When Pomegranates drummer Jacob Merritt describes the band’s mindset during the writing of One of Us (the Cincinnati band’s third and perhaps best album) as “patient,” it seems like an odd state for the popular quartet. Patience has not been a particular concern for the Pomegranates since they assembled a mere four years ago.
After all, this is the band that wrote its first song at its first practice, self-released a debut EP six months later and signed with Lujo Records two weeks after that. With the band’s debut full-length, 2008’s Everything Is Alive, and its follow-up, 2009’s acclaimed Everybody, Come Outside!, both reflecting the members’ collective love of Talking Heads and Brian Eno (and shades of Sparklehorse, The French Kicks and the Zombies), the Poms weren’t waiting for songs to happen.
But with One of Us, the band’s debut for Afternoon Records, the band members were clearly ready to let their material brew a little bit longer.
“It seemed like we were willing to take an idea and let it develop over the course of an entire song, as opposed to jamming a bunch of ideas into the same song,” Merritt says from his Northside home. “We still do that to some degree, of course, but we’re a little more patient and let things unfold a little bit longer in a song.”
At the same time, the Poms weren’t about to allow their new sense of deliberation to interfere with their album-a-year pace. Just because they were letting their songs percolate a bit longer doesn’t mean they copped Axl Rose’s inexorable process.
“It didn’t seem to make things take any longer,” Merritt notes. “Once we had an idea, we would let it do its thing. It was just finding ideas that we preferred to other ones, versus in the past when we would try to think of tons of ideas.”
Whatever the process, it seems to have paid off. One of Us came out late last month and shot to No.
7 on CMJ’s Top 200, placing just behind the new Arcade Fire and ahead of albums by Ben Folds, Weezer and Neil Young. The album has also scored some glowing reviews, including a praiseful 7-out-of-10 review from Spin.
Although Pomegranates seem to be purposefully churning out an album annually, Merritt insists it’s not by design. The foursome — Merritt, multi-instrumentalists Joey Cook and Isaac Karns and new guitarist/vocalist Dan Lyon — are simply that prolific.
“We have a hard time keeping ourselves from writing,” Merritt says. “We get really restless. If someone just randomly has a little guitar hook or drum beat or a synth pad or something at practice and they play it for 30 seconds, odds are someone else is going to play along with it. Then it’s like, ‘Oh no, we’re writing a song.’”
The Poms were already well into the writing process for One of Us when guitarist Josh Kufeldt left to form his own band, Sacred Spirits. Merritt points out that Kufeldt and the band simply came to a creative crossroads, with the band and their friend and guitarist going in distinctly different directions.
“Josh and us were on a different page creatively,” Merritt says. “In order to make sure we could stay friends and all do what we were excited about doing, it just made sense for us to go our separate ways. It’s good because we’re still friends, and we hang out. (Sacred Spirits) has a new album coming out soon, and it’s awesome. Josh is an extremely good guitar player and musician and songwriter.”
Lyon was a natural fit to replace Kufeldt. He had tried out for a position as the fifth Pomegranate but opted not to join at the time. The Poms had contacted Lyon again with the idea of working him in as an auxiliary member but Kufeldt’s departure changed the plan.
“We were going to find a way for Dan to be the fifth member and then things unfolded with Josh leaving,” Merritt says. “So he stepped in as the fourth member instead of the fifth.”
With Kufeldt’s exit and Lyon’s arrival, the Poms decided to scrap some of the material that was already written, giving Lyon an opportunity to write with the group. On the songs that Kufeldt had input on, Lyon just rewrote the guitar parts to reflect his own style.
“It’s just a different type of playing,” Merritt says of Lyon’s contributions. “He likes ideas that are bit more simple, which is fine with us. I think the new album still feels like the Pomegranates, but I think we’re all a little bit more into textures and layers. To us, this album feels a little bit more ambient and washy and maybe a little more accessible, in a sense.”
Merritt contends that the Pomegranates were guided by slightly different voices on One of Us (recorded at Ric Hordinski’s Monastery Studio and co-produced by the band and Aloha’s TJ Lipple), although the sonic foundation remains largely the same. Between the four-year span since its formation and Lyon’s addition, evolution is inevitable.
“The epic songs on the album are more dancey or droney, so bands like Liquid Liquid or !!! or Deerhunter seem to be more prevalent in our palette,” Merritt says. “And Dan’s a fan of bands like T. Rex, so the guitar hooks and keyboard stuff feels a little more prevalent on this album. In a lot of ways, this feels like our first album. It’s the first album where every single song everybody is excited about, and it seems like this is the first one where we had a pretty good idea of what we were trying to do and we were able to do it, for better or worse.”
POMEGRANATES perform Nov. 24 at the Southgate House with Pop Empire. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.