The Whatnot
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The Whatnot

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In the small town hall in Deerfield, local Portsmouth band The Whatnot is standing in front of a restless audience. It's mostly local families -- kids, grandmas, the local baseball team. No one's really dancing, moving a little in their seats maybe, but not much.

This isn't how the night was supposed to be -- the gig was to be outside in the sunshine, part of Deerfield's summer concert series. It was packed last year, lively, but as usual lately, the skies opened up and now the crowd sits watching the band play, young girls run up to a table holding T-shirts, hats and The Whatnot's latest CD, "One More For Pocket," released July 25.

There's a big space for dancing, but no dancers and that is just not right. The Whatnot's sound should make anyone dance, all beat, melody, lively crescendos and mellow messages.

"This is a song about Chris skydiving and living to tell about it," guitarist Patrick Curry starts "Dive" off with a little upbeat riff, Chris Mathews' hands lift and his bongos and djembe come in with a slow rhythm with an occasional slap with his right hand on the one cymbal he uses for a bit of sharpness. Matt Junkin is on bass with a mellow thump. Curry starts to sing, his voice is smooth and even, like a young Paul Simon, James Taylor, a bit of Adam Duritz from the Counting Crows.

The song is simple, all about a sky dive, but with one leap in the brain or the sky it could be a metaphor for life. Maybe not. Maybe it's just about jumping from a plane.

"Blue skies. Today I'll be flying. I can't wait to sky dive. I try but I can't stop from smiling. I can't wait to fly."

Their harmonies are right on track, three voices just made for each other.

"You'll never know how it feels when I step out with my back to the wind "¦ I go "¦ I fly." The song gets brighter, exultant, incredibly uplifting. "I try to forget about it all."

And if you listen and feel it, you do.

Another change in rhythm and it gets more intense.

"Do I pull the cord, I feel so alive, let's do it one more time."

Just the bongos come in. The bandmates finish the song and are looking at each other and smiling in amusement. The teeny-boppers run up and get them to autograph their CDs and posters. Instant celebs.

"When we first played out it was at a hoot night at the Press Room and we knew about three or four songs," says Curry. "Ray Brandin from The Dolphin Striker wanted us to play there. He said, you know 30 songs right?' We didn't."

They know plenty now. Most of the songs start off with an instrumental, a sweet guitar introduction from Curry in "Easily," then a light motif from the bass and some permutation of the bongos or conga drums from Mathews. There's usually a simple message in the lyrics and by the second time you've heard them, you're already joining in.

In "Speak My Mind," Curry, who writes the lyrics, talks about having a few beers and losing inhibitions. The themes here are just the stuff of everyday life -- a few sleepy love songs, nothing too passionate. The boredom of the chores in life in "Apathy" and getting over the tedium. The restraints of the old 9-5 job in "Time Means Nothing." You can imagine Curry in his day job as a financial analyst pausing during his lunch hour to dream about a tropical island, but realizing it's just a lunch break: "and I hate when I check my watch/to find that I am late/but I can't seem to get enough/of a meager 60-minute lunch break".

"Galloping" trills with Matthew's drum beat in a rapid frenzy, mimicking the action of a horse running. And, as in most of the love songs here, in "When the World Stops," the romance isn't about all that passion or heat, but about connection. The love songs are almost all like that, about closeness. They're universal.

"When the world stops/from the city streets to the raindrops/it's affinity with serenity/and when the world spins from the hilltops to the oceans/it's affinity with you."

The music is written somewhat collaboratively.

"A lot of the music I come up with in a demo," says Curry. "I have the core of the song and bring it to these guys and they bring it out to what it becomes. It's arranging but really writing."

To raise money to make CDs, the band members quit their jobs and went on tour, playing almost 100 shows a year for two years.

"We wanted to go on tour so we bought this crappy van and toured up and down the East Coast. We found other bands to find bars to play in," says Curry.

