Sugar with a spoonful of E.E. Cummings
By Simon McCormack
Can you sneak literary references into ear candy? Self-described power-pop four-piece Sweetness doesn’t see why not. You might be too busy nodding your head to notice, but the garage-anthem “Angry Candy” is a reference to a stanza in an E.E. Cummings poem. The American wordsmith isn’t the only literary figure alluded to on the sly. “I think you can have pop songs with interesting lyrics that go beyond, ‘I want to hold you until the day I die,’ ” says guitarist and English major Chente Rimorin. “The lyrics can be intellectual innuendos.”
The chord progressions are intentionally kept simple and to the point. The guitar is given a warm fuzz-coat, and the drums never stray out of bounds—they're always on the same page with the melody. Marie Sanchez’ voice can purr, but the ex-Broadway performer’s vocals are at their best when they scale walls and refuse to come down.
Sweetness knows "pop" is about as vast a genre as any, and accordingly, songs can go anywhere from honky-tonk Motown to punkish alt-rock.
“What makes a Miley Cyrus song as good as a Belle and Sebastian track, and vice versa, is that undiscovered connection someone can have with the music.”
Since 2002, Sweetness has put out a 7-inch called Dirty Laundry, an EP titled Winsome Lonesome and its 2006 full-length album Ashtray Floors. Eager to escape its skate-punk dominated hometown of San Diego, Sweetness is heading east, and just before playing its last pre-tour show, Rimorin and Sanchez squeezed in a chat with the Alibi.
What makes an easy-to-swallow song more than just that?
Rimorin: To me, it has to do with the attention you pay to crafting the song, but pop is wide-open and varied. What makes a Miley Cyrus song as good as a Belle and Sebastian track, and vice versa, is that undiscovered connection someone can have with the music. It’s just that feeling a certain song gives someone.
Your chord progressions are clear and not overly complex. Is that something you strive for?
Rimorin: If you can hear a song and get jealous of it, that’s a good song. The more complex it is, the harder it is for someone to connect to. At the same time, you don’t want to cover the same ground over and over again. It’s a fine balance. If you’re going to call yourself a pop songwriter, you have to make music anyone would want to listen to.
How do you think your literary allusions fit into the mix?
Sanchez: It’s a way of intellectually preaching to people while they’re enjoying a nice tune. It’s a nice juxtaposition to the simple chord progressions.
You guys are all in your 20s. Do you think the band’s dynamics will change as you get older?
Rimorin: I think we always try to rebel against whatever’s going on. As you grow older, you’re supposed to mature and maybe slow down a little bit. We’ll probably rebel against that and become more childish.
Marie, how has performing on Broadway helped you as a singer in a band?
Sanchez: It was a tough transition. I was used to playing a character, and then here I am, with the band, being myself. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It took a while to realize that I can create whoever I want to be on stage.
Who's the character you play on stage?
Sanchez: I don’t see myself as a sexual person, but when I go on stage, I allow that part of myself to come out. I’m also dorky and sweet at the same time.
What’s it like going on tour with three gentlemen?
Sanchez: I bring a lot of air freshener.
Sweetness will pour its syrup onto Burt’s Tiki Lounge Friday, June 6. The free show is also local prog-rock act Rosenhymn’s last gig. Animals In The Dark glow first.
The diabetic shock happens at www.sweetnesstheband.com.
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Jim Almand • blues, singer-