The psychedelic Seattle post rock quartet Copalis, consisting of guitarist and vocalist Johnathan Stevens, keyboardist/vocalist Jackson Rudd, bassist Mitch Schrader and drummer/percussionist Karl Ronneburg has been playing together in some shape or form since 2008. Although it wasn’t until five years later during a late night trip to a Washington beach, ironically enough also named Copalis that the four decided to take serious measures about making music from that point forward.
I haven’t heard any of Copalis’ work prior to their eight song eponymous self-titled debut Copalis, so I have no way of tracking their growth as a band. However Copalis as it stands is a pretty superb debut especially considering that psychedelic sounding indie acts are enjoying a heyday due to the genres mutated resurgence which breaks down into subgenres tinged with garage rock, punk and even metal.
Copalis straddles the line of psych-y rock and pop, along with washed out guitars and vocals. Their roots seem to lie with a Pet Sounds era Beach Boys, which is especially noticeable on the their vocal harmonies, but also on the breezy feel of the surf rock guitars, like on the opener “Bumsteer Bummer” which then turns into a pounding rocker for a bit before returning to its smooth beginnings. On “Waterbed” Stevens even moans the lines “I love the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album / thought it sounded cool last night / popped it in for the very first time / couldn't get it off my mind” over a very Pet Sounds sounding interlude of squeaky clean keys and percussion.
Some of the songs on Copalis seem to have other inspirations mainly those of ‘80s British Punk and ‘90s British pop, most noticeably on the voluminous “Deep End” and the mod rock ballad “I'm Sorry Sub.” Later on “Thought You Were Cool” Copalis combines the earlier surf rock esthetics with bits of hard rock and a few noise experiments, including the instrumental closer “Bayside,” a few slow surf rock riffs which fade into a recording of the surf washing up on the beach.
The reason Pet Sounds is still so lauded and awe inspiring today as it was when it first came out, is because it was familiar but also different. It was the familiar that the everyday fans were able to get into and the different, which has made it so popular with musicians for decades now. Pet Sounds had hits and hooks, which is something Copalis has failed to take into consideration, and though it’s not necessarily essential that a song have a hook, it sure as shit doesn’t hurt, especially when you’re already swimming in a very crowded genre. However fans of this genre, myself included will find listening to Copalis to be a lot like surfing. Just like paddling out and waiting for the right wave to come, so do you put on Copalis and wait for that first moment when you feel yourself borne up.
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