I wasn't being hyperbolic when I called St Ranger the most promising young band in Phoenix in my list of personal favorite records from last year. The indie pop band's newest five-track LP, Life Coach, proves my point, brimming with harmonious group vocals, jangly guitar interplay, and chill atmospherics.
The album's inclusion on my list may have been helped by a technicality, as the MP3s were available to stream since December 2011, but the proper LP will available at a release show next Tuesday at Rhythm Room.
The band recorded Life Coach in Los Angeles with friend and former Arizonan Bill Burke at his apartment studio, Layer Cake. St Ranger guitarist Jeff Taylor says the band arrived to record in August 2011 at the tail-end of a three-week tour, playing gigs around Southern California after the daytime recording sessions. "We would track all day, go out in the evening to play shows, then come back the studio early the next morning and live off Tecate and coffee all day," he says.
The decision to record at the end of the tour meant the songs were at their tightest, Taylor says. "We'd worked out a lot of changes to the songs, lots of little things. We crammed five tracks into five days and knocked them out pretty quickly."
Determining which songs to record had everything to do with seasonal space. "We hand-picked those songs because they're all summer songs," Taylor says. "They're all very poppy and catchy, more upbeat, not as rhythmically or structurally all over the place. We dig the warmer vibes, whereas we have songs that are more dark and wintery in our minds." Those winter jams will likely see release on a 7-inch record later this year, Taylor adds.
Taylor himself is releasing Life Coach under his imprint, The Color Group, which also does tour booking and management.
On St Ranger's Bandcamp page, the album is dedicated to the band's anointed life coach, former Asleep in the Sea member Tom Filardo. The eponymous songwriter toured alongside the St Ranger boys and was present for the recording of Life Coach.
Taylor said Filardo guided the band through the trials of their first extensive tour and high-end recording studio session. "It was interesting because some of us have been really close to his younger brother Christian [Filardo, of Good Amount] for years. We went to Asleep in the Sea shows when we were younger. It was a super cool experience. We had hardly any connection with him before we went out and basically lived with him in a van for three weeks."
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Filardo, nearly seven years senior to most of the St Ranger members, quickly took on a big brother role. "He would always school us on things we thought we knew about and rub it in our faces that he was our 'life coach'," Taylor says.
Filardo gave Taylor tips on running The Color Group and also advised the entire band regarding their musical development and future goals. However, Filardo most often dispensed wisdom on the most vexing topic of them all. "Girls," Taylor chuckled, "all the time."
St. Ranger releases Life Coach on Tuesday, February, 21 at the Rhythm Room, 1019 East Indian School Road in Phoenix. Dream Sick and Instructions will also perform.