Once again, I shall be pulling forth the memory of a band I used to listen to in high school for this week’s Gr8 Unknowns. I give to you a band now called POP ETC, but from my memory, The Morning Benders.
As soon as I listen to this indie rock group, I am immediately plunged into times simpler than now. This is where one need not worry about the repercussions that come from weekends full of binge drinking or from the lack of time to study, resulting in bad grades and disappointment.
Instead I am reminded of my younger self, learning their song “Virgins” by ear, and trying to replicate it with my own voice and guitar in the practice rooms of our high school’s choir classroom.
With all of those golden hours of creativity faded to the dust, I can still find solace in their music.
The first song I ever heard, probably discovered while surfing iTunes (before I learned about youtube-mp3.com), was “Excuses.”
It was impossible not to be intrigued by this song. The intro of the song is unusual but in the way that pleases your ear and makes you want to know more. It is a combination of sounds in which one can’t place their origin, but eventually it builds and blends into a recognizable collection of instruments.
Once the build ends, it transforms into coherent verses full of guitar, violin and beauty. In comes the voice of frontman Chris Chu. His voice sounds soft as velvet, like he doesn’t even have to try, even when you can hear his voice build and fill with emotion.
The lyricism is poetry, the first and last verses holding the most creativity and sentiment. The first verse is as follows: “You tried to taste me / And I taped my tongue to the southern tip of your body / Our bones are too heavy to come up / Squished into a single cell of wood.”
Can words even do this justice? The second verse is just as beautiful: “We are so smooth now / Our edges are beaten, drift wood whittled down / Old bodies slip when they make love / We’ll mine our sparks to shoot us above.”
As mentioned above, “Virgins” is one of the songs that has made a lasting impression on me, so much so that I have tried to play it myself. For some reason, this song never made it onto any of their studio albums.
In any case, I find it to be one of their best, especially since it can only be heard as a live version. Just by watching the video, and even in Chu’s voice, it’s easy to see how much the emotion fills him up.
The band originally began in San Francisco, but since then have relocated to Brooklyn, along with the subtraction and addition of new members, one of which was Chu’s brother Jon.
A name change also came along with the move. After their discovery, their band name, specifically “benders,” held negative connotations in the gay community. They dropped it because they didn’t want to use a hurtful word.
They became POP ETC and now embody more of a pop sound. While I admit I am largely lacking on this part of their music, I do know one song — “Keep It for Your Own.” It has a very catchy and infectious base-line, one that is impossible to resist.
In all, my heart naturally falls towards The Morning Benders’ songs, rather than POP ETC, but no matter because it’s the vocals and the lyricism that make this group truly themselves.