March 27th, 2012, 7:48 pm · · posted by KELLI SKYE FADROSKI, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
In late 2009, vocalist/guitarist Christopher Faris, his brother and guitarist Andrew Faris and drummer Jason Mize began laying the groundwork for what would become O.C. indie rock act the Devious Means. Bassist Megan Polendo joined the group after hearing some demos, and quickly following a few other keys players, Rachel Anderson joined in August 2010.
“It was perfect chemistry,” Christopher Faris says during an interview alongside Anderson earlier this week. “Everything just kind of came together.”
Inspired by acts like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Dead Weather, the White Stripes and the Cure, the quintet began rehearsing together and by October of that year played its first show. Come March 2011, the band finished its first EP and celebrated with a release party at Bootlegger’s Brewery in Fullerton, packing the venue with more than 400 fans. (“We basically took over their storehouse area,” Faris says.)
Now, just one year later, the Devious Means are preparing for the arrival of their second EP, Songs We Are All Singing, which officially drops Friday at House of Blues Anaheim. For this release party, Faris says the promoters were kind enough to allow the band to completely control of the program.
They’ve been working out some arrangements with a choir comprised of various local musicians, including 2012 OC Music Awards nominees Ethan Hulse, Tully Wilkinson, Anna Nelson, Trisha Smith from Honeypie, and jazz vocalist Chris Williams, all of whom will perform with the group on a couple songs. The Silent Comedy, Robert Jon & the Wreck, Moonsville Collective and Midnight Hour will open.
“It’s pretty incredible, the fact that we have such ridiculously talented friends,” Anderson says of the evening’s lineup. “It’s just a huge blessing that we’ve gotten to know (those bands) over the last couple of years. It’s incredible that a band like the Silent Comedy, who we really, really love, admire and respect, is now saying that they will open for us. That’s crazy. We should honestly be opening for all of these bands.”
The location is ideal, too: The Mouse House is “a fun and friendly place where people of all ages can come. We’re not celebrating in some dive bar somewhere. We get Downtown Disney, where you can go to Build-a-Bear, go to Rainforest Café …. and then come see us.”
The band has several things planned for the bash, including having jug-blowing folk act Moonsville Collective serve as a busking band in between acts. “They might be on top of the bar, they might be set up in the middle of the floor – we don’t know,” Faris says. “They’re just such a fun band.”
Songs We Are All Singing was produced by local notable Dallas Kruse, who has helped enhance the sound of Suburban Legends, the Ultimate Bearhug and Jameson, among others, from within his Zion Studios in Santa Ana. Faris says Kruse came out numerous times to see the band perform live and even popped into a few rehearsals and took lots of notes so he could see what the band was going for.
With some distance between its first EP and these fresh recordings, the band realized the debut wasn’t truly representative of its live capability – it was far too confined and clean sounding, Faris says.
But Kruse, he says, “set up random mics in the room to get the big drum tones – just the way he miked the different instruments, he got much more of an energetic, live feel. He was intent on making it so that when we gave the album to people, we wouldn’t say: ‘Oh, just listen to track three.’ We would say: ‘Listen to the whole thing,’ because we would be so proud of it.”
“We’re definitely more mature as a band now, so we approached this a lot differently,” Anderson adds. “We respect (Dallas) as a musician and as a producer, so we allowed him to sneak into the process. And once we met him, we meshed so well – he really spoke some wisdom into our music but still let us do what we wanted to do. He just kind of tied a big bow on it.”
Though they do consider themselves an indie rock band, Faris and Andersen agree that the new release diversifies their approach. One song, “Making Eyes,” is more pop-oriented with added synthesizer effects; “Porcelain Mouths,” on the other hand, is far more rootsy and moody, inspired by bands like the Dead Weather.
“We’ve embraced this world where people buy one song at a time as opposed to full albums,” Faris says. “Attention spans are a lot shorter, so we can write songs with whatever sounds good to us. I don’t think any of us are in a stage of life where we want to join five different bands, because one is going to be a folk/acoustic band, one is going to play Dead Weather/White Stripes music and another is going to play pop-synthesizer music. Let’s just do it all. Who cares, as long as we like it?”
The Devious Means was nominated in the best indie category at the 2012 OC Music Awards, though the group lost to Kiev. Cliche though it may be to say, Anderson says the band still considers it an honor just to be mentioned.
“Being nominated was pretty special,” she says. “I know people who have some interesting views on the OC Music Awards and everything, but the fact that we actually got recognized and that we were on the same list as Kiev and Young the Giant, it felt like, OK, we’re not little kids in a high school band just playing. People actually like our music. It was a good affirmation that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Yet the band hasn’t striven to gain popularity, just build solid relationships with musicians in the local community. “They’re such great people,” Faris says. “After shows, you go out and you get coffee or breakfast, and we’ll talk about music or about shows – and none of it ever feels pretentious or awkward. The likelihood of being a mega superstar band is fairly low … but the likelihood of creating a great set of friends and seeing people with incredible talents is so high. That’s what I’ve been taking in the most. I have friends that I would have never had if it hadn’t been for this band.”
To help further those bonds, the Devious Means, with the help of Polendo’s web designer husband, created Likeandfollow.us as a way of sharing local music with the masses. Each act performing at the EP release party on Friday is featured on the website. If you like all five bands’ Facebook pages, you can download two tracks from each artist for free.
“The idea is not to just come to the show and listen to the bands you like, but to listen to the music before and find out if you like the other bands as well – then come and experience all of them,” Anderson says. “It’s been a great way to share music that we love.”
“Even if you can’t make it to the show,” Faris adds, “that doesn’t restrict you from being able to get the downloads to check everybody out.”
Photo by Jason Watts.
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