Torchbearers for the rich tradition of inventive and groundbreaking guitar-based pop from the American midwest, Oklahoma City-based indie rockers THE LUNAR LAUGH are in a class of their own. Rightly considered part of a newly emerging generation in the genre, they've already come a long way since their self-released 2015 debut Apollo, recorded in their original duo configuration of singer/songwriters Connor Anderson and Jared Lekites. Then as now, THE LUNAR LAUGH intertwined their modern pop and rock song structures with hooks heavily under the influence of power pop masterworks of the 60s and 70s. But since the 2017 addition of fellow singer/songwriter Campbell Young into the fold, the band has become a true collaboration of the kind not often heard on the pop scene, with their material growing ever more sophisticated and mature without losing the buoyant melodic charge at its core. Never has that been more easily heard than on the band's new album IN THE BLACK, due this fall from Big Stir Records.
Since their debut and over the course of two more records – the 2017 breakthrough Mama's Boy and 2019's Goodnight Noises Everywhere – THE LUNAR LAUGH could be found close to home and as far afield as Texas and California, honing their live sound and blossoming onstage as a quintet encompassing bassist Triston Lightner and drummer Levi Sherman. The evolving chemistry could be heard loud and clear as the band made a double bow on Big Stir Records in 2021 with NIGHTHAWKS!, a remarkable document of the band's live performances over its full career, and the standalone hit indie single “Allegiance” (uncollected on an album until now). And it's absolutely the cornerstone of the new recordings that make up IN THE BLACK.
“I think our growth as a functioning band unit is audible,” says Lekites. “In The Black is a ‘band’ album. We all pitched in and the music came out all the better for it. Growth also comes with natural aging and, naturally, we are all older than we were when we first started making music together. There’s a sense of maturity in the songs that we probably couldn’t have pulled off in our early 20s.” True though that is, it's not just the sophistication of the songs that leaps out at the listener on a bracing first listen; it's also the depth of the collaborative spirit driving it. Lekites, Anderson and Campbell don't only lend empathetic support to each other's tunes, they co-write on a granular level, often trading off lead vocals within each song. It's a step beyond the superb harmonies and instrumental alchemy that, in any other band, would be dazzling in themselves.
The lead single (and opening track) “Born Weird” is a case in point, and a demonstration of the band's unique ability to bring the whole of pop-rock history together in the here and now. There's a pop punk flair reminiscent of Jimmy Eat World and Blink-182, but it's married with surprising chord changes and intricate instrumental passages worthy of peak-period Brian Wilson and produced with 21st-Century flair by Johnny Manchild. Seamlessly melded together from compositions by Anderson (who sings the verses) and Lekites (who takes lead on the chorus), it also sees Young step to the fore on the bridge, contributing to a rush that evokes the best work of The New Pornographers in places. The communal vibe supports the song's sentiment, as Lekites explains: “It was a very positive song and it was somewhat therapeutic and/or cathartic to construct the lyrics as we put it together during the height of the pandemic. It’s really like a sort of ‘pep talk’ song.” In truth, “Born Weird” is both a much-needed anthem for anyone feeling out of place in the modern world, and a strong indication of what to expect from THE LUNAR LAUGH when IN THE BLACK bows this November, and at their shows in support of the record. Bands with this kind of chemistry only coalesce to create this compellingly deep of a pure pop album once in a blue moon, and it's cause for celebration. Long may THE LUNAR LAUGH shine.