roman candle
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roman candle


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"Roman Candle The Wee Hours Revue Rating: 7.6"

In some circles, Roman Candle have been one of the great unsubstantiated rumors of modern pop-rock. The Chapel Hill quintet's whip-smart 2002 LP Says Pop earned them a dedicated cult following, although it did little for their national profile: Hollywood Records furnished promos to critics, but never quite managed to get the record into stores. The Wee Hours Revue gives Says Pop a fresh coat of gloss courtesy of producer Chris Stamey, and new song "I Can't Even Recall", a languorous slow-burner in the vein of Van Morrison.

Stamey was a savvy choice: We already know from his overhaul of Whiskeytown's debut, Faithless Street, that he's adept at helping good songs hampered by uneven recordings achieve their full potential -- not to mention that Whiskeytown is the North Carolina band Roman Candle most resembles, although they're informed more by soul than country. While this is a passionate record (the word "baby" practically deserves an instrumental credit), Skip Matheny doesn't emote with alt-country's cowboy melisma. He belts out tough, full-bodied syllables with the barest intimation of a ragged edge. Says Pop's unimpeachable melodies couldn't be contained by the occasionally tinny recording, but couched in Stamey's amply spacious production, they're explosive.

Instead of resting on the laurels of authenticity its direct, earnest songwriting would garner from some corners, The Wee Hours Revue aims for broader appeal by combining it with detail-oriented pop production. The percussion is remarkably crisp and buoyant, holding the crunchy snarls of guitar, spangles of Rhodes organ, and Matheny's towering voice effortlessly aloft. Pithy structural embellishments speak to the band's interest in various qualities of recorded sound -- the muffled drum section prefixing the bright acoustic lope of "You Don't Belong to This World", for instance, or the glitchy percussive overture that bursts seamlessly into the soul meltdown "Another Summer"; the ambient static that Victrolas up the bittersweet cellos of "I Can't Even Recall" and the film-projector whir that sets the stage for the splashy ballad "Baby's Got It in the Genes".

These sharp compositional choices are also manifest in Methany's finely-drawn lyrics-- they create specific senses of place, situated at that nexus of lament and joy that's so much more stirring than either alone. On "Something Left to Say", summer is evoked by "pollen on the beer bottles in the garbage cans." On "New York This Morning", a city "where father and son relations just deepen like a coastal shelf" looms vividly, by way of pigeons on a savings and loan and candles at St. Patrick's cathedral. Such visual flair permeates the songs -- a kid playing guitar by the subway "rolls a toothpick in his mouth," a strange woman packs "cigarettes against her wrist," and "an old button down with a cigarette scar" evokes a Proustian reverie.

Like its namesake, Roman Candle coaxes incandescence from humble origins, and in this context, it's worth making the distinction between Southern Rock and rock that happens to be played by Southerners. The South, here, isn't about reconstructed stereotypes, and it isn't an end point. It's a literal space in which universal hopes and anxieties -- lost love, homesickness and wanderlust -- play out against robust pop-rock aerobics. You can check your dualie and shotgun rack at the door.
- Pitchfork Media

"ROMAN CANDLE: The Wee Hours Revue"

July 21, 06

Although its North Carolina roots have contributed to Roman Candle's thoroughly inaccurate alt-country tag, it's understandable why the Chapel Hill quintet has drawn comparisons with the Jayhawks and Wilco (both bands that also quickly outgrew that confining description).

Like the 'Hawks' ``Smile " or ``Summerteeth"-era Wilco, RC's arresting debut -- originally released in 2002 as ``Says Pop" and since re named and re worked with ex-dB's member Chris Stamey producing -- is a smart-bomb stunner whose material moves with cool ease and crisp authority amid multi layered hooks and moods.

``Wee Hours" is all over the place stylistically, but in the good, engaging way that Grandaddy or Eels albums can dart from the backyard to the bedroom to the freeway.

This is crystalline, spring-loaded guitar-pop replete with modern, beat-savvy electro touches, vintage harmonicas, and a subtle dose of blue-eyed soul, thanks to the warm flush of Rhodes organ and slide guitar.

Sure, singer-guitarist Skip Matheny (whose younger brother, Logan, is on drums) sounds an awful lot like Clem Snide's Eef Barzelay on ``From an Airplane Window," but in fact, his wide-mouth way with a vowel and mile-wide melodies owe as much to the British pop of Oasis (``Something Left to Say"), the La's (``You Don't Belong to This World"), Badly Drawn Boy (``Winterlight"), and even the Beatles (``Baby's Got It in the Genes") as anything from south of the Mason-Dixon line.

ESSENTIAL TRACK: ``Something Left to Say."


- The Boston Globe

"4.5 Stars (out of 5)"

Talk about a long time coming: Roman Candle's debut has been through two incarnations and three labels since its initial Indie release as Says Pop back in 2002.

The latest version, polished to a bright sheen by indie stalwart Chris Stamey (exhibiting a previously hidden commercial acumen) introduces a young band with an already mature, readily identifiable sound built around Skip Matheny's disarming vocals and his drummer brother Logan's infectious grooves.

On "Something Left to Say," Skips sinewy, nasal tenor veritably trumpets out of the speakers -- you cannot ignore this guy -- and the track has a hook that keeps spiraling upward until it reaches a bravura climax.

It's followed by a dozen more impeccably crafted songs that are soulful, catchy and literate in equal measure. The Chapel Hill quintets possesses all the pure-pop essentials, and under the right circumstances they could become the next matchbox twenty - but in a good way.

If that miracle occurred, it'd strip the irony form the irresistible, must-hear demo on the band's myspace page: Why Modern radio is A-OK.

- Paste Magazine

"R-Rated Reviews: ROMAN CANDLE"

Several years ago at CMJ (the annual college radio festival in New York), a little North Carolina band called Roman Candle announced their presence in grand fashion: They handed out countless copies of their self-released CD to almost everyone in attendance and played packed gigs to curious talent scouts who weren't sure what to make of this extreme show of self promotion or the still-green band behind it.

But their songs were strong enough to trump any initial suspicion, and soon enough the band signed a record deal and anticipated the major label re-release of their debut, Says Pop. That was 2002.

Since then, the band has parted ways with its first label, Hollywood Records, and found their way onto V2, which will release a revamped version of Roman Candle's debut, now called the Wee Hours Revue.

Most of the time, major label meddling tends to ruin the artist's original creative intention, especially if the label decides to remix or, in truly worst-case scenarios, rerecord an album. (See Wheat and Butterfly Boucher for recent examples of how unsuccessful an attempt that can be.)

But with the Wee Hours Revue, every little bit of tinkering actually improved upon the original in every way. The album, which was never an indie record at heart anyway, sounds polished in all the right places and is far more dynamic and varied than it was as a DIY effort.

Most Dixie-born bands that attempt to fuse their love for modern British guitar rock with dirt-road roots pop usually end up sounding either too much like Radiohead or Son Volt, depending on which side of their CD collection weighs more.

But on Roman Candle's best songs, like lead single ''Something Left To Say,'' the band gets that hard-to-measure mix just right, offering up what 21st-century Southern rock should sound like.
- Nashville Rage

"Our Critic's Picks"

ROMAN CANDLE: Plenty of bands that cut their teeth playing beer-slogging toga parties in college never advance very far beyond the feel-good party vibe.

Roman Candle is not one of those bands mired in post-adolescent oblivion. The Chapel Hill quintet—which began at University of North Carolina and built around the familial partnership of Skip Matheny, his wife Timshel and younger brother Logan—delivers crisp, intuitive roots-rock, built on keen observation and solid pop craftsmanship.

The band has already weathered a significant false start (the first incarnation of their debut never saw the light of day at Hollywood Records), but a newly revamped version, renamed The Wee Hours Revue, has finally appeared after a four-year wait.

The twelve-song set is a (belated) triumph, with Skip’s jaunty, pinched, sharp-edged vocals, Logan’s DJ Shadow-influenced approach to the drum kit and the band’s vintage-tinged jangly guitars and Rhodes undertones.

