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Likers: Wait, Like, Seriously?

June 13, 2014

Likers01onlineText and images by Michael Bucher.

Steel Panther’s “Party All Day,” 2 Chainz’ “Birthday Song” and Gang Starr’s “Above the Clouds” all play at 2nd Street Brew House while South Philly-based band Likers grabs a few drinks after a quick practice. The songs are hard to take seriously when all played together. The members of Likers also, at times, can say things that leave one wondering whether to take them seriously.

“Take pop ideals and drag them through grit, gain and gloss,” says bass player Ted Quann. “I wrote a little bio about ourselves. It’s fucking terrible. It’s the best I could come up with.”

“I actually think that’s a good way to describe it,” jokes Andrew Chase, who plays organ and guitar.

This is where Likers exists – a tongue-in-cheek outer layer masking a serious and developed musical core.

Likers02onlineFormed in late 2012, the band, which includes members Quann, Chase, Chris Sigda on guitar and Kris Tyas on drums, all share in crafting their spooky, powerpop punk sound.

“We try to take a pop idea but then distort it or try to make it eerie,” says Quann.

Someone might bring a guitar riff or a chord progression and then together, they will analyze it, deconstruct it and rebuild it until he says they agree it has a “rightness” to it. Chase, Sigda and Quann all share vocal duties.

With unorthodox time signatures and an experimental energy, the group says live shows have one purpose: to get people to dance.

They say a lot of stuff they hear now is too similar to what people were listening to when they were in high school. The bandmates enjoy looking further back in time to expand the range of influences on their music, everything from Elvis Costello to Electric Light Orchestra.

After crafting the sound itself, Likers use lyrics to engage listeners on multiple levels. Like many bands, tried and true themes for songs include love, loss and memory. But instead of approaching these subjects head-on, they prefer concocting humorous narratives or playful metaphors to deliver the themes. In the song “Two at a Time,” Chase assumes a sad fictional male character whose girlfriend feels unfulfilled, singing, “My one and only likes two at a time.”

The group are close friends and humor is a natural part of their relationship.

“We want to be the opposite of that band you see in a magazine that’s looking, like, arms crossed staring out, super serious,” says Quann.

With Likers’ propensity for humor, they built a faux punk boy band image. They came up with in-your-face monikers (Andy Social, Ted Offensive, Chris Charge and Kris Kongeniality), pointing out the silliness of those high school-era groups.

“That was amusing to us because it was so opposite of our personality,” says Sigda.

Quickly, though, they dropped the personas and now opt for a more business casual vibe. The thought of being interpreted as a joke band though, like Tenacious D, horrifies Quann.

“We do NOT want to be a joke band whatsoever,” he declares.

In taking the band more seriously, the group decided to work with a professional studio to record an EP, which would become Men of Honor. They approached the co-owner of The Headroom Studios, Kyle Pulley, and formed a plan that would fit their small budget.

“They had a pretty good idea of what they wanted from the get-go,” says Pulley. “The concept of the record was that it was going to be perfectly performed, but sound very raw.”

They decided to use a recording technique called re-amping. After recording the drum tracks in the studio, they returned to Quann’s house to record the guitar, bass, organ and vocals. There, they could spend as much time on making every part tight while avoiding costly studio charges. At the house, they split one audio track to an amp and the other directly into an unfiltered digital recorder. That file – retaining nearly the same quality as if played live at The Headroom – then served as a raw track and later used in the studio to be run through different amps and microphones.

In the studio, Pulley said he and the band would deliberately do things to get the “wrong sound.” They would put microphones in unconventional places or use computer simulators on vocals instead of guitars.

“Ted could articulate – even on some technical terms – exactly what he wanted,” Pulley says, “which is not common.”

Once the recording was finished and the band was happy with the mastered tracks, Quann approached Philadelphia’s FDH Records owner Eric Theill about the record. He offered to make cassettes through a subdivision of FDH called Suicide Bong Tapes for the time being and encouraged them to continue looking for a label to release a vinyl sooner.

Theill expect to have tapes ready soon.

“I heard bits and pieces of that sound I love – ’80s pop rock but with modern indie influences,” he says.

As a policy, Theill says he won’t take a band seriously unless they send him a physical package. Quann chose to forgo the professional, serious appearance and let the digital tracks speak for themselves. As with much of Likers’ identity, their true character is not always what’s on the surface.

“I’m really digging what I’m hearing,” Theill remembers telling Quann after listening to a few songs on his computer. “I’ll bypass the policy this time.”

The seriousness of the music could not be denied.

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