GO DEEP: Those who arrived early to April’s sold-out Neon Indian show at SOhO may remember Lemonade. The Brooklyn-by-way-of-San Francisco trio served as the night’s electric opening act and, at least as far as I’m concerned, successfully stole the show from their much-hyped headliner. All comparisons aside, though, these three are well worthy of a tour of their own and will get their chance to headline this Monday, June 18, when they return to SOhO in support of their recently released sophomore LP.
On Diver, Lemonade continues to hone their songcraft, moving away from the lengthy, thumping electronic tracks of their debut into slightly more refined territory. Employing their signature collection of worldly touchstones—Jamaican steel drums, furious African-inspired percussion, Ibiza-club-channeling synth tones—the band shines a light on frontman Callan Clendenin and brings the vocals to the front of the mix. The result is a lyrically driven 10-track collection that feels simultaneously pop-inspired and experimental, calling to mind everything from ’80s New Wavers to early-‘90s R&B acts.
“I think we went really hard with it [Diver],” Clendenin explained last week en route to Chicago. “I felt nervous singing the way I was singing and making the songs sound the way they ended up. It’s not ironic; there’s no filter. I just felt like, there’s so much shit out there that’s so passive, so I felt like we needed to go harder, like it was the only way for us to progress as artists.”
If progression is what Lemonade was after, Diver undoubtedly succeeds. The album feels and sounds like a more fluid, more focused version of the band, complete with thematic tie-ins. “The whole record has a deep sort of underwater vibe to it,” Clendenin explained. “While I was writing, I kept seeing these blue colors and these underwater, slow-motion things, so I just ran with it.”
As such, Diver occupies an interesting space somewhere between dance-floor-ready electro-pop and languid, emotive world music. “Ice Water” begins with a persistent synth note and electronic drumbeat but slowly builds into a beautiful union of percussion and bass. Later down the line, “Big Changes” finds Clendenin employing an icy speak-sing against a catchy synth hook. Meanwhile, an insistent and beat-heavy symphony starts and stops in the background, ultimately building to the song’s hyper-paced climax.
Elsewhere, though, Diver makes a nod to the band’s global influences. Drummer and driving force Alex Pasternak, a UCSB grad, has played nearly every style of music, including stints in UCSB’s Middle East Ensemble, an S.B. reggae band called The Cannons, and a handful of local Brazilian groups. He’s also done a good deal of traveling, all of which accounts for more than a fair share of Diver’s tracks. Both “Sinead” and lead single “Neptune” fuse electronic beats with layers of echoing steel drums, while songs like “White Caps” draw in elements of British dubstep.
“In the beginning, we were thinking of ourselves as a more dubby electronic noise project,” Pasternak recalled. “It was kind of an amalgamation of all of our influences, and it still is. It’s just gotten more mature; there’s more electronic, there’s more R&B, there’s more pop.”
Minutes later, Clendenin echoes Pasternak’s sentiments: “You kind of just have to grab your inspiration and see where it takes you,” he says. “I feel like we ran pretty hard with that — especially for this record.”
Lemonade plays a 21+ show at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Monday, June 18, at 9 p.m. with openers Le1f. Call 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets.