By Dan Osto – Contact Writer
Every year for the past few years, myself and many other frequenters of the CT music scene look forward to the annual “Live From the Lawn” at the University of Hartford. Managed and curated by UHart’s WSAM Radio, it’s pretty much a labor of love for all parties involved, featuring an indie music showcase for musical talent around The Nutmeg State, with every year bringing both noteworthy local talent and touring acts to play on UHart’s Village Lawn.
This year’s lineup included many beloved Connecticut acts such as Zanders, Waveform*, Ice Cream Orphan, Glambat, and Standby, as well as Boston’s Horse Jumper of Love and New York’s Adult Mom and Charlie Bliss.
Among these acts, I had the opportunity to sit with one of Connecticut’s newest bands, Similar Kind. Hailing from Norwalk, Connecticut, the band is made up of Ben McNamara on guitar, Finn Mangan on bass, Evan Murphy on keys, Miles Dominici on drums, and Julia Breen singing lead vocals. Sitting together on the side of the village lawn, with Ice Cream Orphan’s cacophonic sampler set emanating in the background, we discussed the origins of the band, the creative process of their new music video, and plans for the future.
Similar Kind, like many other up-and-comers, can give the sense of ‘coming out of nowhere’. With their particular brand of angular, danceable alt-pop that can appeal to both fans of post-punk and general pop rock, the band has quickly found their way onto diverse local gigs and the Spotify playlists of CT show-goers.
Perhaps, as surprised as I was to hear about a cool new band from Fairfield County, a sometimes more NYC than Central CT oriented hub for indie rock bands, the band was just as surprised to hear about the Central Connecticut music scene at large. After the band dropped their debut EP, Faces & Places, they started receiving requests for shows from new connections all over the state. Julia comments, “We had no idea. After the EP came out, it just blossomed. We’ve played sets in Hartford, New Haven, Torrington… all those DIY places? …I wish we knew about it before.”
Like the formation of many other bands, Similar Kind formed out of the ashes of previous projects. Miles comments “Ben and I used a do a ‘School of Rock’ kind of thing in Redding, Connecticut called The Music Shed, and that was how we met. It was basically just a guy organizes that a bunch of high schoolers together to make bands. We used to have a band together called The Queen of Late, which I was the drummer with Ben and Evan. Then that band broke up… due to bass players (laughs). After that Ben and Evan started the Similar Kind project. Evan came up with the name. We somehow got Julia. Julia somehow got Finn involved. Before we knew it we were all together. It was happily ever after.”
Considering the eclectic assembly of talents, the band also manages to be a pretty effective ‘chameleon’ of sorts, with the ability to draw from their influences without necessarily making those inspirations apparent in their own music. There is an appeal in trying to play ‘spot the influence’ when listening to Similar Kind, but ultimately the band uses them to create their own aesthetics.
Some are a little more apparent, such as Ben’s penchant for 80s college rock and their revivalists Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem, while Miles unexpectedly pulls from a prog rock aesthetic: “Rush, Prog. I love all of the new styled trap beats and hip hop styles that are cool right now, but I try to bring in the prog rock drumming of Rush and Dream Theatre and put it under a pop sound.”
I was initially surprised at the prog-rock connection, but after witnessing the five-piece’s energetic live show, the syncopated technical prowess of the drumming becomes more apparent. Evan culls from outlaw rocker Shooter Jennings, while, as a singer, Julia is more indecisive: “I don’t know. I’ve actually never heard a song before (laughs). Come back to me.”
As a result of this array of complementary and oppositional forces, the band’s creative process embraces a multifaceted synergy. While the band has performed their songs in acoustic settings, they don’t necessarily start through a traditional singer-songwriter approach with an acoustic to just add drums and distortion later.
Evan speaks on the process: “The first part is usually just all jamming, with maybe Ben starting alone with a cool riff. We typically figure out what’s going to be the verse or chorus structure before we send them to Julia.” Because the songs are formed on the basis of jams, the music has a more apparent ‘live energy’ about them, allowing Julia’s creative input to weave in and around the open spaces rather than alongside a basic chord progression.
The band recorded Faces & Places at The Factory Underground in Norwalk. Which, according to Ben, “ is one of those places that people don’t know about that people should definitely know about. Yes, it’s a recording studio, but it’s also an everything space or one of those creative hubs. Bands can record, practice–people can rent it out for general art space. The guys who run it and own the space, Kenny and Ethan, are super cool to work with. Kenny produced our EP.”
We also talked a little bit about the band’s new music video for Faces & Places sole slow-burner, “Over There.” Featuring the band performing around the song in a prom setting among friends with the occasional surreal distortion, it clearly comes off as a labor of love from the group. Evan comments on its creation, “We planned it about two months ago, and executed it one month ago. We upped our budget, and got Gloriana Restrepo, who is really the creative mind behind the whole thing. She’s also from Norwalk.”
Beyond its standard, joyous prom imagery, there are a few surreal juxtapositions of Julia floating in the water, amorphous in the blackness of her dress. The band laughs at it’s inclusion, “Yeah, that was in Finn’s pool… it came off as very surreal.” Julia, laughing, seems a little more wary: “We took like fifteen shots of me jumping in the pool and I almost drowned because I was dressed in a garbage bag and it wasn’t even used in the video…”, with Evan adding “We definitely set the bar for our next video.”
Despite all going their separate ways for the upcoming fall semester (Julia and Miles are heading to college in NYC, while Ben attends a university in Nashville), the band has plenty of plans to keep them occupied, including a new EP and multiple music videos.
As for the new material, the band is balancing their formula with some new spontaneity. Ben comments “it definitely has elements of our last new EP, but more expanded. One of the new songs started as a jam in the studio. We were playing in the studio and Kenny ran in asking ‘what are you doing? What is that?”, and hit record (laughs). We had no idea what we were doing. It was a very strange experience. But it ended up being very cool.”
Listen to Faces & Places by Similar Kind on Bandcamp and Spotify below: