First day in the studio with Jed and the Space Summit project. We had Jason Garner playing drums, Salim came in and played psychedelic bass on one track and Jed listened and passed on thoughts throughout the day. We are wondering how to approach this record, should we complete two tracks or should we get as many backing tracks down as possible and finish songs with guitars, vocals and everything else at a later date? We only have five days and so far today we have three drum tracks and one bass track, we’ll continue tomorrow and see what transpires.
We had to Uber to the studio today, the driver was a lady who told us she was a singer-songwriter and drove in the day to support her real passion. She sang us a song called Electric Meditation. She dropped us off and told us “God Bless You” and you got the feeling that it wasn’t empty words, it was a sincere hope that God would bless us and it came across even stronger with a Texas accent. She had one of those cars where the doors open automatically but you just can’t help but push them anyway.
I spoke to Atlanta Craig on the phone as he travelled down to Florida. There’s action in Atlanta Craig land which I will tell you about in the coming days. There is also action in Indiana Brian land with The Simpletons’ great new Trampling Roses EP. Here’s the information about the band, I have been helping with some objective opinions, I hope you like it.
The Simpletons are a reformation of an alternative Dallas-based band from the early 1990s. The first new music after such a long hiatus needs to inspire, and Trampling Roses deliver handsomely. Originally formed by Australian Nathan Fynn, the Simpletons relied on innovative chord structure, driving creative melodies. In 2021, Nathan and Brian McMurtry renewed their musical friendship, writing the first Simpletons compositions in three decades. Because the team was 9000 miles and 16 time zones apart, they collaborated through endless video calls and recorded in separate studios. They engaged veteran guitarist Marty Willson-Piper (formerly of the Church, Noctorum, All About Eve) as executive producer, and have created a 5-song EP worth the wait.
Trampling Roses are best classified as indie dream pop without falling into languorous navel-gazing. At a tight 21 minutes, the music aficionado is treated to a variety of musical textures without an indulgent carry-on.
The EP begins saucily with the lead single, Wishing the Day. The Spanish-influenced 12-string acoustic guitar introduction is an attention-grabber that leads into Fynn’s road-worn tenor voice. McMurtry’s reverbed vocals on the middle 8 are classic dream pop, featuring layered, lush guitars. For us, the highlight in the song involves an extended bridge reminiscent of sumptuous Brian Wilson-like harmony sandwiches consumed by the side of “the sea of tranquility.”
Fynn’s strong melodies and dark lyrical content splatter the canvas of the second song, Bright Lights. Particularly emotive is his raspy delivery on the haunting chorus, which is an elegy to the passing between worlds. “This song really is about having a conversation with death,” Fynn opines. McMurtry layers multiple acoustic and electric guitars on this cut, demonstrating a strong capacity to weave countermelodies and capture what Johnny Marr calls the “guitar-chestra.”
Marbury Park is pure dream pop, containing some of the more esoteric lyrics on the album. At the beginning, the vocalist advises the listener to “shed the mortal coil, embrace the daydream a while.” This cut exudes an earnest Cocteau Twins vibe, replete with opulent harmonic structure. “Marbury Park doesn’t exist as a real place,” McMurtry explains, “but it’s a place in your head where all your most creative thoughts escape, and anything is possible.”
The startling Into the Aether is a tip of the hat to Dreampop/Shoegaze band DIIV, with an aggressive, gritty bass driving along the rhythm section. “We put a Leslie on the lead guitar to really give the song a trippy vibe,” recalls McMurtry. The lead vocals on Aether as well have an otherworldly quality, phased and chorused soothingly. Fynn’s melody-craft really shines on the chorus, which also features a standout guitar hook reminiscent of the Cure.
The album closer, Faded Nocturne, features McMurtry’s arranging capabilities, with traditional orchestral instruments (oboe, harp, and strings) meshing with sumptuous 12-string acoustic and electric guitar arpeggiation. Evocative of R.E.M., an Irish bouzouki is featured on the second verse. “I really wanted to capture the essence of Baroque pop on Nocturne,” says McMurtry. The song and album close with a piano playing a variation of the song’s primary motif as it descends gradually into cavernous reverb- and fades with the vinyl scratching of an album’s runout groove as if to signify, “this is the end, and similarly, the beginning.”
In all, Trampling Roses is an excellent debut EP for the songwriting duo known as the Simpletons. After three decades, this collaboration leaves the listener wanting more. The work style of Fynn as primary lyricist/melody writer and McMurtry as composer/arranger effectively works in the tradition of Morrissey and Marr. The lead single, Wishing The Day, drops on all major streaming platforms on May 5, 2023, and the EP Trampling Roses will release on June 2, 2023.
The Simpletons single can be purchased from Bandcamp and can be streamed from all major streaming services. There is also a music video for the lead single, “Wishing the Day,” available here: