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Andy Falconetti's 6-5 frame challenges the ceiling in a tiny northwest Denver basement. As rehearsal space for pop confectioners the Breezy Porticos, the cement-walled bunker serves multiple purposes: It's a sound lab, clubhouse and, above all, a storage room. With his head grazing overarching cobwebs and support beams, the singer/guitarist behind one of the city's sweetest-sounding trios seems oblivious to the room's tight-fitting constrictions; cardboard boxes, vintage clothing and copious amounts of thrift-store dingus positively glut the place.
Dressed in a light-knit short-sleeved shirt, leisure slacks and navy-blue Converse low-cuts, Falconetti smiles frequently and with ease. He's got a polka-dotted Danelectro, an assortment of kiddie-style wind instruments, and a full set of traps and snares all within arm's length -- plus amps and foot pedals aplenty. So much for feng frickin' shui.
Yet with drummer Eric Van Leuven and bassist Jeffrey Almond, Falconetti conjures the summery spirit of the great outdoors: The Breezy Porticos' music is likely to evoke images of kite-flying on a warm, muzzy day, dandelions, lemonade stands, Creamsicles, Estes rockets and lawn darts. When asked to classify his band's sound, Falconetti chuckles and shrugs: "Rummage-sale pop? I don't know. We're more interested in classic pop structure than anything else I guess."
That said, the Breezy P's won't beat you over the head with nursery rhymes or plunder your guts with feedback. About as upsetting to the human condition as a rainbow, they radiate a simple, clean, bittersweet joy that doesn't rely on extravagance or molten, slavish deathcore to be even remotely appreciated. With jangly hooks, fluttering beats and multiple harmonies, the Breezies craft concise, hummable, lo-fi gems that are melodically pleasing and highly accessible. And as with so much of the locally bred Elephant 6 stuff -- that whole Dressy Minders in Stereo thang -- you can't help but think of Little Mary Sunshine when you hear it.
"I think sometimes our songs might sound happy, but they may not be," Falconetti says. "I like music that makes me feel angry or sad, too. Even the angriest band in the world is enjoying playing. We like to have a good time. We have fun playing. And I think that conveys to the people watching."
Van Leuven -- who cut his teeth in hardcore bands during the Reagan administration followed by a stint in the early-'90s punk outfit Cavity -- likewise has mellowed over the years. "Everyone's young once," he says. "This is a release more than anything. You actually get to use your brain. I work in a financial institution where creativity is usually stifled. I've been lucky to be able to still do this."
Falconetti and Van Leuven haven't always seen eye-to-eye musically, though. In his early-'80s-era high school zine, Last Resort, Falconetti printed scathing, adolescent remarks about the Anti-Scrunti Faction, a Boulder-based punk outfit composed of Van Leuven and two lesbian activists, one of whom later joined San Francisco's Tribe 8. "Who would have thought we'd be in a band together fifteen years later?" Falconetti says, laughing.
Almond -- an occasional hired hand for SpinArt signees the Minders -- teamed up with the Breezy P's less than a year ago, replacing original founding bassist Jody Schneider, someone whom Falconetti still considers an important part of the "the auxiliary Porticorps." "She's still involved, singing backup and making CDs," Falconetti says. "She fills in for Jeff when he's touring with the Minders."
A gifted chanteuse, Schneider (one of 40th Day's umpteen bassists over the years) has warbled lead, harmonic and backing vocals alongside Falconetti as far back as the 1994 inception of Sissy Fuzz, a power-pop quartet that was filled out by bassist Wendy Fisher and drummer Cincy Woods. The self-taught Sissies -- free of expectation or pretension -- had a raw, understated car-radio aesthetic that translated well into a few cassette releases, as well as a split single ("Unglued") with Gina Go Faster on John Meggitt's Blue Lamp Records. With the help of Pet Sounds studio figurehead Robert Schneider (no relation to Jody), the Fuzz issued Luftgitarren in 1997; the first three cuts -- "Don't Fear (the Reverb)," "Summer Saliva" and "Waffle Poultice" -- gained distribution as a seven-inch EP on Japan's 100 Guitar Music label. Before she was a Dressy Bessy, Tammy Ealom briefly replaced Jody Schneider until the Sissies folded in 1998.
Two years later, inspired by an old Sissy song called "Breezy Porticos," Falconetti launched the original lineup with Van Leuven and Schneider; the three soon issued their self-titled debut through Falconetti's homespun Paper Cuts imprint. John Hill (Dressy Bessy/Apples) oversaw what Falconetti calls "the first digital stuff we ever did." Their efforts resulted in a three-song EP mastered for disc and vinyl. The standout track, "Perfect Day (for a Yardsale)," gained regular airplay on Radio KVCU-AM/1190 last spring and was included on the station's Local Shakedown compilation. Infectiously cheerful (try listening to Van Leuven's kazoo solo without cracking a smile), the carefree tune utilizes Perry Weissman 3 trombonist Rick Benjamin to accent its catchy melody with warm and lofty brass tones; Ealom likewise makes a cameo, singing back-up vocals on a sumptuous "Crayola Sunset."
During what Falconetti dubs the "Midwestern Waffle House tour," the Porticos breezed through dates in Wichita, Kansas City and Omaha last summer to promote their release; they found plenty of time to discuss crayon-colored sunsets (whether in the hue of Carnation, Indian Red, Aquamarine or Flesh) in addition to playing an opening slot for South Carolina's Galactic Heroes in Nebraska. Back home in Colorado, the unlikely venue of Wheat Ridge Lanes staged Schneider's final appearance as a permanent Breezy bandmember. To the sounds of rolling Ebonites, crashing pins and merriment, the "Aloha Bowl" (complete with colorful plastic leis and Hawaiian drink specials) featured a performance by the Porticos with all proceeds going toward Black Cats Hockey -- one of several intramural adult teams in a league organized by former Fuzzite Cincy Woods. ("Playing for Cincy is like joining the Marines," Falconetti says.)