"We had a really bad van that broke down constantly then we'd have to get a ride somewhere to find a garage to get it fixed. One guy in a pickup had an odd number of eyebrows and very awful teeth," says Mathews.

Now that the CD is out, band members are spending time promoting it, but they're not filled with lofty dreams of fame and fortune.

"With this record we're going to shop it around a lot," says Junkin. "If something happens that will put us out on the road again, that would be great, but we'd rather build the fan base." Including the pre-teens at this gig who have become instant fans, streaming up for their autographs in excitement.

"If people aren't enjoying it out there, we enjoy it in here. If the crowd's really into it it helps us, but shows like this are good too because it's an all-ages show and more kids find out about us," says Curry.

But now, no more talk. Curry's string is fixed and they've got to finish their set. The skies are a bit brighter now, the torrential rainstorm is over.

Guitar and congas start together, a little mellow bass comes in, a bit of tinkling rhythm guitar weaves in and out, the drums get faster like a rolling thunder. Curry sings in his soothing way, harmonies round it all out to calm in a storm and the lyrics are uplifting and sweet.

Thunderclouds in my head are screaming geronimo and all I hear is thunder, why doesn't it leave me alone I'm dancing round and floating, thank God for gravity I fall back down amazed by the lightning and everything all I want is you when I feel so down in telling you everything I'm thankful that I can get these feelings out of my head

Everybody dance now. - Rachel Forrest - Portsmouth Herald


The Whatnot’s latest CD, One More Pocket, provides an apt soundtrack for lazy summer days and grimy little boys concocting wild schemes within the sanctuary of tree houses.

While most summertime pockets promise the frightening combination of rusty old scout-knives and partially-suffocated toads, One More Pocket delivers The Whatnot’s trademarked blend of melodic pop and driving acoustic backup, replete with three-part harmonies so tight they can make you squeal- and I did- like a wee little girl. The CD’s opening song, Apathy, sets the lyrical tone for a languid New Hampshire Summer: i hold ambivalence in this age another weekend wastes away try to focus but i'm so damn tired i force myself to be inspired and this pot of coffee keeps me wired

The Whatnot’s influences are not an enigma. The band distills Guster’s mass-appeal harmony-laden college pop, while calling upon three-chord, guitar-driven classics from The Beatles, and chuckle-rock from The Bare Naked Ladies. However, in a scene where so many new acts are trying to sound like the new acts they just heard on MTV, The Whatnot’s sound is refreshingly original- so refreshing, in fact, that it borders on carbonated, effervescent even.

One More Pocket is the band’s second CD release as The Whatnot, and includes 11 previously unreleased tracks recorded primarily at The Halo in Westbrook , Maine by Jonathan Wyman. Additional recording was conducted by Duncan Watt at Kanuba Digital, Exeter , NH . The band includes, Chris Mathews on percussion, Matt Junkin on bass, and Patrick Curry on guitar. One more Pocket leaves us with the very appropriate, Think About It, which echoes the listener’s unhurried disposition. …I'd rather be in bed Or spending my free time as I see fit Instead of worrying what's planned I check my calendar again… - Tim Deal - NhEdge.com


A great pickup from an up-and-coming rawk band… Anyone that has a friend in a band or has that buddy that knows someone in a band has probably heard this quote: “You gotta check out this cd! I know the (insert musician here)” which launches in the classic back-and-forth that we’ve all been through. You half-smile and say, “Sure…why not?” full well knowing that what you’re about to hear is probably as appealing as Fran Drescher doing karaoke. This happens more to me than most, because as a music director for a professional sports team, you get a lot of crap sent to you in the mail. Imagine this situation: one of my employees asking me to check out his band, The Whatnot. Now this is a touchy one: listen and like it (good thing) or listen and hate it, hurting his feelings in the process and making work even tougher than it should be. Imagine my excitement when I checked out this three-piece project and was absolutely thrilled with what I heard.

The Portsmouth, NH, based group just put out their first cd, What You Make Of It, which is one of the best first efforts from a band I’ve heard in quite some time. You mean you’ve never heard of The Whatnot? That’s probably a safe estimation as they’ve primarily played shows in the Northeast, doing the college circuit and smaller bars throughout the New Hampshire/Massachusetts/New York area. However, in the short time they’ve been together as a band (a scant few months over a year), they’ve opened for Howie Day at the University of New Hampshire and put out their 10-track debut, a very easy listen if you’re into the acoustic-guitar driven sounds of Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson or Guster, the band The Whatnot get compared to the most.

Following the time-honored tradition of putting one of your best songs as the opener, ‘Feeling Fine’ opens up the 40-minute ride, letting the listener know within seconds what this band is all about. The simple sounds of guitarist/lead vocalist Patrick Curry are appealing because they’re not overdone but also not too folky, a trap that a lot of bands with no drummer can fall into. There is a definitely a very low-impact feel on the album, but in an industry where everything can seem bombastic, there’s something to be said for that.

Other highlights on the disc include the band’s first single, “Leaving Here,” which features some great harmonizing from Curry and bassist Matt Junkin. One of the album’s major selling points is the way Curry, Junkin and percussionist Chris Mathews seamlessly harmonize on the various tracks. Also notable are “Pedal” which has a great closing instrumental and “Thunderclouds,” which provides a nice upbeat close to the disc. I’m a firm believer that the first and last tracks are the most important on a cd because you want to make a good first impression and leave them wanting more. The Whatnot accomplishes that on both counts. But this isn’t a perfect-cut diamond either. There’s not a lot of grit in the lyrics, which mostly focus on relationships and don’t stray much from the love lost/love appreciated/love regained formula. The songs all begin with a guitar intro, which does get repetitive after a while. Listeners who aren’t a fan of the bongo sound will probably turn off because, well, there’s a lot of bongos on the disc. But it’s all things the band can work on, with the biggest challenge being the much-anticipated and nerve-wracking sophomore effort that every musician goes through. From unreleased material to the overall focus of the band, there’s no reason to believe that future releases won’t improve upon this solid foundation. So if you’re looking for a challenge, you should buy this cd from a relatively unknown band.

If you live in the Northeast, check them out live. In music, it’s often tough to cut through all of the advertised “You should listen to this person/band” vibes we get on MTV and from record labels. Trust me – if you’re looking for something different but strangely familiar, buy The Whatnot’s What You Make Of It. - Josh Nason - 411mania.com


The Whatnot open their sophomore full-length, One More for Pocket, with “Apathy,” a song that appears to be about writer’s block. Perhaps that explains our two-and-a-half year wait for this follow-up to the very well put together What You Make of It? Or maybe the grind of trying to hold down crappy jobs and be a working band left them without much in the old pocket for studio time and duplication fees.

After listening to this fairly personal album, you get the idea that it’s one of those all-of-the-above things for Chris Mathews (percussion), Matt Junkin (bass), and Patrick Curry (guitar), who as a trio deliver some of the best vocals you’ll hear anywhere. Seriously, you could swim in these harmonies, which generally overcome some small amount of repetition in the songwriting to make this an album any fan of folk-pop-rock should think about picking up. Yes, they still sound like Guster, or what Guster used to sound like, and like Guster’s latest album, they pull some new tricks out of their bag, mostly in the form of helpful fellow Seacoast musicians.

