Music News

The Explorers Club

After Brian Wilson completed the Beach Boys' watershed album Pet Sounds in 1966, he started work on Smile, which would be his "teenage symphony to God." While the album was never officially released (although bootlegs surfaced), Wilson reconstructed it nearly forty years later. In the past four decades, the Beach Boys' experimental period has reverberated through a number of artists, including the High Llamas, Panda Bear and, most recently, the South Carolina-based Explorers Club, which used Pet Sounds (as well as the music of a lot of other mid-'60s California bands) as a reference point in crafting its debut, Freedom Wind.

Twenty-six-year-old Jason Brewer, the band's chief songwriter and arranger, started studying Pet Sounds in high school and formed the band with the goal of having a vocal group with a miniature orchestra sound. With Freedom Wind, Brewer and company have created their own teenage symphony of sorts, complete with Phil Spector-inspired production and four-part harmonies. It's a continuation of the California sound, and even the album cover is a throwback to the Beach Boys' All Summer Long, from 1964. We spoke with Brewer about the influence Pet Sounds had on him.

Westword: Did you guys study Pet Sounds when you were making Freedom Wind?

Jason Brewer: I think there are elements of that, definitely. I would say it's definitely a big influence on the record, but I think if you're going to pick stuff that really influenced it, it would be all the California bands of that era, even like earlier Beach Boys stuff. It could be the Association, Jan & Dean, Mamas and Papas — all the bands from that whole era, like the L.A. sound of the mid-'60s. There's even Wings and solo Paul McCartney influences, and ELO and stuff like that on the record. It's not as obvious as the other stuff. There's definitely a combination of things. I guess if you take Pet Sounds and all those other ones I named and you put them together, that's how you get the sound for our record. It's one of those albums where it sounds like it could've been made in the '60s or it could have been made yesterday.

Can you sum up what Freedom Wind is about and what the record means to you?

I think the record is thirty minutes, or however long it is, of entertainment. It's supposed to be a fun listen. It's a straight-up pop record. It's not a giant artistic statement. It's not some other kind of complicated art. It's simply a fun record to listen to, to put in your CD player, roll down the windows and sing along with.

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon