Think of England
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Think of England


Band Rock Pop


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The best kept secret in music


"Dreams Awake Music"

Pop Sensibility

Pop music needs a hug. The genre has been trashed by its detractors for pandering to the masses in order to move units. Those most critical of pop point to the lack of originality: Tired, overly familiar hooks and cliche lyrical content are just a few of the knocks against it.

Enter Think of England. The Los Angeles-based quartet are on a mission to bring back pop that's fun, but intelligent at the same time. "Smart pop?", you say. "That's an oxymoron." Not so fast.

The band is opening eyes in their home state of California and also, albeit slowly, on a national level. They were the winner of last year's first annual Pantene Pro-Voice competition. That may not sound like a big deal, but consider that they beat out over 1,200 female singer/songwriters and female-fronted bands for the honor. It's a competition, that although in its infancy, is already respected for trying to "celebrate what women have to say and support them on their journey of self-discovery". It's not necessarily a competition that is aiming to find the next "American Idol" or create the next Britney Spears. They expect creative lyrical composition, solid musical composition, and originality from the entrants. Think of England fit that mold.

Led by the strong, sensual voice of Libbie Schrader, a 22 year old pianist with a degree in music composition, the band has created a classic piano-rock sound infused with tastefully layered guitar riffs and rounded out by a tight rhythm section. Schrader (who had never played in another band before Think of England) and guitarist Jason Mandell met on the campus of Pomona College, outside Los Angeles. Shortly after meeting, they discovered that the college's Dean was also a fine drummer, and they recruited him to join the band. Bassist Nick May soon entered the fold, and the band's sound was complete. They began writing their original tunes (Schrader wrote or co-wrote all eleven tracks on their debut) and soon after entered and won the Pantene competition, and were tapped as the opening band on a 21-date tour with major label artist Poe. They've also caught the eye of several other well known artists, sharing the stage with the likes of multi-platinum artist Jewel and Grammy-winner India.Arie.

Their self titled debut CD on Red Tent Records clearly shows their influences. The band lists everything from Beatles-esque pop to indie rock, and from Aimee Mann to Led Zeppelin and U2 as influences. Some critics have said the band's sound could be described as "what might happen if Bono and Fiona Apple had a child who listened to the Go-Go's." On the leadoff track, Day Off, one can certainly hear the Go-Go's influence in the infectious guitar lines and the triumphant, self-aware declaration "the sun is shining overhead, baby I'm reminded of the girl that I am".

Less obvious however is the reference to Fiona Apple. Schrader's piano playing is strong, but her lyrics evoke none of the angst that is so prevalent in Apple's. The themes are more optimistic, except perhaps on the dark, but etheral Blood Red Moon, a song that is simply about when a girl's "monthly visitor" is late arriving, and the fear that accompanies it. Throughout the song, Schrader agonizes over an uncertain future, with lyrics like "When you're one, two, three, four, five days late you've got to worry, Worry and wait, 'Cause there's nothing in heaven or hell to move it along in a hurry, It's blurring your fate", and "Now she's five, six, seven, eight hours in bed but not sleeping, All her hopes and fears like a nightmare appear on the ceiling".

It is interesting to note that the album's songs were written over a three year period, starting in 1999, and the most recently penned songs being from this year. The lyrical growth as Schrader matures as a songwriter is obvious. The oldest song on the album, Look Down, lyrically, has the simplest chorus ("Look Down as you walk on by, 'cause you don't know what happens when I look into your eyes") aside from the intentionally simple chorus of Breathe ("Breathe In, Breathe Out"). This doesn't mean that a song has to be lyrically complex to be good. As simple as Breathe is musically as well as lyrically, it is clearly one of the best songs on the disc because of the emotion it is played with. Truly these are still very solid songs, but one can hear the maturation on the more recent songs, such as Crawl, where Schrader displays a self-discovery not seen on earlier songs: "I don't need love that often / I'm like a ship to shore / But I'd part the waters / Just to crawl to your door".

In the post 9/11 world, it seems just about every artist worth their salt has written a song reflecting on that day. Think of England doesn't appear to be bucking that trend, contributing with perhaps the best song on the disc, the beautiful and intoxicating Alive. A simple ballad (featuring only Libbie's voice and a piano and celeste), Alive is powerful because it speaks to our survivor-like mentality. It speaks to both our pre-9/11 and post-9/11 psyches, referring to us as "numb" to the world around us before 9/11 -- wandering around, living our lives, doing "all the things we're supposed to", then coming home and turning on our TVs -- "And all that time it seemed we were trying to double the American dream, Nothing ever satisfied". Then essentially, in one day, the world changed forever:

"Remember the morning we all woke up
To find the world burned to the ground?

And on that day when the summer turned to autumn
We didn't live, we just survived
Did we remember when it finally hit the bottom
That hey, we're alive, we're alive?"

Here again, Schrader emphasizes the optimistic point of view over and over again. As sad and reflective as each individual verse may be, she ends each by reminding us that "hey, we're still alive!" This is deeply reflective of the way a country feels about itself: You can attack us and try to change our way of life, but we'll still come out standing strong and alive in the end.

Libbie Shrader and her band may not ever re-write the rules for pop music. They may never even find commercial success on the radio, which would be a shame, because in another era, they would probably be hugely successful. But they are proving that in the year 2002, a band can call itself a "pop band" and it doesn't have to be a death blow. Their first CD proves that a pop band can write fun, danceable songs about simple topics like days off and being "dizzy in love", while maintaining a credibility with intelligent, well thought out ballads about issues and events that matter. When you think of pop from now on, you may just Think of England.
- Rob Tittel


Think of England (S/T) -- available on, Jewel's Soul City Cafe website (, and


Feeling a bit camera shy


The five members of this pop/rock group met in the quiet town of Claremont, California, where three of them were college students and the drummer was the college's Dean (and the only one with any tattoos). Two months after graduation, the band won the first annual Pantene Pro-Voice competition, where they beat out over 1,200 other female artists and got to perform to a crowd of thousands in New York's Central Park.

The band was recently chosen by Jewel to participate in her Soul City Café program for emerging artists. They opened several shows for Jewel last summer, including two theater shows in Texas. In November of 2001, Think of England completed a 21-date national tour as the opening act for the artist Poe (of "Angry Johnny" fame). The club tour included venues such as the House of Blues in New Orleans and the Roxy in Los Angeles and helped ToE develop a loyal and passionate national fanbase. Holding it all together is lead singer and chief songwriter Libbie Schrader, whose arresting voice and unique compositional style provide the foundation of the band's sound. Ethereal one minute and exciting the next, Think of England is anything but predictable.