This show concludes the band’s biweekly residency with Thad Cockrell. The Basement —JEWLY HIGHT - Nashville Scene


Look, I’m old enough to remember that it was not only acceptable at one time to make an album like this, but actually preferred. And—get this —people enjoyed it. The Wee Hours Revue miraculously maintains a current appeal while channeling faded strains of Oasis, the Jayhawks, the Rolling Stones, and ’90s alt-rock charisma. Does that scare you? It shouldn’t—unless you’re a hipster.

The opening track, “Something Left to Say,” sets a lush, harmonic, and surprisingly urgent tone for the album. Lead singer Skip Matheny delivers the chorus—“The things you’ve done have made me what I am/And that’s catching the bus and half singing the tears of a clown”—with a brattish beauty that Liam Gallagher and Ryan Adams only wish they had.

“You Don’t Belong to This World” is a reflective pop powerhouse that could be the bastard offspring of Whiskeytown and Toad the Wet Sprocket—it begs to be blared through car windows on a road trip. Reading the lyrics to the album, it’s clear that someone in the band is burning a hole through lost love.

“Baby’s Got It in the Genes” is a crestfallen confessional of empty space once occupied, with lines like “When you see a roadside bar/Or an old button down with a cigarette scar/Think of me, babe, ’cause I’ll be thinking of you.”

“Sookie” could be confused for a Twilight Singers cast-off single, but that’s fine; it still paints one of the most perfect pictures of bittersweet I have ever heard. I’m almost convinced they wrote it for me personally. Wee Hours is a complete album laden with genuine lyrics, smart harmonies, and heartbroken pangs in the fade. Don’t believe me? Find an autumn roof and bring a sixer of your favorite beer and this album. You’ll thank me (and Roman Candle).

—S.D. - The Brooklyn Rail

""Upon Further Revue...""

It's said that first impressions linger. Roman Candle can relate, because the band is in the midst of the most protracted first impression in recent memory.

Its excellent debut album, The Wee Hours Revue, was released June 6 on V2 records but has been in circulation for years, since it was first released as Says Pop on the independent label Outlook in 2002. that was two labels and several lineup changes ago for the band's core Skip, Logan, and Timshel Matheny.

"Going back to these songs again, yea, it's kinda like moving back to your old hometown after being gone a long time," says Skip Matheny, Roman Candle's singer/guitarist. "Hearing the record again is like riding around your old neighborhood.

But having a new lineup to play them live is exciting. We've had to work hard to retain that excitement. If the live versions don't seem like the CD, well, that's intentional."

The retooled album, immaculately produced by Chris Stamey, is high gloss, detailed pop music for the senses as well as the mind. Most pop records fall short on groove, but The Wee Hours Revue is as rhythmically smart as it is sharp and catchy.

The first ten seconds or so of opening track "Something Left to Say", could pass for ambient dance music, setting a pulse that the album maintains throughout. Those bouncy hooks, a bushel of insidiously catchy melodies, and Matheny's forceful voice are the album's distinguishing features.

The first version of Roman Candle formed in the late '90s when brothers Skip and Logan were at the University of North Carolina. Logan was the drummer; Skip's wife Timshel played the keyboards.

After posting some demos on, the band made an unexpected connection with professional football player Trevor Pryce, a dance-music recording artist who was also an All-Pro Defensive Lineman for the Denver Broncos.

Pryce liked the demos enough to sign the group to his new label. Roman Candle's self-produced version of Says Pop was Outlook's first release.

"Says Pop: everybody thought that was supposed to be 'pop' like the Backstreet Boys," says Skip. "But 'pop' is all the music we love- Frank Sinatra, Merle Hagard, Roxy Music, the Clash, the universal stuff you can find in anybody's record collection.

Wee Hours Revue was actually our orignal title, but I've got this friend from high school who got me into Captain Beefheart back when I was listening to Dwight Yoakam. He had the coolest, most amazing taste.

And when he heard the album, he said we ought to call it Says Pop because 'It sounds like what you imagine to be pop music. Like trying to do both Dj Shadow an Oasis.' That's what was so great about hooking up with Trevor; he just completely understoood that. We used to have long chats about drum sounds."

Says Pop attracted major label interest, and Hollywood Records signed Roman Candle 2003. "Hollywood signed us at this point where it wasn't clear which direction radio was going to go," says Logan. "It seemed like maybe the college pop was going to be the popular thing. But this was before the Killers and Modest Mouse and this wave of indie rock stuff took over rock radio. So it went the other way, and then Hollywood didn't know what to do with us.

By then, Roman Candle was already working with Stamey on re-cutting the album. Through Stamey, the band also hooked up with country singer Thad Cockrell, recording a live album that's still in the vaults (a limited edition EP from the sessions, featuring a killer cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya", is out of print).

As one purported release after another came and went, the band kept busy with Cockrell and also worked with a series of studio types trying to come up with that ever-elusive hit single. One particularly memorable attempt, with producer John Alagia (John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band), happened just before Timshel gave birth to the Matheny's first child.

"Hollywood did let us work with a lot of great producers, we've got to give them credit for that," Skip acknowledges. "But we still don't really know what went on; we just never heard from them. I think it's for the best ultimately."

Eventually, Hollywood let Roman Candle go and V2 came calling.

Now that The Wee Hours Revue is finally out, the band can consider it's backlog of material-- two albums' worth, including a song cycle called Love Songs For An Empty Room. Meantime, Skip has also been writing a guidebook to surviving the music industry.

"None of this was that traumatic or anything, just annoying," he says. "But we realized that there's this massive gap between what most bands think they know and what they really do.

So we'd like to pass that knowledge on. It's based on Walker Percy's Lost In The Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, which posed 20 questions about life. I'm working on 20 questions about the music business. I had to reach the 'acceptance' phase of all the stages you go through."

-----David Menconi - No Depression magazine


says pop (outlook 2002)
the wee hours revue (v2 2006)



The indie pop/rock quintet roman candle began playing shows in Chapel Hill, NC in 1997, where the the Mathenys (brothers skip and logan Matheny, and Skip's wife Timshel) went to UNC-Chapel Hill. The Matheny's formed roman candle while at UNC and began writing and recording songs on weekends in their parents' basement in Wilkesboro, NC (130 miles west of Chapel Hill).

Having heard some of their recordings on demos on, Denver Broncos defensive end Trevor Pryce, signed roman candle to a record deal in 2001. Their debut, Says Pop, was recorded & mixed in their parents basement, and released in 2002.

The band toured across the U.S. in support of SAYS POP, gathering a fervent fan base, and found themselves in rolling stone magazine, as Chapel Hill's "darling" band on the rise. During this time they met producer Chris Stamey (the dB's, yo la tengo, ryan adams, R.E.M.), and signed to hollywood records' fledging college music division (also signed, were The Polyphonic Spree and Patrick Park). Hollywood recruited Stamey to rework the songs on Says Pop, for a major label release, re-titled "the wee hours revue" in 2003. However, Hollywood, uncertain about the "college division" of their label, decided to shelf roman candle's album for 2 years.

During this time, the band continued to tour, write and record music, and became a part of Chris Stamey's "mod squad," a famed group of studio / touring musicians around Stamey's studio, Modern Recording. Roman Candle band members toured in support of Stamey's records, "A Question of Temperature" (with yo la tengo) and "Travels in the South".

Also during this time the band was discovered by famed BBC DJ, Bob Harris and invited to play multiple times on BBC Radio 2.

In 2006 V2 records bought "the wee hours revue" masters from Hollywood and released the record to widespread acclaim. The band toured throughout 2006 in support of the record, including a tours with indigo girls, psychedelic furs, et al, and a date a radio city music hall.

In 2007 Skip and Timshel Matheny had their second child, and relocated (with Logan) to Nashville TN.

The band is currently recording their follow up lp, "Oh Tall Tree in the Ear." The title comes from Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnet's to Orpheus.