Strange roads…are yours / are mine….
One of the more beautifully strange roads recently traversed by Colour Is Sound was built by Kentish Town Mods, The Action. A road upon which you will find the footprints of the Sidewalk Society, a band brave enough to record ‘Rolled Gold’, The Action’s lost masterpiece—a desert island must-have disc.
We were so intrigued by such mod cojones that we went side-walking in search of the culprits, tracking down Dan Lawrence, the band’s guitarist/vocals. Thank Marriott we did. What a top fella. Dan and Dan West (bass/vocals), and Jerry Buszek (drums), are a power-trio founded by the two Dans’ mutual love for The Who, way back in Jr. High School. They’re a band drawing inspiration from groups like the Kinks, the Small Faces, T.Rex and Big Star, and like Little Barrie, they’re more than able to stamp their own unique sound and take on the music they love.
This is not about nostalgia; it is about making great music.
Shindig! magazine had this to say about ‘Venus, Saturn and the Crescent Moon’, the band’s last album: “grooves on jagged, aggressive power-pop, breezy orchestral pop…and jamming mod-psych freeform with amazing results”.
Spot on!! Get a copy and find a new band to fall in love with.
CIS: We had never heard of you guys until we discovered that someone had been crazy enough to record ‘Rolled Gold’ and we had to find you guys. What’s your backstory?
SS: When we were 12 years old, I saw Dan with The Who’s ‘Sell Out’ under his arm. I was also a huge fan, and I guess we bonded over our love of The Who. That was a long time ago, in ’79 or ’80. My introduction to that music was from my mom, a teenager in the ’60s. Dan and I were obsessed with ’60s music, as well as the punk and new wave of the time. Mainly British and New York punk, as opposed to, say, punk from the L.A. scene which was much more gnarly. We were into the Pistols, The Clash, and the Buzzcocks, all the way to Elvis Costello and that energy. For me, the Mod thing grew out of that—the energy and that DIY spirit. Knocking down barriers. This stuff has been said a million times before, but it’s true nonetheless. I loved The Who and the Kinks, and we started calling ourselves Mods before we knew there was an actual revival going on. We were kids and that’s what you did. We liked the energy, but we wanted to play melodic music and to look smart.
We then discovered the On Klub, which in the early ’80s was the epicentre of the Mod and ‘Paisley Underground’ scenes in L.A. I guess we chose Mod as our tribe, and once you get into it, it never leaves you. I’m probably the most afflicted, as far as the group goes. Mind you, these days, you’re likely to mention being a Mod, only to discover someone rolling out the rules that determine if you are a proper one! Regardless, I am most certainly a Mod-informed person.
CIS: How long was it between you hearing ‘Rolled Gold’ and recording it?
SS: A few years ago, a DJ played some tracks from ‘Rolled Gold’ at one of our gigs, saying it reminded him of us. That sparked a renewed interest from Dan W. and Jerry, who got super into that record in particular. We all loved the album, and eventually it dawned on us: Why don’t we just fucking do it? It would be really amazing to work with these songs and see where we could take them. Not as in, What would The Action do with them? But as if we had brought the songs in as our own demos. It probably took about two years to realize the record, but a fraction of that was actually time spent in the studio. We were recording songs for lots of projects, including songs for a Bowie covers compilation album, before he died, for the Fruits De Mer label. We recorded ‘Strange Roads’ and ‘Look at the View’ as a side project, and it evolved from there. We absolutely loved doing it, and Keith from the label thought it was a perfect match.
The Action were very supportive of the record, which was mind-blowing. The whole project has been a spiritual one as far as the love we put into it and the best wishes we’ve received from the folks who were there making it happen the first time around. Our heart was in the right place (CIS: so were your ears!!), and the motivation was only, and always, about the music.
“The 2nd incarnation of the Action, brilliantly rebirthed by the Sidewalk Society”. Roger Powell, The Action.
“I didn’t know what to expect but I think the album will get a lot of interest. There’s nothing quite like it out there.” Ian Whiteman, The Action.
CIS: Have you any plans to come over to the UK anytime soon?
We have always struggled to fit in with a lot of the scenes over here in the States, and I guess the UK is more welcoming toward the quirkier things we’re into. There’s more of an understanding. It would be amazing to come over and play to people who might get what we’re into a bit more. We are obsessed with British music, especially from the ’60s. We’re not aping anything, but we have been doing what we do for so long that it’s a musical form to us, like bebop or funk. It’s what we do.
CIS: We love your artwork, it's amazing. The album cover is gorgeous. Would you be up for working together on an original piece inspired by Bolan's Boogie?
CIS: If Colour Is Sound was in Number 10 Downing Street we would cannabalise legalists and defend the right to arm bears. If Sidewalk Society was in the White House, you would…
SS: You ask me that question?
I don’t know, man…it’s so important. This may sound flowery, but I mean it sincerely: People need love. This hate thing, with people looking down at their stupid devices, taking in bile, and not looking up at the people around them to let them in… You can’t make anybody do anything, but I would stress empathy and civility. There is a global lack. How did it happen? I guess we all know the answer, but I want the joy to come back. I’d also make it illegal to buy a vinyl album and not play it!
If Colour Is Sound have anything to do with it, Sidewalk Society will be over here in the UK sooner than later, playing songs from their three brilliant records. Make sure this day doesn’t end without you checking them out.
You won’t regret it.
To find out more - visit Sidewalk Society's Facebook page