BY JOSHUA TEHEE
The Fresno Bee January 15, 2014
“We’re trying to come up with these iconic riffs,” says Laughlin, guitarist for the Los Angeles retro-pop band The Cherry Bluestorms.
In the 1960s, pop music was full of iconic riffs. Bands like the Beatles, the Byrds and the Kinks wrote guitar parts that were every bit as memorable as the song’s vocal melodies. That kind of writing and playing is mostly missing from contemporary American bands, Laughlin says, though you heard it in the ’80s and ’90s from English groups like The Smiths, Oasis and The Stone Roses.
And you’ll hear it from The Cherry Bluestorms.
The band, which plays Sunday night at Full Circle Brewing Company, formed as a collaboration between Laughlin and singer Deborah Gee.
Gee was working as a solo artist at the time and had a development deal with A&M Records. She had songs, but no band to play them.
She was introduced to Laughlin, who had just finished a stint playing guitar for punk band The Dickies, and hired him to play on her solo album. It took one track for the pair to realize they needed to form a band.
Both Laughlin and Gee have a deep love for ’60s power pop, and the band reflects that, with a psychedelic quality, heavy on guitar riffs and rich vocal melodies. It’s a contemporary take on ’60s mod music.
And it’s finding an audience. The band’s debut album was named as one of the top 125 independent albums of 2007 by David Bash, founder of the International Pop Overthrow, a music festival dedicated to contemporary power pop.
Its latest album, “Bad Penny Opera,” ranked 22 on the 2013 list.
It can be a challenge to make this kind of retro-pop accessible to the mass public, Laughlin says, but there will also be those who appreciate what they are trying to do.
After all, there’s a reason bands like the Beatles are considered great. They weren’t above experimenting. That led to ideas that were remarkably different than anything that came before them, Laughlin says. Some of that was the results of the dynamic social climate of the time, but that doesn’t let current musicians off the hook, he says.
“Not having that social climate is no excuse for making boring music. I’d rather exercise some imagination and ambition and fall on my face than make another three-chord record.”
The Cherry Bluestorms play a Food Not Bombs fundraiser, 6 p.m. Sunday at Full Circle Brewing Company, 620 F St. $10 donation at the door. Details: (559) 264-6323, fullcirclebrewing.com