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Song Preservation Society Keeps Melodies Alive and Breathing

Natalie Morin |
November 16, 2011 | 12:02 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

When the men of up-and-coming acoustic trio Song Preservation Society play a set, something strange happens — it almost sounds as though their guitars start talking to each other. One calls out to the other, while the third jabbers away in the background. As the music reaches deep down within and awakens something visercal, you can almost make out what they are saying.

SPS deep into their set
SPS deep into their set

The band recently played at Solstice Skyline's concert series "In This Together" in Pasadena: an unplugged, intimate setting very different from the band's usual venues in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

"We've never done anything like this. It's special and feels natural: like playing in our own backyards," said band member Daniel Wright.

As they took the stage — or, rather, a large moroccan rug surrounded by candles and torches — band mates Trevor Bahnson, Ethan Glazer, and Wright simply looked like what they were: young, close friends who were excited to play music together. They arranged themselves in their usual order ("I'm in the middle because I'm shorter, okay?" laughed Glazer). And then, subtly, just as they were about to play what they call their "oldest song," entitled "Can't Stop Me From Trying," they turned into each other, and Wright even closed his eyes.

Throughout the set, SPS deliberately gave the audience the opportunity to hear their guitars' voices by peppering their songs with instrumental interludes. One song even featured silence. Not only were the instruments united, but so were the voices of the twenty-somethings. Yes, one could tell that they had had formal training (more specifically, at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where the three met), but they also shared an innate sense of understanding. They would alternate singing verses in each song, showing their unique contributions to the band. Together, though, their soft, tenor voices melted together as if they were one, with harmonies and melodic intricacies. No synths. No pitch adjustment. Just euphony. 

"Our music and formation has all really just been organic, when I think about it," muses Glazer,  looking at his bandmates around the quiet table outside a Pasadena Starbucks.

The three friends have some of the stereotypical folk-musician elements that one would expect--messy hair, chin stubble, plaid shirts--but carry a fresh, excited youth that is simply novel in their burgeoning genre. A choice of genre that, according to SPS, was not premeditated.

"We didn't choose to play this kind of music," said Glazer. "We weren't setting out to be an acoustic trio. We just did what made sense. That's actually how we got our name, Song Preservation Society. We love each other's work, so we don't want these songs not to be played. We want them alive and breathing." 

They do, though, understand that their mellow, classic, "Crosby, Stills, and Nash" sound attracts a certain kind of audience. And they know how to laugh at themselves about it.

"We get a wide range of people," starts Glazer."…Yeah, a wide range of old ladies," cuts in Wright. Bahnson can't help himself. "Every type of old lady you can imagine: blonde, brunette…" "Crazy ones! Obsessive ones that mutter in the dark!

All different races! Now they layer their shouts and laughter seamlessly, just like they do in their music. 

Just as quickly though, they slip back to focus.

"People have the tendency to immediately want to latch folk on to something like bluegrass or overalls, but it's just music's simplest form. Music and bands always start with or go through this stage: even Radiohead or electric bands," says Bahnson. "And I don't feel like acoustic/folk is a lost tradition," interjects Wright, "It's alive and well, and won't go away. I just think it's more appreciated than other styles, because we live in a world now where its easy to make or say you make music. But you can't fake this."

What can we expect from SPS in the future? Look out for an upcoming, independently released album, and shows in LA in Nov/Dec. Get more information about the band at songpreservationsociety.com.

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