t provided but performers can bring their own if needed.

Each month will feature a new local singer who will perform a short set. Cleveland actor and singer-songwriter Mikey Silas will be this week’s featured vocalist. He also sings and performs in his own band, Apostle Jones.

“I’m really hoping to help bring the community together and give singers of all levels a chance to perform and try new things in a fun and supportive setting,” says Kovacs in a press release announcing the event.

Sign-ups for the night will begin at 8 p.m. with the first singer of the night kicking things off at 8:30 p.m. The events are free. - Cleveland Scene


Where We Belong Demo (2009) - 3 track demo
Saffron EP (2006) - 9 track EP
Blue Demo (2003) - 3 track demo

"Hover," "Saffron," and "Let It Stay Lost" all have received local radio airplay. Video for "Let It Stay Lost" is viewable at the following location:



Rob Kovacs is an award-winning composer, pianist and singer/songwriter. He fronts the indie-rock band, Return of Simple, is the creator of 88bit where he performs note-for-note piano arrangements of Nintendo soundtracks, is the pianist for the FiveOne Experimental Orchestra, and is an artist in residence for the Arts and Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic,

He is the first person to perform the solo version of Steve Reich’s Piano Phase by simultaneously playing both piano parts on two pianos. He fronted the band Return of Simple, which played regionally and released one record, Saffron, which was played on satellite, college and Pandora radio. He has performed and recorded with other artists including Mark Mothersbaugh, Parson James, Sandra Bernhard, Natalie Weiss, Rachel Potter, Grace Love, Margot Bingham, Herzog and Leonard DiCosimo. Kovacs also performed regularly at Cleveland’s Howl at the Moon as well as other dueling piano bars from New York City to Wisconsin.

Kovacs’s original score for the short film, Al.A.In.A (2018) won best score for the Cleveland 48-hour Film Project. He has composed music for American Greetings’ e-cards and several award-winning short films including PheMIMEnon (2012), Game On (2014), and Einsam (2016). Kovacs was recognized as the 2008 Best Pianist/Keyboardist by the Cleveland Free Times (n.k.a. The Scene). In 2018, he was interviewed about his 88bit project for “The Sound of Applause” on WCPN 90.3. Kovacs held a 6-week residency at the Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern. 

Band Members