Duncan Watt, especially, does some great work on the keyboards, effecting an organ sound on “Apathy” to underscore that very emotion in the song’s extended fade-out. You’ve also got to hand it to Melvern Taylor (who’s got his own Fabuloso dropping this week, July 22 at the White Heart). He finds a way to work that ukulele of his into all kinds of places it doesn’t normally belong, and it provides an interesting quickening to the well composed “Times Means Nothing,” the phrasing and lyrics matching the title’s sentiment. Strings savant Andy Happel gets in on the action, too, mostly late in the album, like on the last tune, “Think About It,” where that record-going-backward sound that producer Jon Wyman likes so much introduces a pair of guitars, electric and acoustic, that lead into a full strings arrangement. Like most of the 11 songs here (well, 10 and a “Reprise”), I was considerably conscious of the fact that the song requires more than the three-man band that is the Whatnot. I suppose it’s no different than Ray Charles bringing in a full 50-piece chorus and orchestra for “Georgia on My Mind,” but it still calls into question what exactly this album is a document of, and what exactly is the Whatnot.

Still, if you’re having that debate with yourself, you’re probably invested enough in the music to care, which is a good thing. And if you’re that invested in the music, you might find yourself invested enough in the band to wonder what’s wrong with them. They sometimes seem mighty depressed. On “Think About It,” “You’re making me feel lazy, but that just ain’t the case/All I ever do is run around, like a chicken with no head/I’d rather be in bed.” On “She Wins Again,” “There are times when I’m headstrong and serious/And there are times when I need a break/But no one’s saying they envy the cash I make.” On “Time Means Nothing,” “I keep my head up high, I’m raising up, start again/Work my nine to five, please tell me does it ever end?/I feel like dosing off, drifting out in a dream/With hope that they would slowly carry me to a place where time means nothing, time means nothing.” Um, should we put these guys on suicide watch?

The Whatnot have always been an emotional band, and here they lay some frustration on their sleeves. But, with “Fought It All the Way,” which offers shades of Simon and Garfunkel, with a crashing cymbal to punctuate phrases, like in “Bridge over Troubled Water,” and “Speak My Mind,” the Whatnot also push back a little, get political, and seem to stake out some space for themselves. On album number three, which I’ll highly anticipate once again, I’d like to see them explore more of those kinds of emotions. - Sam Pfeifle - The Portland Phoenix


Discography

The Whatnot - What You Make of It
The Whatnot - One More For Pocket

Photos

Bio

The Whatnot is a 7 year-old trio from Portsmouth, NH playing acoustic percussive driven pop. The band boasts a clean sound, three-part harmony, and the organic sound of hand percussion as its backbone. The group has played more than 300 shows throughout the Northeast and along the East Coast at coffeehouses, colleges, prep schools, ski areas, clubs, and bars and has had the pleasure of opening for such artists as Willie Nelson, O.A.R., Howie Day, Ben Kweller, Matt Nathanson, The Alternate Routes, Zox, and more.

The trio has released two albums and sold more than 1000 copies of each through the Internet and at live shows. Most songs are penned by 29 year-old lead singer/guitarist Patrick Curry who writes about personal experiences and reflections of friends and family. His song “Gallop” is about a college roommate who took on too much and inevitably failed out of school. “Time Means Nothing” dives into the possibility of ditching life on the mainland after falling in love with the islands of Hawaii over the course of a week’s vacation. “Fought It All the Way” reflects on the events of 9/11, the aftermath, and his family’s military participation in the war. “Thunderclouds” addresses the phenomenon of life more rapidly passing us by, as we get older.

Recently, the band’s songs “Thunderclouds” and "Apathy" were voted top 3 in the Acoustic channel at Ourstage.com The group has also gained radio play on popular local radio stations in NH, MA, and ME such as WHEB 100.3 FM, WCYY 94.3 FM, and WXRV 92.5 FM. Finally, The Whatnot has had 5 songs featured in independent movies “Yellow Lights” and “Dribbles”.

“There’s a strong sonic hook throughout… good melodies, great harmonies, and body-twitching rhythms…an A&R rep’s dream…hit repeat and trust me.” – William Huffman, Jam Magazine

“[The Whatnot] deliver some of the best vocals you’ll hear anywhere. Seriously, you could swim in these harmonies. " – Sam Pfeifle, Portland Phoenix