Two Cheers is an unusual band in almost every way, and it’s like singer and lead songwriter Bryan Akcasu goes out of his way to do it all wrong: On the eve of the release of Splendor, the band’s triumphant 2015 album, he decided to skip touring and spend the summer relocating from Los Angeles to a Detroit-suburb to form a new iteration of the band, get married, and buy a house. The band’s music is unusually punchy and polished considering Bryan writes, records, and mixes exclusively in basements, bedrooms, and closets instead of studios, and Rollick, Two Cheers’ latest effort, is their most sonically lush and produced yet. The sparkly, beat-laden early 90s-esque indie pop that calls to mind Real Estate, The Cure, Wavves, and Young The Giant is also unusual and out-of-place in Detroit, where most bands are sticking to the city’s signature sound: grunge-y, lo-fi, raw, overdriven garage rock. On the spectrum of rock music lyrics, Bryan’s are in the category of “weird”; his chaotic, poetic, often tragic stream-of-consciousness vignettes are a far cry from the usual fare.
Despite it all, blogosphere praise for Splendor and 2016’s singles “Condos” and “Fireball” gave Bryan and the reincarnated Two Cheers a head start in their new digs. They quickly made a name for themselves in the greater Detroit area, becoming favorites at classic venues like PJ’s Lager House, the Old Miami, Hamtramck’s Small’s, and Ann Arbor’s Blind Pig, and playing a few prime slots at popular local fests including Dally In The Alley, Hamtramck Music Festival, DETxDET, and the Hazel Park Art Fair. The current line-up, a diverse group of scene outsiders, began testing out material for Rollick in late 2016, with Bryan molding and building up songs from the band’s anarchic, anything-goes jam sessions. The concept for the album was to be an ode to Bryan’s wife and muse Laura. Then tragedy struck: Bryan’s mother, who had been battling a rare, nigh-untreatable cancer, took a turn for the worse. The band’s show schedule as well as work on the album ground to a halt while Bryan took time to help his father care for her and spend time by her side during her last days.
Even once recording recommenced, Bryan says it was difficult to return to songwriting and recording. “I’m not the kind of person that can go through something like that and come out the other end the same person. It really shook me to the core. I think that shows on this album, and it didn’t come out as I envisioned it would this time. I only started to deal with the loss of my mother on the album’s last two songs, ‘Hinterland’ and ‘Rest Of My Life’ and even there the lyrics are obscure and metaphorical.” Regardless, the new record captures the gravity of these life events in subtler, more cerebral ways: Owen Bickford’s lush, aching synths surround Carlton White’s melodic, strangely-ordered grooves and Austin Lutzke’s thick, weighty bass-playing. In contrast to the guitars on Splendor, Bryan’sand rhythm player Megan Marcoux’s guitars are clean, delicate, and simple, meandering around Bryan’s distinctive, impassioned vocals, often playing a textural role rather than stealing the show.
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