When Pomegranates released their 2008 debut full length, Everything Is Alive, it was the culmination of a number of significant advances in a relatively short time. Within months of forming, the quartet had notched accomplishments that evade some bands for years.
While they felt Alive was a good place to start, the Poms were not completely satisfied with the result.
“When it was going to press, there was a song that was so embarrassing that we asked if it could be taken off, but it was too late,” Merritt says with a laugh. They were determined to do better the next time around.
“We just wanted to make sure that we felt good about all the songs going into it,” Merritt says. “You can’t predict down the road which songs you’re not going to like anymore, but we just wanted to write songs that we’d feel good about months after the album was done, and hopefully years.”
And then the positive press began pouring in for Alive. Although far from universal, the overwhelming majority of critics found much to love and praise about Pomegranates’ debut, and suddenly external anticipation was as high as the band’s internal expectations.
“The first one did a little better than we were expecting,” Merritt says. “Now it’s like, ‘There actually is some sort of expectation.’ On the first album, we wrote and recorded it pretty soon after we were a band, and we were still figuring out what we wanted to do. Our initial reaction before all the (blog reviews) and stuff was, ‘Man, I hope this doesn’t ruin our chances for the next album.’ ”
It was heady stuff for a band whose history dates back less than three years. Pomegranates — Merritt, Joey Cook (vocals/guitar/keyboards/bass), Josh Kufeldt (bass/guitar) and Isaac Karns (guitar/bass/vocals/keyboards) — formed in late 2006 from the ashes of the Retail Age and Open, O Colored World, coalescing under the influence of bands of their mutual affection: Talking Heads, Brian Eno, French Kicks, Sparklehorse, The Zombies and ’50s/’60s R&B.
The Poms had already begun writing songs for Alive’s follow-up when the glowing reviews began to appear. Already intent on ratcheting up the intensity, they concentrated on their new songs in a way that connected them to one another. As a result, Pomegranates’ new album, Everybody, Come Outside! could be considered a concept album … to a point.
“We had a vision, and we were a little more focused on the second one, not because of the press so much as just having a better vision,” Merritt says. “I’m not really sure what made us decide, but I think we just wanted to give ourselves a framework. We came up with a story that we liked, and we went off that.”
Whatever the concept, Everybody, Come Outside! bristles with an engaging Indie Rock energy that simultaneously references and transcends the Poms’ avowed influences. Mixing the Talking Heads’ swinging Art Pop rhythms with Brian Eno’s aggressive ambience and a hyper-caffeinated channeling of their various other influences, the Poms have crafted their own quirky, beautiful and accessible Indie Pop sound.
“I wish we’d get more of that,” Merritt says of the Byrne/Eno comparison. “We all definitely like Talking Heads. Isaac and Josh are more of the Brian Eno fans. Those are two people that we collectively admire.”
However it’s perceived in the wider world, the Poms see Outside! as a smashing creative success. The band is satisfied with the songs individually and the album as a whole.
One of the big reasons for their satisfaction is the remix/remaster job by Aloha’s TJ Lipple, who came in after Outside! was largely completed and tweaked it into a sonic sweet spot that everyone loved.
“He allowed the record to breathe,” Merritt says of Lipple’s contribution. “He really tied the album together and allowed for all the parts to shine. The album is just really open-sounding, and we feel like it has its own vibe and atmosphere.”
With the release of Everybody, Come Outside!, Pomegranates are poised for an eventful and potentially crazy year. They’ll be hitting the road with Wye Oak for a spring tour.
Before that, they’ll work Friday’s CD release show at Southgate House (the disc drops nationally next month) and next week’s South By Southwest festivities in Austin, Tex. But the most nerve-wracking aspect of Pomegranates’ upcoming touring regimen might be the fact that they made a conscious decision to avoid playing the new songs before now.
“Every once in a while, we would work in a new song then pull it back out of the set,” Merritt says with a laugh. “There are four or five that we haven’t really played live. At our CD release show, we’ll play them, so we’re a little nervous about that, having not played them for an audience. We’ll see how it will translate.”
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