San Diego is a city with a strong craft beer pedigree and likewise a new culture of craft distillers have been putting California’s second largest city on the map recently. This kind of down-home culture attracts lots of down-home music, normally classed as indie folk. This is a genre, however, that San Diego’s musical scene is not generally known for as of yet. Reggae, ska and beachy punk tend to dominate the surf-centric San Diego. However, with decidedly indie folk-tinged trio The Liquorsmiths and their decidedly different strategy before releasing their first EP, San Diego’s craft booze and music scenes may soon merge.
The Liquorsmiths have been developing their sound over two years of touring all around Southern California and America’s west coast. From dive bars to festivals, this trio has played all kinds of venues and invited all kinds of musicians to jam with them. This free-flowing attitude has allowed them to share the stage with other popular indie folk musicians like The Marshal Tucker Band, William Walter and John C. Riley. The Liquorsmiths’ style is simple and fluid, allowing any well-heeled musician to be able to improvise with them.
On their own, The Liquorsmiths have a very pared-down style with simple yet quick guitar riffs, subtle bass work and jazzy drums, usually played by Clayton Payne with brushes rather than sticks. Drew Thams provides most of the melody with his vocals, but keyboards are often added by Ryan Fischer to create harmony. The tone is a combination of laid-back western campfire sound with hints of modern passion and emotion from Thams’s vocals. It makes for an interesting combination.
Now with The Liquorsmiths finally releasing their first EP, This Book Belongs To, internet music fans and those not on the west coast will be able to see what all the buzz is about in August. The band has made their first single, Get Well Soon streamable on their Soundcloud page well in advance of the EP’s release, and it is an excellent example of what festival goers and dive bar fans have been experiencing lo these past two years. In fact, Get Well Soon may be well-known to the band’s current following, but for indie folk fans who have never heard the band live, the recording is just as good as are the rest of the songs on the new EP.
Get Well Soon opens with a simple yet relatively fast rolling western guitar also played by Thams and Payne’s characteristic jazz drums. The standout part of the song, however, is Thams’ vocals. The timbre of his voice at the beginning is bright and countrified, definitely evocative of early western folk music. This ultra-traditional approach to vocals is something not often seen in indie folk today, with singers generally choosing to sound more modern so that millennial audiences are not completely lost. Thams’ voice is not without its modern passion, however, as is showcased in the chorus. Here Thams keeps his recognizable bright, high-pitched tone but injects some serious passion into the lyrics. It is quite a surprising change and will definitely make listeners sit up and take notice.
For indie folk fans who tend to lean a little more indie, Coy With Me and Iris’ Song see both vocals and guitars take on a more modern tone, with Iris’ Song also containing a chilled-out yet emotive blues/soul feeling. Devil I Do and Day by Day see the pendulum swing back towards the western folk end of things, but any fan of indie folk will see both of these songs as highlights.
Expertly-crafted music combined with Thams’ unique voice is why The Liquorsmiths have earned the following they have without having released any music until now. With Get Well Soon as the first single, new audiences can now hear the reason for the buzz behind this touring band, and fans who have seen them live can finally stream and buy their recorded music. The EP This Book Belongs To will release in late August and will be available to stream or purchase in full on The Liquorsmiths’ website or Bandcamp page.
Review by Layla Klamt
Bandcamp.com: “The Liquorsmiths – Get Well Soon”
Youtube.com: “The Liquorsmiths – ” Coy With Me Tiny Desk Concert”
Soundcloud.com: “The Liquorsmiths – Get Well Soon”
Image provided courtesy of The Liquorsmiths’ media kit.