Updated Mon, Nov 19, 2012 12:46 pm
When Dayton indie-rockers Shrug first heard Jesse Remnant’s solo debut, they were more than a little impressed. After offering Remnant an opening slot at one of their gigs, the two parties started collaborating in a new band: Human Cannonball.
Last month the group released a new album, Let’s Be Friends, a collage of impressive powerpop melodies, catchy guitar hooks and sweet harmonies, all fueled by a driving rhythm section. However, as effortless as the album sounds, recording Let’s Be Friends was no small feat, taking place over several years.
"This album has been in the works for a long time!" said Remnant, who explained that the recording actually took place about two years ago. The album was co-produced with 3 Elliott Studio's Josh Antonuccio, who has also worked with Remnant's other band, Southeast Engine.
While the album took a while to complete, Remnant said some of the songs have been around even longer, dating back to 2007.
"It took a long time for us to figure out how we wanted to put the record out...whether or not we wanted to do vinyl and whatnot. Also, making a record ain't cheap!"
Even the title of the album took a while to nail down. In the end, the band settled on Let’s Be Friends for several reasons, according to Remnant.
"Let's Be Friends seemed to encompass the overall feel," he said. "I also like that title because it could be taken two ways. There's the sort of childlike notion of 'let's be friends' and it could also be taken as a sort of break up sentiment. I think that encompasses a lot of ideas and themes throughout the record."
Those ideas and themes are featured in a diverse collection of songs, from jangly tracks like "King Tangerine" to oddball acoustic pieces like "Milk and Honey," a standout track that showcases Remnant's tidy, compact writing style.
"I personally have a certain affection for short songs. I'm not exactly sure why. It could have to do with the fact that a lot of the songs I grew up listening to were three minutes and under," he said. "I think it leaves the listener wanting more, which some people like and others don't. Little snippets of incomplete tunes mixed in with fully realized songs...I love that."
Indie legends Guided By Voices, led by frontman/songwriter Robert Pollard, made a big impact on Remnant, who admits that his odd, poppy material has roots in Pollard’s idiosyncratic style.
"I'm from Dayton, the hometown of Guided By Voices, and I was turned onto those records at a young age. Something about blue-collar dudes from Dayton making some of the weirdest and most beautiful art. So completely unique," he said.
Pollard's influence is evident on tracks like "Up My Alley," which packs an Isolation Drills-era punch, and the scratchy opening of "Ghost Yard," which sounds like it could be a lost GBV track.
That's not to say that Human Cannonball isn’t a unique act, because they are. And that might have to do with the well-honed musical skills of Eric Cassidy, Dan Stahl, Bryan Lakatos and Ken Hall.
"Those guys have been amazing to work with," said Remnant. "Shrug have been a band for so long and it was just so natural to step in and start playing with them. They all brought such great individual parts to this new album. They're all such great, inventive players."
Although Let’s Be Friends is only a month old, the band is already looking ahead. A number of songs have been written and the group plan to return to the studio soon. However, Remnant said he learned an important lessson with Let's Be Friends.
"I'm not going to predict a release date for the next record," he joked.