THE LETTER YELLOW:
"You gotta change with the current of time or get left behind. 'Cause there's no place like you I'd rather go, all of the time. You gotta change, I don't want to change."
One significant change Randy made was to simplify his music, focusing on strong rhythm and melodies. "My writing used to be overly complex," he recalled. "It was almost like I was writing to impress myself. Now I've learned not to overanalyze things and to remind myself to just have a good time."
And a good time in writing he did have, writing at a fast pace and with ferocity for over a year. Sometimes tackling two compositions at a time, he was even able to put to use his fascination for haikus as a kid. Deliver the message simply, clearly and concisely.
This pertained not only to the lyrics but to the structure of the music, too. This is one of many moments of brilliance, and there are many, that helped make Walking Down the Streets a collection of memorable songs that are easily relatable.
But before he could record these songs, he had to make a decision. Should he continue as a solo artist or form a new band?
Bergida knew that forming a band wasn't easy. You would have to strike just the right chemistry among the band members. So he made another smart move by asking Mike Thies whom he had gotten to know while he was still with Skidmore Fountain and with whom he recorded Firebug after, a solo song that was released in 2010.
He liked Mike and got along well with him. "But more importantly," Randy emphasized, "I respect him, his talent and abilities."
And talented Mike Thies is. This native of Boulder, Colorado-turned-Brooklynite is in another band called Live Footage and, in his not-so-free-time teaches drums also. Bergida, too, teaches in between gigs. He on the other hand teaches guitar, voice/singing and music composition.
But to complete this group they needed another member who complements the other two. Mike Thies recommended Abe Pollack with whom he had played in a band called Raven & Chimes.
Abe, who originally hails from Seattle, was someone Randy already knew but only peripherally through his circle of friends. Trusting Mike's instinct, the duo approached Abe, and the band was formed. (But not the name. After laboring through many different ideas, and pushed almost to the limits of frustration, the name "The Letter Yellow" hit Randy suddenly one day... while in the shower!)
Working together with Mike and Abe, Randy Bergida once again began to feel the sense of "community" and excitement he longed for that only came with bands that meld together.
One of the very first things Randy Bergida underscored was his gratitude, indebtedness and profound respect for his band mates/friends. "They are both serious and talented musicians and I am very lucky to be part of a group with them. (Coincidentally Abe, too, teaches bass.)
Randy, despite having written ten of the twelve songs by himself and two with Mike, regards the whole process of making the album as collaborative.
The group describes its music as "rock and roll," and for good reason. These teachers who can and who do, are not just musicians playing original songs. What they do with aplomb that's both admirable and difficult is to interpret different nuances of the genre.
What does this mean? Rock and roll is almost an all encompassing label that is difficult to define but easy to recognize. And our recognition of certain flavors, if you will, of rock and roll are generally defined by a set of songs that have come out at different formative years of music history.
Think Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Association, Led Zeppelin, Morrisey, REM, Sonic Youth, etc. -- all are associated with certain styles of rock and roll at certain periods and generation.
What The Letter Yellow in Walking Down the Street offers is a collection of rock and roll music that crosses multiple musical eras.
Though unique and distinct, these original songs are interpreted by the group in a way that allows the listener to relate them to certain styles of rock and roll. Nevertheless, it succeeds in retaining its own character and signature. Because it isn't the music, per se, that is derivative or reminiscent of a certain style, but rather the interpretation and performance of the song.
While the band's interpretative range is remarkable, the songs themselves are crisp and authentic. Simple with care are words that probably describe the music best. The melodies are indeed strong. The lyrics are poetic yet accessible and
Bergida's voice resonates with nuanced emotion... be it playful, seductive, pedantic or confused.
Working with students allows the three to be conscious themselves of important subtleties in performing. This awareness combined with Randy's self admitted OCD contribute to the creation of music that's engaging, precise and --the three are happy to admit--FUN. Switching instruments while jamming is another way they have fun. It is also a way to see music from a different perspective.
With Walking Down the Streets, The Letter Yellow --fresh from its launch at Glasslands Gallery this month--has given us an album that's pure pleasure to listen to.
Whether it's the amusingly titled and upbeat Hooray He's Not Dead, the impassioned exchange between I Got You and Hold Me Steady, or the sultry hot Bowie-like Hope Street, listeners will find genuine musicality here. And true to their goal, The Letter Yellow shows us what real musicians, playing real music, with real instruments can do. Add real talent to the equation and you'll be, as we are, simply smitten.
The band will be playing at the Bowery Electric in NYC on October 4th, at the Velvet Lounge in Washington, DC on the 18th, and back at The Rock Shop in Brooklyn on November 5th. Visit www.letteryellow.net for more info. RUN!
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