The punk and hardcore roots of Philadelphia’s Restorations are still evident on LP3, but pigeonholing the band is even more difficult this time around.
The Philadelphia band’s third album in four years—out October 28 on SideOneDummy—is the band’s most compelling yet, featuring more focused songwriting, a wider sonic palette and the clear sense that Restorations have tapped into something that will serve them well for the long haul.
Not everything Restorations bring to bear has clear stylistic antecedents, but what does is unimpeachable: straightforward Fugazi-style punk, thundering hardcore, edgy barroom anthems and some psychedelic detours.
The band features Carlin Brown on drums, Dan Zimmerman on bass, Ben Pierce on guitar and keyboards, Dave Klyman on lead guitar and Jon Loudon on guitar and vocals.
Guitar World caught up with Klyman during the calm before the storm to talk about the band’s roots and songwriting, his guitar style and gear and what’s to come for the Restorations.
GUITAR WORLD: When Restorations started, what did you have in mind for a sound or style?
This band started with a minimum of plans and expectations. The most basic of these was to write stories and then form music that complemented those stories. The idea was to keep the spirit of our punk and hardcore roots, but channel it through a more reserved genre blend of indie, alt-country, folk and the like. There’s a way to keep music interesting and intense without having to literally scream it in someone else’s face. Subtlety was to be the core driver. Of course, plans have a way of growing on their own and songs have a way of writing themselves. Things got bigger and louder as we went along. While elements of that original ethos are certainly present, Restorations’ sound has definitely evolved between our first 7-inch and LP3.How do you describe your sound?From the inside looking out, this is always an odd thing to attempt to qualify. It’s been amusing and very flattering to hear all the musical descriptions and comparisons we get from the outside looking in. I accept pretty much every one of them. When asked directly, everyone in the band has a different answer anymore. The one I usually go with is “Loud Indie Rock.” I feel that’s encompassing enough. I read an interview years ago with an old punk band in which they said something to the effect of, “Every band thinks they’re writing the most ridiculous and groundbreaking stuff in their practice space.” Since then I’ve tried hard to avoid that notion, to somehow put what we’re doing on some other level. I’d like to think we’re pretty damn good, but at its center we’re still just a group of friends with instruments just like every other band should be.What did you bring to Restorations from Jena Berlin and your other bands?We’ve all played in a variety of different kinds of bands in the echelon of rock, punk, hardcore and even some metal. I think the biggest aspect that has carried over to Restorations is the energy of the live show. Call it kinetic or whatever, but it’s that knowledge that anything can and will happen on stage that keeps the performance, mind and body moving at all times. I’m also prone to improvisation live and that’s definitely something that’s increased over the years. From Jena Berlin specifically? Stylistically, my penchant for fast hammer-ons and pull-offs has not gone away, although tapping is becoming a more frequent practice. I’ve also continued to greatly enjoy full step bends and prebends. I’ve tried to expand the use of chord melody, often with finger picking. Every record brings with it the natural compulsion to push skills beyond current capabilities. And since I’m always writing a record of some sort, the push is always there. And there’s always a desire to try new things as well. For example, I’m not very good at sweep picking, but I practice it all the time because you never know what will be the perfect compliment to a song. That’s always been the crux: give the song what it needs. Sometimes you need to add a technical guitar part that takes a lot time and practice to solidify, sometimes you need to cut a technically proficient riff or solo because it just doesn’t belong.When did you start playing guitar?I started in seventh grade so that would put me around 12. I’m about to be 32, so it’s been more than half my life. I can’t imagine what I would be doing with myself if I’d never picked it up. I’d probably be a lot more financially successful and a lot less happy.What guitarists have influenced you over the years?My influences began fairly typically: Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Traveling Wilburys. Pink Floyd was a particularly big deal. U2 expanded on that. Nirvana came through at just the right time. Then came Green Day and the Offspring. That led me to find West Coast punk like NoFX, Lagwagon, Strung Out, the list goes on from there. Strung Out was especially developmental for me. Their approach to leads and solos is counter to the more typical classic-rock influenced ones I’d been accustomed to. Another crucial band was At the Drive-In. They blew the doors wide open on alternate chord formations along with atonal and arrhythmic lead runs Their use of effects pedals was captivating as well, a modern step on what Pink Floyd started. I started looking at the guitar beyond just the frets. Any part can be used to create a noise of sorts. Metal came later which is why I think I wound up more on the “artsy” side of playing as opposed to the theory and technical side. Don't get me wrong, early Metallica and Pantera were great and I think modern bands like Darkest Hour, Unearth, Dark Tranquility, Baroness and so many other are doing great things under that genre umbrella. I just don’t see a lot of that in my playing for Restorations. When I noodle around at home, sure. But I’m influenced by guitarists who were clearly influenced by that sort of playing, so who knows? Like every guitarist, I am an amalgam of everything the sponge of my brain soaks up.What guitars do you play? What about amps, pedals, etc.?I’ve