Hearing Gabriel Hays, the genial frontman of New York-based rockers Shortwave Sunshine, deliver the surreal, oddly infectious chorus to “Your Car is on Fire” or the sweetly mellow keyboard line and vocal melody of “The Breakers,” he seems like a natural bandleader. But like Tom Waits, Warren Zevon and Dr. John, Hays’ musical background includes years spent as a sideman.
“I had been playing in several projects (Akoya, The Batterie, Mieka Pauley) as a keyboardist and sometimes co-songwriter,” states Hays. “But I realized I wanted to do the kind of album that wasn’t going to happen with the other projects I was playing with. From there I began writing demos…trying out my singing voice. When I realized I had enough material to start playing out, I started recruiting some of my favorite musicians to play with. I knew right away that I’d love to have Naren Rauch on guitar and Nikhil Yerawadekar on bass. Their sensibility was similar to mine (we all loved the Beatles) yet all had varied backgrounds.”
“After doing some shows in Summer and Fall of 2008 we started to develop those demos towards a sound that was a natural mesh of everyone’s playing,” continues Hays. “They felt natural. We brought Mike Riddleberger in on drums in December 2008 and knew right away it was a great fit. We’d played with a few other great and in demand NYC drummers but with Mike, his vibe and feel fit the music perfectly.”
Shortwave Sunshine’s newest release, The Breakers, makes good on the band’s Beatles influence with the kind of sharp but easygoing melodies and ambitious arrangements of the Fab Four’s later albums. From the hypnotic “Lost in New York” to the start-stop riffage of “Save $” and the noisy breakdown of the title track, The Breakers is a sonic mini-adventure that brandishes a relatively bright outlook and tight performances that can be attributed in part to the album’s “live” recording process, completed almost entirely in two days at the Bunker with engineer Aaron Nevezie.
Shortwave Sunshine celebrated the album’s release with a performance at the Living Room in Manhattan, and the band is currently slated to play Spike Hill on August 14th. While The Breakers captures the band’s tunefulness and musical chops, Shortwave Sunshine’s chemistry is best viewed from the stage, where the band embodies the musical capabilities and unironic outlook that is lacking in Brooklyn’s populous indie rock scene. Most of Shortwave Sunshine’s contemporaries could learn much Hays’ enjoyment of performing and of life in general. “I recommend everyone take a week off from Facebook, Twitter, Four-square, etc.” states Hays. “It’ll make you feel good.”
Featuring members from: Antibalas, Tamarama, Akoya, Quintus, King Expressers and Ravens & Chimes.