Phoenix-based indie rockers St. Ranger don't have an album out. In fact, the band has released only two songs at this point, the Grizzly Bear-esque "Ohnowoe" and the fidgety, intricate, nearly prog "Shark Week." So why did national music blog My Old Kentucky Blog feature the band in May, and why is the group popping up around town opening for hotly tipped touring bands like White Denim, Women, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra?
The answer isn't particularly complex but is surprising nonetheless, considering the band's youth, both as a musical group (it's been playing about a year) and in regard to the average age of its members: 20. St. Ranger's stature is growing, thanks to a hard, Internet-based promotional push from The Color Group, the label/publicity firm helmed by St. Ranger guitarist Jeff Taylor.
Of course, the band's music helps, too. Earlier incarnations of the band, There Is There Are and Ronald & Carson, played math rock and straightforward indie pop, respectively, and St. Ranger applies principles of both sounds when creating its kaleidoscopic whirl of harmonies and layered guitars.
"I like to think of the band as a mix of where we came from," Taylor says. "With this band, we are able to create more layers, make it more subtle, make it more approachable. We're not trying to sneak things in, making it so it's not obnoxious."
Vocalist/guitarist Andy Phipps agrees. "We're not trying to be math-y," he says. "It's just sort of how we write. In [There Is There Are], we would have been, like, 'Let's try and make this part really weird,' and just throw stuff in."
Inspired by Grizzly Bear and The Beach Boys, St. Ranger started out with the express intent of creating vocally driven music. Phipps, bassist Jake Ashton, and singer Bruce Kimura all contribute vocals, while drummer Jakeob Ewell subtly shifts rhythms underneath the melodic sprawl.
The resulting sound has earned the band fans in the Filardo brothers. The band is leaving for tour this summer with Thomas Filardo's musical project (appropriately named Filardo), a prospect very exciting to the band members, who were fans of Filardo's project Asleep in the Sea.
Christian Filardo, Thomas' younger brother (and songwriter for "dunk wave" pioneers Vladee Divacc and the more recent "Halloweencore" project Good Amount), included the band's "Shark Week" on the inaugural tape release for his label, Holy Page, and directed the band's video for "Ohnowoe," a blurry, soft focus clip that wound up on My Old Kentucky Blog.
"We think it's a great companion for the song," Taylor says. "[He] hung out with us one night, and snuck a few shots in here and there. He's a really interesting guy, 'cause he takes photos, videos, whatever, of totally random, abstract stuff because he knows he has a mind where he can pull it all together. He shot us 'til 11 at night, and he e-mailed me at four in the morning, and he had this video put together of all these clips. He was like, 'Man, I just got really stoked on it and finished it.' We were expecting a video in a week or two, and we woke up to one. It was real neat."
The video has helped the band's online promotional work, which Taylor states is essential. "We've played with bands on tour that don't even have a website," he says. "I find that silly."
The band is still writing for their debut EP, one themed around the concept of summer, that they have plans to record at various stops on tour and hope to have out by the end of the season. "These summer songs that we're grouping together are the more straightforward of the songs that we've written," Taylor says. "They are upbeat and poppier than some of the more complex tracks that we'll be working on later in the year."