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In an increasingly formulaic music world, The Company We Keep is a breath of
fresh air. Listening to their debut full-length Sound/No Sound it's clear that the
band have crafted these eleven rock anthems because they love music, not to
try to capitalize on the latest trend—and that's probably the same reason why
this collection of seasoned musical veterans are ready to skip straight to stardom
with this varied collection of pop gems.
The Company We Keep is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Brian Southall (Boys Night Out, The Receiving End Of Sirens, Isles & Glaciers) who enlisted Motion City Soundtrack frontman Justin Pierre to pen the lyrics and vocal
melodies for this project while Southall was working as MCS' tour manager. "The Company We Keep Started right before TREOS broke up and at the time I had released a few tracks on my own with various singers, assuming it would never be anything more than a creative outlet for myself as a side-project" Southall explains. "Later I was on the road with Justin and he would hear me working on songs from time to time. We started collaborating together and decided to work on an electronic project. It eventually evolved into something more rockoriented, mostly due to the fact that I never thought I would truly be comfortable just performing on stage with only a laptop and no actual band."
Once that was decided Southall enlisted Misery Signals' drummer Branden Morgan to release their debut EP on Motion City Soundtrack's label The Boombox Generation last year, however The Company We Keep in its current
form wasn't complete until the band's previous singer left and they enlisted powerhouse vocalist Haden Brightwell. "We found Haden via a submission to AbsolutePunk when we were auditioning singers and her demo was absolutely
amazing," Southall recalls sounding as if he still can't believe his luck. "We flew her out to Michigan immediately and she was the only person we auditioned before asking her to join the band."
With their current line-up of touring veterans and fresh new talent in place, the band were ready to begin work on Sound/No Sound, which included new material as well as ideas Southall had been working on for years. "I knew Brian
wanted a female singer, so at first I tried my best to write from that point of view," Pierre—who doesn't perform with the band live due to his other duties—explains. "I quickly abandoned that idea given my limited knowledge of the
female race and went more for a Tom Waits-type thing, each song or grouping of songs being a different character with a different voice," he continues. "Once Haden entered the mix, she was able to make the songs more cohesive and
adjust things accordingly."
This process may be unorthodox but it also worked for Brightwell, although it did require a breaking-in period. "At first it was a challenge she admits because these are Justin's words and they came from somewhere inside him but as I
became more comfortable with what I was hearing I was able to make them my own." This deep comfort level stems from the trust that each member of The Company We Keep share with each other and that's evident in the dynamic
enthusiasm that's present with every single note of Sound/No Sound, an album that sees them taking their pop-influenced rock sound to stratospheric new levels.
Recorded By Ed Ackerson (The Replacements, Metro Station) at his own Flowers Studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sound/No Sound sees the band fusing their electronic elements with blazing guitars and soaring vocals to create
a unique brand of music that will please fans of everyone from Paramore to The Postal Service. "Ed knows a ton about music theory so he brought a lot to the table when it came to different ideas about what the production should sound
like," says Southall. "He's also very nuanced so he was able to hear tiny things that most producers would have overlooked which is good because they probably would have haunted us forever," he adds with a laugh.
The album's opener "Control" sets the tone immediately via thrashy guitars and relentless drumming, however despite the markedly more aggressive nature of that particular track as a whole Sound/No Sound is an album that shows how
much The Company We Keep Are able to stretch out musically. From the ambient segue "The Guardian" to the tribal dance feel of "Exposed," the album is more rock-oriented that the band's previous recordings without abandoning their
love for experimentation and inventive instrumentation. "I actually got goosebumps when we were recording 'Closure,'" Brightwell says of the album's epic finale. "I love that the lyrics are so creepy and metaphorical while the music
is so calm and angelic."
This dichotomy between dynamic extremes lies at the core of The Company We Keep's music—and despite the varied cast of genres and styles the band work into their music at their core they're a rock band with the palpable energy that
can only come from real instruments and real emotion. "I like the idea of creating something no matter how foolish it might seem on paper and I think there's something important about the idea of fighting for your art no matter what,"
Southall responds when asked what continues to inspire him after playing in countless bands and the ups and downs that come along with that. " I just had to give it a shot on my own terms with my own project," he summarizes. "I started The Company We Keep and I'm making the rules and even though it's a collaborative unit, I know it won't break up because I have to keep it going."