Music News

What Laura Says Looks to Sly and The Family Stone for Inspiration

Calling "Fire Ring b/w Weekend Habit," the forthcoming release from Tempe psychedelic soul combo What Laura Says, a "single" is a little misleading. "Neither song is slated to appear on the next album," says bassist Mitch Freedom, laughing. Nonetheless, the band plans on releasing the tunes "in the first quarter" of 2012.

What isn't confusing is the songs — two funky, organ-drenched soul jams, riding over a percolating, vintage MRK-1 drum machine, purchased on eBay after the group read Miles Marshall Lewis' book on Sly and the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On and recognized the role the beat machine played in the signature sound of that album, a group favorite. Both songs are dense, jazzy excursions, falling in a progressive line with the Steely Dan-like cuts of the group's 2010 release, Bloomcheek, and last year's "Sun Is," from the Talk EP.

"We love the fact that Sly, in some tunes — most notably 'Family Affair' — has the beat machine going the whole time, with live drums playing over it. It's inorganic in a way, but also totally organic; it's a rigid versus sparse groove and feel. It's interesting to play off."

Recorded at Flying Blanket in Mesa, the songs originally represented the band's first steps into a new full-length, due out on Sundawg Records. The plans changed when those sessions were abandoned. "More than anything, we like our releases to be a unique snapshot of a time and place," Freedom says. "Talk was the same kind of thing — it wasn't a full-length, but it represented a specific time."

Inspired by Talk's release on vinyl, the band plans on releasing the two new songs on an old-school 45 — "an A and B side, you know?"

"We had such a great time pressing Talk on vinyl," Freedom says. "We want to do more of that."

The songs are fuzzier and spacier than those on Talk, stepping away from the classic- rock-leaning "Girl's Not Going to Leave." Whether the new songs indicate the direction of the album to come or stand on their own, they've already found their way into the What Laura Says show.

"We've started playing the songs live," Freedom says. "We don't always bring the drum machine, because it can get hard to hear, but live, the songs have already taken on new dimensions. They've become totally different things."

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.