First they were Pavane & Galliard (Puh-van-ee and Gal-ee-erd) which was a great name, once you knew how to pronounce it. But in an effort to make their name more accessible, they changed it to Young Couples — simple to say but oh-so-creepy to yell out in a crowded bar if you’re older than, say, 25. Still, whatever they want to call themselves, this quartet lead by vocalist Lauren Habenicht and vocalist/guitarist Jared Hooker is gearing up to be a household name.
When their recent opening gig at The Boiler Room was cancelled, the band arranged an impromptu show at Town & Mountain Realty. It was sort of like a house party (a keg, red solo cups, lots of 20-somethings) only Young Couples-style. Which is to say, stylish. The room was probably among the nicest venues in town — wood floors, a wall of mirrors, good sound — there was plenty of parking and an enthusiastic crowd that Habenicht introduced at one point as “all music majors.” Habenicht herself graduated from UNC-A last year with a major in classical voice. Hooker attended Berklee College of Music and bassist Rip Nolan performs with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra.
And the classical training comes out in Young Couples’ music — mainly in Habenicht’s singing — but what they perform is far from madrigals or sonatas. On opening tune “Duet,” (“A sweet little song we wrote for my best friend’s wedding”) Habenicht and Hooker’s voices were evenly matched, swirling around each other like a round on the chorus. From there, the full band came in, hitting its stride right out of the gate with a slightly-Bossa Nova groove, sharp breaks, super-tight choruses and the tart smack of percussion (by drummer Ben Falcon).
Falcon is a formidable drummer, controlling the pace despite complex syncopation and an array of rhythms — very few falling into the classic 4/4 tempo of rock.
“Red Ribbons” built from a steady gallop, a foundation for the Habenicht’s theatrical (think Moulin Rouge) vocals. “The Harvest,” a song Habenicht introduced as “it’s about doing it,” slowed to a lush and summery waltz with Hooker taking a Slow Hand approach to a bluesy guitar solo and Habenicht’s vocal climaxing in a Koko Taylor howl. That jazz singer influence continued in the reggae-flavored “Tunnel Vision,” through which Habenicht writhed as if squeezing the sound from her slight frame. That song broke into a frantic instrumental complete with screaming guitar and crushing percussion, only to drop effortlessly back into the reggae skank.
Through a set’s worth of musical complexities, turn-on-dime signature changes and vocal acrobatics, Young Couples beamed with joy. Their sound is indie-pop with plenty of polish and a base in both jazz and Caribbean sounds; their musicianship is impeccable and the harmonies that Habenicht and Hooker pull off allude to a much longer musical partnership than that of this relatively new band.
Young Couples plans an EP release in November. Info here.