The members of Denver power-pop quartet People Like Me look at their music as a way to navigate the quarter-life crisis that some of them — they range in age from mid-twenties to mid-thirties — are currently experiencing.
“A quarter-life crisis is one of identity, where you think your life is going to get to a certain point,” says drummer Jordan Ryan, “and then you get to that point in your life and you realize it’s not what you wanted it to be. But you also aren’t sure where you're going, either.”
Guitarist and vocalist Ryan Michener adds that it’s a blanket term to describe the struggles of people in their twenties.
“That sentiment is consistent through our music,” Michener says. “A lot of the music is written by Bailey [Gordon] and me. We are 24-year-old kids just kind of growing into adults and figuring our lives out. Our music is a journal of our progress.”
Gordon, who shares guitar and vocal duties, says she’s always wanted to be a musician but is figuring out that it’s a lot harder than she thought it would be. She adds that playing music is not about “making it” to the mainstream, but about making other people feel the way she feels when she hears her favorite music.
“When you get to 24 and look around at your progress, it can be kind of frustrating,” she says. “Why am I not there yet? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Is this really my dream? I’ve never really faltered on this being my dream, but it can get kind of frustrating.”
Bailey and Michener started playing together in February 2020 — not exactly a fortuitous month to start a band — after the demise of an earlier group, Diet Blonde. Ryan and bass player Charlton Demas joined later in the year. Michener says the band’s power-pop style is an amalgamation of different influences, but it came about organically. She and her bandmates didn’t set out to play this genre specifically, but the style is a marked departure from the previous group’s sound.
“We didn’t want to continue making sad, slower songs, but we still wanted to be authentic and write about what we were feeling,” Gordon says. “It just kind of manifested in upbeat music, but with deeper lyrics to it.”
The band, which is self-producing its music and videos, is set to release the single “Blindsided” on Friday, December 17. The song generally springs from a story of a relationship that never went anywhere and in which those involved just walked away, according to Michener.
“It was not a completely original story,” Michener concedes. “Where we tried to find nuance in the writing was throwing some influence from older ragtime piano vibes and just throwing in bluesy chords and very vintage feelings musically into a very modern sound.”
Ryan says the song is a modern take on the ageless tale of unrequited love. People sometimes don’t know how to communicate with one another after one person has lost interest, he notes.
“That ties back to that quarter-life crisis piece,” he continues. “I want to be in a relationship, I want to date someone, but I don't know yet what I want for myself, and I don’t know yet how to communicate that with somebody else.”
“We take a lot from a cynical, sarcastic vibe and try to put those lyrics and that theme into something where the listener doesn’t feel bummed or angry,” Gordon adds. “They feel justified and validated in a kind of hoppy manner.”
People Like Me has already released “Don’t Hold Your Breath,” which Gordon says has a more overt pop sound than the band’s other output. It was one of the original songs she and Michener wrote when they were starting out. She says the band pulls influences from music that affects them personally and hopes that listeners will pick up on that.
“It’s one of my personal favorites,” Gordon adds. “I don’t play guitar on it. I just sing, so I get to dance around and have a lot of energy through it.”
Michener says the song has a more modern sound than the ragtime and blues that influenced “Blindsided.”
“We drew some influence from a lot of early 2010s synth-pop music with some of the heavy synths and some of those fat saw waves,” Michener says. “You can hear it in the chorus, the way the synth plays off the melody and then kind of goes off and does its own thing.”
“Blindsided” premieres Friday, December 17. People Like Me plays the Lost Lake Lounge, 3602 East Colfax Avenue, on Friday, January 7, at 9 p.m.; tickets are $12.
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