In the little town of Alburtis, in the middle of Pennsylvania, there is a band that is working hard to bring back the classic sweet, upbeat power pop sound of the 70s: short songs, full of energy and good vibes and catchy, made to help anyone to forget the daily difficulties for a while and have fun.
These guys are called “The What?”, and they have been releasing original tracks since the first half of 2019, when they put out their debut single “Flower of the North”, a nice, happy tune where The What? managed to present in a sweet style their memory of Fleur Manville, a talented fiddle player of Pictou County, Nova Scotia, that passed away due to cancer at a young age.
On the 27th of November 2020, two years and 55K streams after their first release, The What? presented to the world their fourth studio single, “You’re Still Alive”. This record was originally inspired in Paul Christman’s (lead vocal, bass) reflections about school bullying. After the incidents related to police brutality and subsequent social movement occurred in the USA last summer, the band decided to adjust the lyrics and transform “You’re Still Alive” in a song of reflection and protest against police brutality, echoing with their voices a problem that is not exclusive of the United States.
The song is not only special in terms of meaning, but also it is special because of the way it was written and composed, as a result of a songwriting collaboration between USA, Japan and Australia. “I like collaborating, to be honest” – said Paul in his last interview for the radio show AleOli Music Sauce – “I do not know enough about music, about writing. I like some of my ideas, and I don’t like some of my ideas, so I take them and give them to someone else to make them progress further… and I think it comes out a better song that way”.
“I like collaborating, to be honest I do not know enough about music, about writing. I like some of my ideas, and I don’t like some of my ideas, so I take them and give them to someone else to make them progress further… and I think it comes out a better song that way”.
Indeed, this song contains an interesting blend of styles. Some people has found on it a bit of Depeche Mode, probably due to the contribution of the Australian artist Mark White, former band member of the new wave band “Serious Young Insects” whose major hit “Be Patient”, has been also linked to Depeche Mode in terms of sound and mood. Other listeners have also found there a glimpse of the ethereal vocals of Amy Lee from Evanescence, singer that highly influenced the vocal style of the featured artist Kireina Michan. Finally, the amazing guitar solo, in David Gilmour’s line, was something Paul had clear since he heard the first demos in the studio, and it became reality thanks to the contribution of the artist Not John; singer, guitarist, and owner of the recording studio Papa Bear’s in Duryea, Pennsylvania, where The What? has recorded and produced, so far, all of their works. These influences nicely complemented with The What?’s style, their easy going rock feel and upbeat sound, and made posible this special and unique record that is “You’re Still Alive”, that I am presenting here today.
Before listening to it, I would like all the readers to know that there's and ongoing discussion about The What?'s sound… and it is related to their vocalist! There are several opinions about Paul Christman’s voice and style: some people clearly see in him the influence of The Beach Boys, and others point out Status Quo, Joey Ramone... whilst Paul acknowledges bands such as Kiss, Queen, Sweet and Slade. So many different colors and flavours! What can you hear?
Listen to the whole interview to Paul, from The What? in AleOli Music Sauce, and find more details about Paul’s musical preferences, experiences, desired superpowers and time traveling targets here