On a rainy night in San Diego, the kind of night that does not happen often, I sat with my laptop, racing the deadline. Shrieking winds howled through my neighborhood. I took a break from writing to read the day’s news, which was a mistake. A new administration was making radical changes. Violence had broken out across the nation. The local football team had just betrayed a community and headed north, leaving broken hearts and shattered dreams in its’ wake. Over on Facebook, there is a group I belong to, “I Love Power Pop” is its name. The page is always a refuge from the day’s events. A place to hear Rickenbacker guitars chime, voices ring and songs about falling in love with the girl of your dreams. That is where I heard a song sunny enough to make me forget the driving rain coming down outside. That song is “Still Gonna Want You,” and, ironically, the track comes from a band out of Tacoma, Washington, a place that gets more rain in a week then San Diego gets in a year.
There is plenty of jangle, and a voice that professes undying love for a girl that, no matter what will always have a place in the singer’s heart. “Still Gonna Want You” is the lead single off of The Rallies‘ debut album, “Serve.” It’s an LP of ready-made classics in waiting. The Rallies are the real deal when it comes to power pop — music that fills your heart and soul with joy, even if the basis of the song is not always a happy ending. The Rallies are Steve Davis, lead-vocals/acoustic guitar; Lee Brown, drums/backing-vocals; Rick Jones, bass/backing-vocals; and Jeff Weideman on electric guitar.
Their harmonies are nothing short of amazing, the song-writing is great and if you have an inclination toward upbeat, guitar-driven, pop rock, this is the album you need to own. Now. Picking a stand-out track is not possible, since all ten are varying degrees of great. “Don’t Give Up” uses those previously mentioned harmonies to flawless effect. “So Right” has the feel of a Tom Petty single from the days when Tom Petty wrote classic three minute pop masterpieces.
The Rallies were founded years ago, with a bit of a shifting lineup until they settled into their current quartet. “Serve” was self-produced by the band with assistance from sound engineer Pierre Ferguson during the recording and mixing phases.
Barry Benintende: How did you guys get together as a band?
Steve Davis: I founded the group a number of years ago, and the band has gone through many membership changes since. Lee came on board a few years ago drumming in the second version, Rallies 2.0, as a good friend of the guitarist at that time. Then, Rick joined The Rallies 3.0 as bassist who had played in another band with the guitarist at that time. And finally Jeff joined the band’s current 4.0 version not even a year ago, answering a Craiglist ad in which he replied “Trying to find a quality band, and you are IMHO that.”
What is the songwriting process like for you?
For me, it’s just something that comes out of noodling around on the guitar. A kind of bi-product that shows itself sometimes when I’m playing. I never know when it’ll happen, but when it does it’s a very cool feeling.
What’s the music scene like in Tacoma these days? Does the city support local music?
Tacoma is a cool town with cool people, and it does support a wide range of local music. The number of venues though is quite limited, especially for our kind of music, and we’ve had more opportunities when we head north to Seattle.
How long did it take to record “Serve?”
We started recording the album in the springtime last year as just a three piece. We didn’t have an electric guitar player at that time, just a Craigslist ad titled “Guitar Player Wanted”, and it had an important requirement “No showboating solos, no metal, no covers.” Jeff joined the band about midway through the recording process, after we had tracked about half the songs. And because of that it took us around half a year just to track the entire album. It definitely wasn’t the ideal way to do it, but in the end we were all pleased with how it turned out.
One review of your debut said it is a “soundtrack for a sunny day.” That may be the highest compliment for a jangly pop record ever. Is that going to become part of your marketing material any time soon?
That is a cool statement and definitely worthy of inclusion in our reviews — now we just need one for the rainy days, ‘cause in Tacoma it rains a hell of a lot more than the sun shines!
How do you generate awareness for your music in the crowded world of music on the internet?
We’ve been using the social networks to get some attention, and that’s helped us find an audience that we didn’t even know existed or was possible — isn’t that how you found us? We’ve really been pleasantly surprised by the positive responses, and people have reached out to us from all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe. We’re currently working on a college radio campaign starting next month, and hope to get our music heard over the airwaves across the U.S. colleges.
Did Tacoma garage bands like the Sonics, Botch or Girl Trouble have any influence on you?
Who? No, kidding aside, Tacoma has been the hometown to many great bands that have had an impact in music. Along with the ones you mentioned I’d also include The Ventures and The Wailers as some of my favorites.
“Still Gonna Want You” sounds like a song tailor-made for Matthew Sweet, like an undiscovered pop gem. What was the inspiration behind it?
That’s a cool reference, and one I never thought of (by the way, Matthew Sweet’s album “Girlfriend” is awesome, one of my all-time favorites). When I wrote the song and recorded a scratch demo with just acoustic guitar accompaniment, the tempo was much slower and I was going for more of a folk rock feel. It wasn’t until after the band starting playing it that the tempo picked up and the groove of rhythm section took over, and then quite unexpectedly it became rock song.
There are strong influences in your sound: the Byrds, The Las and Crowded House. Is there a particular artist or band that has the biggest influence on you?
I dig all those groups and so many many more — pretty much any group or artist that writes melodic driven music, power pop rock. All-time favorite though would have to be The Beatles, for sure!
Is there a resurgence in power pop music coming?
I hope so because it’s good music, and shouldn’t good music be heard? I was quite happy to see that my daughter’s song playlist included The Beatles, so that gives me hope!
What do you think it is about your brand of music that has enduring appeal?
I’d like to hear answers to that question from listeners of our music — like yourselves. I can tell you that when I’m writing songs I try to write something that has a positive vibe, that feels true & honest, and hopefully it’s something that others can relate to and connect with from their own experiences.
What are you listening to these days?
OK here you go, some of my playlist going back about year, newest to oldest; Old 97’s – Graveyard Whistling, Chuck Prophet – Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins, Sting – 57th And 9th, Alejandro Escovedo – Burn Something Beautiful, The Legal Matters – Conrad, Look Park – Look Park, Teenage Fanclub – Here, The I Don’t Cares – Wild Stab, Cotton Mather – Death of the Cool, Band Of Horses – Why Are You Ok, Mudcrutch – 2, Cupid’s Carnival – Everything is Love, Wilco – Schmilco, Tuns – Tuns, The Anderson Council – Assorted Colours, The Posies – Solid States, Jayhawks – Paging Mr. Proust, Nada Surf – You Know Who You Are
How is the album selling? Where can people buy a copy?
We’re counting on this spot to boost our album sale tremendously — we need it! The album can be purchased at quite a number of places, it’s been distributed to; iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Bandcamp, eMusic, Shazam, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, the list goes on and on.
What can fans expect from a Rallies’ show?
A show with fire, explosives, and blood — think Kiss! Just kidding: We can only afford the blood. It’ll be a tightly packed show highlighting our album music with a few new songs tucked in there as well, sans glitz just music.
How often have you heard “We can’t pay you, but think of the exposure you’ll get?”
It is a familiar sounding phrase, and goes along nicely with “The gig is yours, and here are your 50 tickets that we need pre-payment from you.”… “We take Visa or Mastercard.”
Any chance you’ll tour the west coast and get to San Diego any time soon?
At this point anything is possible. We’ve had discussions about touring and it’s on our list of things we want to do this year. Where we end up touring though might be based upon the area that our college radio campaign does the best.
What is your favorite San Diego band?
Rick’s favorites: The Beat Farmers and Stone Temple Pilots. Steve likes Crocodiles and Iron Butterfly.