"Who is The Perfect Girl?" I asked John Sully, lead singer of rock trio, The Creamsicles. It is the title track off their new album. "Damned if I know," he answered.
Photo by Tricia Viola
So it goes with this hard to pin down group of rockers. Just file the release, "The Perfect Girl," under R-O-C-K and leave it at that. From the first guitar riff the band promises to deliver it hard and heavy from the gut. Inside, the song influences are as diverse as 1980s heavy metal, operatic vocals of Queen and the modulations of Steve Miller
"I always loved vocal choruses," John says. "It's like the voice of the people, like ancient Greek theater. I think the entire 1970's influenced me for the vocals on this record. Queen, Earth Wind and Fire, Edgar Winter, Parliament Funkadelic, Steve Miller."
The Creamsicles' use of vocal harmonies, which until I heard it on their album, I never realized how much I missed in rock music. Once a staple for popular heavy rockers for decades, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction with the paired down DIY sound of music in the early to mid Nineties. It takes a band like the Creamsicles to bring the two styles together and do it right.
I asked John what influenced his decision to utilize this style instead of hooking onto the power pop or grunge attack mode so often found on the radio today. "Myself, Craig and Cello all grew up on heavy rock but we also love every kind of music under the sun. These songs in particular where much lighter when I wrote them. They got heavier just by the influence of The Creamsicles playing them on stage. For this record I wanted to use Harmonies, Modulations and Syncopation to keep the listener engaged, on their toes so to speak, as a metaphor
of life with The Perfect Girl."
Ahhh! Once again we are dancing around the meaning behind, "Who is The Perfect Girl?" I wondered about this girl they alluded to in song and album? Back to that later. I still wanted to know whether this was a conscious act of rebellion against the mainstream to pick and chose stylistically from the dusty record bin.
"I think the audience today has so much to choose from it all gets kind of disposable," John said. "So, no there was no intension to deviate, it just came out that way. We recorded, mixed and mastered in 6 days... About 90% of the record is played live to 2" inch tape analog including lead vocals and lead guitar. I only overdubbed the vocal harmonies and some rhythm guitar."
All right. So, perhaps the style was a factor of how they chose to record the album but nothing is accidental. John goes on to describe how he recorded his parts of the album.
"I did my parts without headphones right in the control room with Craig and Cello coming through the monitors. The band is all over my vocal mic like a live gig. There's no click track and the guitar effects are right out of the amp. I didn't even use a distortion pedal. That's my Fender Vibrolux amplifier over driving. The idea was to play live and just feel it. Looking back now it's a little raw but that's Rock & Roll." But I like it. (Had to do it guys.)
The members have come together in what John called a "vortex." Craig Gottlieb's trolled the DJ Raver scene in the Nineties. He and John were friends, throwing parties and mixing up different media. Eventually Craig picked up the Bass and joined John in playing live. Marcello (Cello) Pantano was a bridge and tunnel kid who came on the scene later. He wailed the drums
tweaking them all the time. John Sully, Voice of the band, Singer, and Songwriter, seems to have the strong nuclear force that keeps these three guys vibrating like a super-hot Hydrogen atom. I expected a trio of art-school dropouts but as John described, they are just regular guys.
"We are pretty much brats raised on TV, fast food and Rock & Roll. Real Americans." The truth is that his songwriting is not as strictly an American phenomenon as it seems. "Traveling in Europe for years has changed my perspective. The relationship that art and culture have there makes me feel like I'm missing out on something." He remarked during our interview.
So the man at the center is a worldly fellow. He's toured New York, Los Angelas, Europe and Japan. "For me the road can be a vortex. I love it so much I can almost disappear out there. I think I have a couple of times. I wrote the songs for The Perfect Girl on the road in Europe and Japan before we formed The Creamsicles."
Again I am reminded of the theme: The Perfect Girl! Who is she already? "I think she is an actress ultimately. A fictional character you allow yourself to believe in. A fantasy." Hmmm. Closer to the real definition of who "she" is.
Throughout the tracks we are taken from this American rock to the streets of London on a track of that city's name. I asked John why and he told me that he was "exiled in London," as he puts it, during 9/11 while the whole world literally crashed around New York City
. He was in shock, out of money and out of credit but Londoners took him in and he ended up staying for six months. The song ends up as an ode, a love song to that time. So from "London" to "The Perfect Girl" this is a story about love, loss and loneliness. Just the right fodder for good rock music. But darn it before I let him go I have to know. Who is The Perfect Girl already?
"It's the core of the heterosexual male's mind," he says, finally opening up to my question. "A memory. She's a smell. A voice. A mother. A daughter. A redeemer. A savior. A judge and jury. The missing piece of the puzzle."
OK. So he doesn't know either. Who does? It's an enigma and a different girl for every guy. Just like this band, it's not perfect but it rocks in a way that is not like what you usually get on your FM dial.
See "The Creamsicles" play Stephen Talkhouse
, Friday, May 11th with the "Levellers."