I was profoundly confused when I first listened to Founding Fathers. Here is a band that lists, among their 'influences' such groups as Ween, Beck, Wilco -- and to which other reviewers had compared to Talking Heads. My first impression of Founding Fathers was of a band that makes booty-shaking, bone-deep funk that just doesn't wash off. The first track on their latest CD, a song called "Stop Drop and Roll," is magnificent good-time party music to be sure but -- Ween? Wilco? I wasn't getting it.
I have not had the opportunity to see the band live yet so... maybe I am missing something.
The very aptly entitled second track, "Don't Stop," brought even more of the super-fly 70's vibe. Founding Fathers' rhythm section of Matt Chmielewski on bass and Dustin McClure on drums crafts a sound reminiscent of the heyday of Staxx Records. When partnered with the energy generated by the guitar and vocals of Adam Hacker and the keyboard layering by Chelso Ciotti, what you get is a super-freaky 'nuthin' but a good time' feeling - the kind you might get from classic Rufus Thomas or The Bar-Kays.
By the time the third track, "Sexxy Magik," reached my ears, I was already convinced that Founding Fathers might be the next challenger to The Yugos for the title of "most fun band in Cincinnati.*" Because of the name "Sexy Magik," and the vibe of the previous two tracks, I was expecting something very much in the vain of Red Hot Chili Peppers. What I got instead was a slightly heavy, pseudo-ska story told very much in the manner of classic Talking Heads. There it was! I was starting to get it... or so I thought.
Then I heard "Welcome Home," the last track on the CD. It is completely incongruous from the other three; so much so that I had to pause my listening for a moment and check that I didn't hit a button and change my music source somehow. By the end of the album I had to admit, I was kind of lost again.
I listened to the album again the next day, and when I got to "Welcome Home," I noted that the song still had that high energy pop sound found on the rest of the album - it was just presented in a very different manner. So I was left wondering - was the choice to include this track made because they wanted to show off the band's range of ability, or were they simply one track short and needed a filler?
That was when I started to do some 'research' into Founding Fathers. Like I do so often when I want to find out more about a band, I went to their bandcamp page. What I found there were four songs that the band had released in April 2012 under the title Sound the Alarm! The Alarm tracks had an even broader range of style than the more recent ones. There was the heavy synth-pop of "Sin," the silly frolic of "Jellyfish Armada," the darker indie-rock vibe of "Out of My Mind," and yes, the funky groove of "Too Hott." The recording quality was not as strong as the new release but what was very evident was that Founding Fathers is completely comfortable - and completely adept - at playing a very wide variety of music.
The more I listened to Founding Fathers, the more I could feel the whimsical influence of David Byrne. I could also start to understand the experimental, freeform and unconventional influence of Ween, Beck and Wilco. I don't think that when Founding Fathers writes a song, they begin with the intention of creating a 'funk' song or a 'pop' song. I think they just want to make good-time music that people will enjoy.
Appropriate to their name, it all comes down to freedom.
As a band, Founding Fathers is free to be jazzy, funky, groovy, rockin -- whatever fits their mood at that time. Best of all, they are talented enough that they can do all of that whenever, however and wherever they want to.
And as a listener, you're free to dance however, whenever and wherever you want to.
Thanks, Founding Fathers, for giving us freedom.
*Caitin Behle; Each Note Secure, Drunk Music Reviews, September,2012