When keyboardist and singer Mark Shusterman, bassist and singer Rhett Rogers, guitarist Alex Eschen and drummer Scott Beck first formed the Blue Rider four years ago, the band was doing a lot of covers of soul and R&B songs from the late ’50s and early ’60s, with some psychedelic stuff mixed in — stuff like the Monks, the Standells and Bo Diddley. “It was just like a fun project for us,” Shusterman says. “Then we started writing a lot more originals, and we just love that sound and that vibe.”
He and his bandmates have succeeded in capturing that era on the new album Year of the Horse, which the band is currently shopping to different labels. The songs on it have a decades-old feel to them, partly because they band mostly played with vintage equipment, including tube amps and Beck’s ’60s drum kit and Shusterman’s early-’70s Yamaha YC-20 combo organ.
“We’ve got the gear that sends us back there, and having done a lot of covers of that kind of music got us in the right frame of mind, too,” says Shusterman. “The songwriting back then — there’s a lot of melody and harmony and just diving into songs. We’re trying to craft a concise tune.
“I feel like nowadays it’s not really drawing on anything from the past. It gets a little stale and boring,” he adds. “We’re moving toward a sound of our own, and I think this record is a reflection of that. We still are definitely rooted in that ’60s sound.”
The songs from the band’s 2013 self-titled EP were hard-hitting, fast and to the point. On Year of the Horse, the band has stretched its boundaries, using some different keyboards and synths and writing much longer songs.
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“We gave it some time to open up,” Shusterman says of the new album. “There are still some straight-ahead bangers on it that are faster and direct, but we did open up some more on some other songs on the record.”
When the Blue Rider plays the hi-dive this weekend, the band will release the title track from Year of the Horse, a song Shusterman says sets the mood for the rest of the album.
“It’s definitely something that came out of bringing all these songs to the studio and working on them and just being like, ‘Well, let’s let loose and see what comes out of it,’” he says. “So it was a very organic piece of music, and inspired by the rest of the music we were making for the record.”