The first time Earl Greyhound played Orlando, it was a somewhat inauspicious event. The Brooklyn power trio found themselves added at the last minute to a festival show dedicated to local bands and wound up slotted to play the first set of the night before a crowd that could have been counted on two hands and half a foot. To their credit, Earl Greyhound didn't complain, pout or phone it in; instead, the group delivered one of their now-legendary sets of driving, soulful hard rock, dripping equally with riff-tastic strength and the stunning melodic interaction of vocalist-guitarist Matt Whyte and bassist-vocalist Kamara Thomas.
Since that show, Earl Greyhound has gone on to play hundreds of shows in support of their debut album, Soft Targets, including a stint opening theater shows for Chris Cornell. They've also had their music featured in television shows and video games and watched a world of rock-loving indie bloggers salivate over the pending arrival of their second album. Still — and somewhat miraculously — that show at a near-empty Back Booth holds a small place in the band's heart.
"I love that town," says Whyte about Orlando. "I was actually thinking about that show recently. There's an extra hole in my guitar for a strap button that someone at the club drilled in for me after it broke."
While it's cool that Whyte manages a fond memory of such a sparsely attended show, what's even more notable is that, after more than two years of touring behind Soft Targets, he can remember details about any of the shows the road-dogging band has played.
"We've been pretty busy over the past couple of years," he laughs, "milking Soft Targets for all we could. We released that record on such a small label — I think they originally only shipped like 500 copies — so we knew the only way we could sustain ourselves was if we kept touring. So we did."
All that touring turned an already impressive live band into one that was nearly lethal onstage. The combination of Thomas' low-end bass and the pummeling attack of drummer Ricc Sheridan provides a solid rhythm section for Whyte's flailing guitar work, resulting in a sound that's evocative of '70s power trios without sounding the least bit retro. It's rock & roll at its most effective, but despite the joy the band clearly felt playing the 11 tracks on Soft Targets night after night, they're even more elated about showing off the material for their upcoming sophomore album.
"It's definitely an expansion into a new direction," says Whyte about the sound on the new album. "Kamara sings a lot more on it. She was such an underused asset on the first record. The reason I teamed up with her in the first place wasn't because she was a bass player — she never played bass before Earl Greyhound — but it was her songwriting. I wrote 90 percent of `Soft Targets` by myself; on this album, we opened that up a lot. There are a couple of tunes that she wrote on her own, a few songs we wrote together.
"Still, it's pretty heavy, but, like I said, we've expanded the sound. We're really proud of it."
Despite the band's pride in their new material, it's going to be awhile until it's available; it's currently slated to be released in January 2010 on an as-yet-undetermined label.
"The record itself is done," says Whyte. "It's taken as long as it did for a handful of reasons. No. 1, we had some record contract stuff we had to sort out, so that took a while. Which wasn't the worst thing, because we were able to really spend time writing and expanding a little bit."
Whyte says that sampler CDs with a couple of tracks from the new disc will be available on their current tour, but as with all things Earl Greyhound, the best way to experience the new material will be watching the band play.
"We're playing two songs from the first record," says Whyte. "But everything else `in the set` is new stuff."[email protected]