While much of the music industry is moving toward electronically driven sounds and smooth, heavily produced melodies, every once in a while a band will come around and bring back a raw, rocking sound that makes people stand up and pay attention.
For the Anchorage music scene, that band is The Sweeteners, a trio imported from Aberdeen, Wash., that have quickly made their presence felt by creating a loud, brash music with fuzzed out guitars and dangerous hooks. Or as the band describes it, "skanky rock 'n' roll."
The trio, consisting of guitarist and vocalist Chad Reynvaan, bassist Mark Nelson and drummer Eric Neet, have been taking Alaska by storm after forming in the summer of 2011 and are celebrating the release of their first self-titled album Friday at Tap Root, with fellow locals Ghost Hands and Hawkins Wright.
"We debated a lot about how we wanted the record to sound sonically," Reynvaan shared. "In the end, we decided on a very straight-forward, raw rock album without overdubbing a lot of sounds that we're not able to play live."
To achieve what he described is a much more difficult task than it sounds, but having an ace producing the record helps. Mike Hagler, a producer from Chicago who has worked with acts like Billy Bragg and Neko Case, helped the band find the place where they wanted this record to go and gave it the "pro sound" that the band wanted to accomplish, according to Reynvaan.
Ultimately, the record achieves just what the band wanted: It brings the listener back to a time when rock 'n' roll wasn't overproduced and shined to an unnatural sheen, a time where danger and grit were par for the course.
As a band of Alaska transplants, the group quickly made its presence known in the Anchorage music scene, but the collection of local musicians already here has also been a big inspiration for the band.
"It seemed like Anchorage was yearning for a bigger music scene," Neet noted of the band's arrival two years ago. Since then, the scene has been "growing and progressing at every turn" he added, and the band credits the venue hosting its album release for fostering its own growth.
"Tap Root has played a big role for us," Nelson said. "We played one of our first shows there; we played both Monolith showcases there. We pretty much cut our teeth there."
And The Sweeteners now have a recorded document to attest to the countless shows the band has spent honing its craft.
"The Sweeteners has always been a band that centered around our live show," explained Nelson.
"That's why we sound the way we do; that's why we put so much energy into it," he added. "I think that comes across on our album, too."