been a devotee to the Gibson SG for many years now. I’ve found it to be the most versatile guitar for both resonant low-end rhythm playing as well as clear highs for leads and solos. I also play a Fender Telecaster Baritone guitar with the B string drop tuned to A. I love baritone guitar so much. In the scene I tend to run in, it unfortunately gets pigeonholed as a metal instrument strictly because it can be downtuned into that leaden, droning territory. It’s certainly excellent for that. But I don’t play in a metal band. For Restorations, the baritone fills a different sonic space. There’s a roar, a guttural recognition to it that can’t always be accomplished in standard tuning. I wrote and recorded the majority of LP3 on baritone.I’ve been through a few different amp setups over the years for various styles. Right now I’m playing a vintage MusicMan HD-130 Reverb. That goes through a 2X15 Emperor cab, easily one of the best musical purchases I’ve made. I really wish they hadn’t ceased production. My pedal board isn’t too complicated right now, but that’s always in flux. For the time being it’s just a boost/overdrive, volume pedal, and a couple different delays. The boost/overdrive I currently run is coincidentally also named Emperor; it’s a product of a local, hand-made boutique company called TSVG Pedals. I highly recommend checking out their full line. I’ve also been thinking about getting back into looping and soundscapes.What’s the band’s songwriting process?The intention is to always be collaborative. Sometimes one of us might bring in a structured plan and lay it out for the band. For example, with LP3, the song “Tiny Prayers” was a fully formed concept based around the opening guitar harmonies that came together very quickly. But most songs start as a loose collection of parts and ideas. For that, look to a song like “Misprint,” which started as just a chord progression that led to one of my favorite lead lines on the whole record. From there the song started forming itself with help and direction from everyone. Both these methods of songwriting undergo reformations and addition/subtraction. Vocals come in and that throws some changes in as well. Most songs start from one member’s quiet, acoustic recording done in the bedroom and then comes into the practice space and gets blown out as loudly as possible.What was the experience recording LP3?Comparatively speaking, LP3 was a breeze. That’s not to say we didn’t work hard and go for the best performance possible. We had a bit more time to focus on writing and making sure the songs were as complete as they could be before we even set foot in the studio. At this point, we’ve worked with Jon Low and Miner Street Recordings enough that we have a solid rapport. Low mixed our first full-length and produced, engineered, and mixed the A/B 7-inch, LP2 and LP3. He’s not just our producer, he’s also a good friend. It makes for smooth, comfortable, productive sessions. I hope that translates to the listener.What sets this new record apart from Restorations’ other albums?LP3 sees the band locking into our roles more comfortably as a unit. As a songwriter, it’s really important to play your best, sure. But it’s also really important to know when not to play. It might not seem so, but a lot of LP3 is an exercise in restraint, a conscious effort to make sure the songs aren’t cluttered with distractions. This goes back to what I was saying earlier about sometimes having to cut a lead or solo, even if it’s really impressive or fun. If it’s tripping over the lead vocal, then it’s got to go. This goes for any instrument. Everything should be a part of one textural goal. This way, when it’s finally time for me to rip through a song with a solo, it’s effective in context with the whole record, not just an excuse for me to shred away.What’s your dream guitar?Oh, man, I’d love to have so many different kinds of guitars and guitar-related instruments. But the answer is a true vintage SG, just because. Electrical Guitar Company creates all aluminum, custom guitars and getting a baritone made by them is high on the list of future desires. Every time I go into a music shop and they have the reissue Fender VI, I want so badly to take it home. I just can’t justify it yet. Speaking of Fender, the best bass I ever was lucky enough to play was, I believe, a ‘76 Precision Bass. I’d really like one of those for the arsenal as well. Learning pedal steel guitar is something I’ve been interested in for years and haven’t been able to jump into. The same goes for violin. You always see the clichéd rock star documentary, or even Spinal Tap, where the guitarist has hundreds of guitars just sitting around. Sure, that’s cool. But if someone ever cared enough to take a look, I’d prefer to have a smaller, more diverse collection and have to explain the purpose and function of each instrument.If you could pick any guitarist, living or dead, to jam with, who would it be?I owe David Gilmore from Pink Floyd a nice drink and the biggest handshake. Whether I mean to or not, I somehow rip him off in nearly every lead or solo I’ve written. If I was in a room with him and he leaned into one of his prebends from “Brain Damage,” I think I’d cry.What’s next for Restorations?In celebration of the release of LP3, we’ll be on the road for a bit to close out 2014 and head into 2015. This year should prove to be very interesting for us. Nothing I can comment on fully just yet. Let’s just say we hope to see all of you very soon. Restorations 2014 Fall Tour:Monday, Oct. 27 – Columbia, SC – Foxfield Bar *
Tuesday, Oct. 28 – Atlanta, GA – Under The Couch *
Wednesday, Oct. 29 – Tampa, FL – Pre-Fest
Sunday, Nov. 2 – Gainesville, FL – The Fest
Tuesday, Nov. 4 – Nashville, TN – The High Watt ^
Wednesday, Nov. 5 – Chicago, IL – Township ^
Thursday, Nov. 6 – Newport, KY – Southgate House ^
Friday, Nov 7. – Pittsburgh, PA – The Smiling Moose ^
Saturday, Nov 8. – New York, NY – Mercury Lounge ^
Sunday, Nov 9. – Allston, MA – Great Scott ^* = Self Defense Family
^ = The Smith Street Band