Restorations Try to Explain What the Hell They Sound Like
Or listen to their new song "Tiny Prayers" and figure it out for yourself.
Photo: Andrew Swartz
If drinking beers in a South Philly dog park on a Tuesday evening with Restorations singer/guitarist Jon Loudon and guitarist/keyboardist Ben Pierce feels like a very Philadelphia thing to be doing at this moment in time, that's probably because it is. Pierce lives around the corner and brings his dog Charlie to the park a lot, but right now, a great Basset Hound named Broccoli has leapt onto our picnic table and, through a cloud of dirt he kicked up, knocked my beer over with a forceful tail wag. Broccoli is from South Philly and has no regard for the three of us.
It's an exciting time to be in the Philly-based Restorations, who are just a few weeks from releasing their third LP, LP3 (yep, straight to it). It's a brick-to-the-face of a record for a band that genre descriptors often fail, honing in on dynamic shifts, psychedelic Americana drone zones, and many, many guitars. While previously released tracks "Separate Songs" and "Misprint" have illustrated LP3's increased spatial reasoning and attention to structure, "Tiny Prayers," isn't concerned with that loud/quiet shit. Loudon's increasingly panicked neuroticism is at full force here ("Tiny prayers to the coffee cups scattered around my house," he sings through his hoarse and cracked vocal), flanked by a horde of harmonizing guitars in repetition. Despite the rough and pretty moments spattered throughout LP3, this is Restorations' default setting: Blow out every amp and maybe the circuit breaker while you're at it. Stream "Tiny Prayers" below and read a quick Q&A during which Broccoli treats Jon, Ben, and I like crap.
Noisey: So I was on the phone with my mom last night and she asked what I was up to this week. I told her that I was interviewing Restorations, to which she replied, "Cool. What do they sound like?" I didn't have a good answer. Do you encounter this a lot?
Jon Loudon: I feel like everyone has a different idea of what we sound like, which is a pretty fun thing to experience on its own. Everyone we've talked to has a different angle on it. It seems to have a lot to do with what someone's vocabulary is. They'll say, "Oh, you sound like this and them and that." What we think the band sounds like and what anyone else thinks is nowhere near the same thing. We'll think that we sound like Fugazi and people will say that no, no, we do not sound like Fugazi. People are always saying heavy metal, Bruce Springsteen, all these weird, disparate things.
Ben Pierce: I think friendship-wise, we get classified as something because of bands we are friends with. At Riot Fist, we were billed as "pop punk" and that was one of the highlights of the weekend, thinking, "Great! Guess we're a pop punk band now!"
Loudon: I like it that way. I'm glad that it lands all over the map.
How would you describe Restorations to my mom?
Loudon: For older people, I usually just say we sound like Crazy Horse. Either that or Foo Fighters. We like amps and guitar solos, so once that gets across it's pretty easy.
LP3 comes out in just a few weeks, but LP2 was released a bit over a year ago. Does Restorations normally operate on such a quick schedule?
Loudon: We kind of just keep stuff going, generally. I don't think any of us ever really stop writing or thinking about new material. We just end up doing what we want as things become available so we had a lot of downtime towards the end of last year over the winter to just sort of chill out so we were writing a lot, trying out some new stuff until we realized we had enough material for a record. It was pretty cut and dry at the time, it felt pretty obvious to just keep working.
Pierce: It also felt like LP2 had peaked by that point. Whoever wanted to grab had already grabbed it by now, but yeah, our general idea is to just try and get some kind of release out per year. If not a record, then a seven-inch, like the DC project we're doing.
That's right. Could you tell me some more about Call + Response?
Loudon: So that's Kira from Punknews. She has a bunch of writer and artist friends in DC and she has been talking for a while about something like this. She said she had this crazy idea for her community-based art project every year and that she wants to do it with a band. Call + Response normally involves a topic or theme and the artists all work toward the theme. Kira thought it would be cool to have a band soundtrack the theme. We didn't have the time last year but it all lined up this year. We've been trying to branch out and do weirder stuff and "art-scene" things. There's no press cycle, there's no intense writing, it's just doing what you like to do and then you drop it.
Pierce: Even as far as the song, it was this stream of consciousness thing where we got back from Europe, sat down and realized we have to fill this 12-minute void. Let's go.
Loudon: It's a long track, but it sounds like our band. It's not free jazz or anything. It's three movements that all tie together to a basic theme. No vocals, just toying with repetition and seeing how things change over that amount of time.
Photo: Mitchell Wojik
What can you tell me about "Tiny Prayers"?
Loudon: That was probably the fastest one we wrote for LP3. I think we started and finished it in maybe one practice session? Yeah, "Tiny Prayers" is pretty much Restorations on auto-pilot, this distilled example of the band.
Pierce: I think when we were writing it, they were saying I should go figure out a keyboard part to it. I was just like, "Nope," and picked up my guitar. I think it needs to be a three-guitar song.
"Tiny Prayers", as well as a lot of Restorations songs, feels driven by lyrical anxiety and paranoia. Jon, are you anxious?
Loudon: Oh, yes. Continuously. Perpetually.
What are you anxious about?
Loudon: I'm just an anxious person. I drink too much coffee, I bite my nails, I do a lot of pacing. I don't know, it's my default setting, I guess.
Perhaps it's just because I live here too, but Restorations often sounds like Philadelphia to me. Is your songwriting at all influenced by your surroundings?
Loudon: I would hope so. I mean, I was born here, spent the majority of my life between here and Jersey when I was growing up. But this is kind of what I know best. This city isn't like anything else to me and has this unique, rough character that has always been a big influence to how I think things should sound.
I'm aware Restorations is pretty pro-coffee. Are you still touring with Chemex coffee sets in the van?
Pierce: Oh, yes. For the most recent trek, we brought our French press out. We usually bring a coffee grinder too, it's a whole thing.
Loudon: But it's cool! Now we will be touring places and people will bring us coffee at shows.
Pierce: Either coffee they've roasted or coffee from the area that they like.
Because fans probably know that you're coffee dads by now. Are you familiar with the Twitter user @coffee_dad? The joke is that he's a dad who doesn't know how to use Twitter, but it's much darker than that.
Pierce: Honestly, you had me at "Dad who doesn't know how to use Twitter."
Marc Snitzer is having #a coffee - @snitzonsnacks
Restorations' 'LP3' is out on October 28 via SideOneDummy. Catch them on tour:
Fri Oct 17 – Newark, DE – University of Delaware w/ You Blew It!
Fri Oct 24 – Asbury Park, NJ – Asbury Lanes *
Sat Oct 25 – Washington, D.C. – DC9 *
Sun Oct 26 – Charlotte, NC – Casbah *
Mon Oct 27 – Columbia, SC – Foxfield Bar *
Tues Oct 28 – Atlanta, GA – Under The Couch *
Weds Oct 29 – Tampa, FL – Pre-Fest
Sun Nov 2 – Gainesville, FL – The Fest
Tues Nov 4 – Nashville, TN – The High Watt ^
Weds Nov 5 – Chicago, IL – Township ^
Thurs Nov 6 – Newport, KY – Southgate House ^
Fri Nov 7 – Pittsburgh, PA – The Smiling Moose ^
Sat Nov 8 – New York, NY – Mercury Lounge ^
Sun Nov 9 – Allston, MA – Great Scott ^
* = Self Defense Family
^ = The Smith Street Band