The Fly Boys of Summer

"In 1966, one of the great albums in rock 'n' roll history was made: Pet Sounds, by the Beach Boys. Even today it holds up. I listen to it and moan, sit on my bed encircled in a knee-high pile of paper and write poetry."

So who's that waxin' wimpy over the American Sgt. Pepper? None other than Henry Winkler, revealing Arthur Fonzarelli's funny-as-a-crutch marshmallow center -- at the height of Fonziemania! Prior to Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys spent a career making like the Fonz, bragging that they rode the biggest waves, the fastest cars and the fastest girls, not to mention jazzing about attending the bossest school. With that groundwork laid, it's no wonder the group's fans were shocked when the only wave to catch on Pet Sounds was all that sweet innocence hightailing it out the front door. Caroline -- noooo!!!!!

Maybe allowing the other Beach Boys to dress like Samurai warriors on Pet Sounds' rear sleeve was the group's last macho concession, since Brian Wilson was practically committing hari-kari on the record inside, revealing all his innermost hopes and fears without the slightest regard for losing face and bringing shame to papa-san Murry. Since its release, this has been the album that young men lowered their inborn defenses for and wept unashamedly to.

"I didn't even know stuff like that existed," says Adam Paskowitz, lead singer for Hollywood's The Flys. Two years ago, The Flys landed on alt-rock radio and bit listeners with a pair of infectious hits, "Got You Where I Want You" (featured prominently in the movie Disturbing Behavior) and "She's So Huge." Between then and now, Paskowitz heard Pet Sounds for the first time and was deeply affected. But he didn't turn into a bucket of mush like sad Fonz and write drippy "nobody loves Arthur" poetry that few would ever hear. Instead, Paskowitz sampled what he loved and channeled it into the group's surprisingly accomplished and sensitively titled Outta My Way. Hang onto your ego indeed.

You've gotta love the irony at work here. In the last decade, countless indie geek bands have painstakingly emulated Brian Wilson circa '66 on portastudios, seeking his benediction like teacher's pets. And then along comes The Flys, a bunch of real-life surfers and motor bike-riding thrill-seekers, zooming to the head of the class like exam cheats by sampling Pet Sounds in a metal hip-hop, post-grunge hybrid album that would probably send these other Beach Boy elitists fleeing in terror.

And while most of those efforts fell on Brian's one deaf ear, The Flys got the blessing of the man himself. And why not? "No Sad Story," Outta My Way's first single, is the perfect summer song, as in-your-face as "I Get Around" was in 1964 and as autobiographically true to Paskowitz as Pet Sounds was to Wilson, that is if you're willing to make the leap from "where did your long hair go" to "damn I seen some fine ass girls."

The little deuce coup of actually getting to sample two Pet Sounds songs is not lost on a grateful Paskowitz. "This information is so dear to his heart and such a gesture was so amazing to us. That was his favorite record and probably his favorite time and Brian's been ripped off so many times from the record business. You know it's a long shot when you're talking about getting vocal samples from Pet Sounds."

What probably helped move that Beach permit along is that none of The Flys songs are derivative of preexisting Wilson melodies -- no Puff Daddy-like redux of "God Only Knows" here. The title track isn't dependent on the brief 16-second low-fi snatch of "Here Today" plopped incongruously in the middle of it, but Paskowitz insists he actually wrote the song around that snippet and felt compelled to include it. More likely, he wrote "Losing It" around that "Here Today" chord progression and tossed it into "Outta My Way" to throw people off the trail.

Yep, The Flys are clever Muscidae, all right. Most people could've gone through their whole lives not knowing that the background vocals on "No Sad Story" were snippets of "Caroline No" carefully spliced up and reassembled without any intervening consonants.

"I'm pretty good with Pro Tools and stuff. I'm pretty smart about it," Paskowitz proudly admits. Despite the reference in "Fire in the Pit" about "vocalizing like the Beach Boys," the group decided against duplicating the sampled vocals themselves. "I thought, 'We're pretty good harmonizers, we'll harmonize with that.' And it just laid there like a dead egg. There's something about the way those guys just sang like, god head, that was so cool. It's just impossible to try to compete with."

The obvious Beach Boy tip-of-the-hat on "No Sad Story" comes at the end when the "Unreleased Backgrounds" of "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)" -- found on 1990's Pet Sounds reissue disc -- are left to close the number out alone. "The one at the end, the 'Unreleased Backgrounds' was harder to get (permission for)," says Paskowitz, incredulously, "because Brian didn't want unreleased vocals on there."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic