LIBRARIANS WITH HICKEYS are the stars of this week's BIG STIR DIGITAL SINGLE! Credit the keen ears of BSR co-founder Christina Bulbenko for tuning in to the Akron, Ohio's classic-but-timeless power pop sound even before their debut double A-side starting commanding the airwaves of some of our favorite DJs, and pinning them down for this equally-brilliant followup pairing. “Black Velvet Dress” b/w “Alex” are out Friday, July 12 and available for pre-order now!
LIBRARIANS WITH HICKEYS having crawled from the wreckage of a post-industrial Akron, Ohio, decided to stick around the Midwest and eventually formed a band. They paradoxically could only have come from both 1989 and 2019, both of which are true.*
Digging deep into the wellspring of Power Pop for inspiration, with a shot of Indie Rock, “Black Velvet Dress” b/w “Alex” marks a Big Stir Records chapter in the Librarians With Hickeys narrative arc, building on the momentum** of their debut single “Until There Was You” and “And Then She's Gone” which showcased the twin guitar jangle and chime of Ray Carmen (vocals/guitar) and Mike Crooker (guitar/backing vocals), the melodic groove of Andrew Wilco (Bass) and the rhythmic backbone of Rob Crossley (drums).
“Black Velvet Dress” charges straight out of the blocks with a snare fill and feedback that signals that it means business. The opening couplet announces “I heard you were giving a funeral today / you were mourning the death of another morning alone.” Then, in the chorus, the instant after the insistent title hook and sing-a-long harmony vocals delivers the goods, Crooker channels his-inner Brian May with a guitar line he's been dying to use since 1974. Watch your step, as the bridge sets-up an emotional big-bang payoff with smashed glasses littering the floor.
“Alex” switches gears, building from its acoustic intro into a mid-tempo jangle with Carmen's haunting layered vocals ethereally guiding the song. The atmospheric “jack-in-the-box” piano and violin leads the song into a hazy reverb-drenched fade-out worthy of a David Lynch film.
Lyrically, both songs feature protagonists talking to themselves in mirrors – “Alex” poignantly follows an overheard conversation of a man struggling overcome self-doubt in the face of adversity and to convince himself (and the listener) to stand up for his dignity and well-being. “Black Velvet Dress” comes at it from a different angle, with our heroine not having any of it and putting on her “best party dress” and having a hell of a time for herself and nobody else.
For this recording, the band employed its usual DIY approach in the “studio” (a.k.a. Mike's family room) which involves a Rube Goldberg-like contraption that utilizes a dodgy laptop computer, some ancient software and a pile of gaffer-taped microphones, situated right next to the year-round Christmas tree and a seemingly endless pile of cassettes demos left over from mysterious time-travelers from 1989***
They are hard at work on a full album which should be done... soon.
* (The short version is Mike and Rob played in a band together, and Ray managed them for a short while. Then Mike produced a record for Ray who had his own prolific solo career. A few years later Rob and Drew played together in a completely different band that Mike also produced. Then many years later Mike, Rob and Drew were in yet another completely different band. Finally, Ray, Mike, Rob and Drew all joined the same band at the same time. The longer version is much, much more complicated and involves a flow chart that Pete Frame would throw his hands up in despair at – and therefore, can't be reproduced here).
** (The worldwide response to that first single was surprising to the band, who assumed that there must be another band with the same name who happened to release a single with the same song titles at the exact same time. When informed this was not the case, they were still not convinced. However, it was only when Big Stir Records offered to release their next single, that they began to come around to the idea that all of the airplay and positive reviews were true, although Rob still makes a convincing case for Doppelgangers).
*** (It turns out under later inspection that they were in fact Crooker's demos from 1989, but he has no recollection of writing or recording them, leading to the obvious conclusion that he was replaced by a time-traveler.)