Working counter to the popular theory that each and every appearance must be doggedly promoted to make a name in the local music community, Asheville's Boys of Summer have been quietly but steadily building a dedicated following over the last couple of years. "We rarely make fliers," says lead songwriter Cale LeFevre, "When we play a show we usually just get the word out by word of mouth, or post it on Facebook." Regardless, the band regularly plays to crowded rooms. With the upcoming release of their highly ambitious, yet-to-be-titled second album, that audience may soon grow.
When Boys of Summer first formed, it was with LeFevre, Lindsay Reed, Hope & Anchor's Tasha Trasher and local favorite Patrick Kutcher. As a quartet, they released a first album entitled "I Dont Feel Like I Did Anything Wrong, I Just Didn't Do Anything Super Great." It's a self produced, lo-fi acoustic offering that showcases the burgeoning skills of songwriters finding direction. Eventually Collier Reeves joined, fleshing out the arrangements with banjo and xylophone. Shortly after that, Trasher left town. Enter another Hope & Anchor alumn, Todd Weakley.
"That's when things really started changing," says LeFevre. "Originally (Todd) was replacing Tasha who had been playing bass, but he also had all of these amazing suggestions. He helped change and rearrange the dynamics of the songs. Also Lindsay started buying more and more instruments, and then we have Patrick who seems to be able to play anything he picks up."
In bringing the second album to fruition, Boys of Summer expended considerable effort and resources, enlisting the expert guidance of Jayro Rockola at Asheville's Hi-Five Recording to co-produce. "It took us about three or four months in the studio," says LeFevre. "We've worked really hard on it. We were much more comfortable experimenting during recording this time, and ended up with something we're proud of."
The album in question still retains the same mostly acoustic instrumentation at its core, but the songwriting is much more mature, and the arrangements quite effectively dynamic. "The basic recording setup on each song was acoustic guitar, bass, drums, banjo, and then Lindsay on either guitar or piano," explains Lefevre. "After that we went back and added xylophones and horns and choruses until each song felt right. When we play the release show, we want it to sound as much like the CD as possible. We'll probably have lots of guest musicians. There may be up to 10 people on stage for some songs."
Considering the number of overdubs and layers used on the album, it should be noted that the recordings themselves are refreshingly uncluttered. The arrangements have an intricate delicacy, and the melodic architecture of each song builds and flows with an accessible elegance. Far from their low-fidelity beginnings, these new recordings are sophisticated and polished, but still capture the same emotive spirit and playful nature that Boys of Summer have exhibited since the beginning.
The use of auxiliary instruments and multi-tracked vocals is tasteful and never forced. LeFevre's voice falls sweetly on the ears, able to express genuine emotion without ever overreaching for high drama. The music itself is never any one thing for too long. There are shades of a folkier Belle & Sebastian, or perhaps a more indie version of The Watson Twins.
But the most exciting thing about Boys of Summer is that it's a band more interested in finding its own voice than forcing the sound in a certain direction. There are waltzes, singalong choruses, ballads and jazzier numbers that undercut the lyrics, which often tell stories of breakups and relationships on the wane.
"We definitely want to play music that's pretty but not cliché." LeFevre says. "We don't think you have to sacrifice vocal harmonies and catchiness to make intelligent music. We don't want it to sound manufactured, but I would definitely say that our music is very accessible and user-friendly."
The album release performance will be at LaRue's Backdoor, behind O'Henry's. "I'm really excited about that," says LeFevre. "I might be wrong, but I think we may have been the first band to book a show there when we've performed at Cookie's in the past. We love having an amazing mix of people at our shows. I'd like to think we appeal to a wide range of tastes. It's the kind of music your parents would enjoy."
[When last he wrote, Dave Cole was in New York City — it seems he's on the way back.]
who: Boys of Summer, with Body of John the Baptist opening
what: CD-release show
where: LaRue's Backdoor, 237 Haywood
when: Sunday, May 2 (9 p.m. $5. firstname.lastname@example.org or search Facebook for Boys of Summer)