“We were listening to these old [Jamaican]records that were just incredibly psychedelic and very alive — breathing and pumping with groovy consciousness,” says Alex deLanda, bassist of San Franciscan outfit, Extra Classic. “But they were recorded on four-tracks.”
As deLanda gushes about this style of music, vocalist-keyboardist Adrianne “Dri” Verhoeven (formerly of emo-pop’s the Anniversary) nods in agreement, stroking the couple’s tangerine-colored cat, Carol. Their other cat, King Jonezers, circles as they sit in the living room of their Richmond District apartment.
To simulate the sonic texture on old recordings of Jamaican music, Verhoeven and deLanda made a conscious decision to record Extra Classic’s full-length, Your Light Like White Lightning, Your Light Like a Laser Beam (Manimal Vinyl), all-analog on eight-track tape with equipment from the ’60s and ’70s. To celebrate the album’s vinyl release, Extra Classic will play the Make-Out Room with King Tuff and Audacity on Oct. 26; but first, a gig opening for Moonface at the Independent this Tuesday, Oct. 18.
Working on old cars and working on vintage recording equipment is basically the same thing, deLanda says recalling memories of working on his father’s Chevys from the ’40s and ’50s. “I’m underneath [the recording equipment], cussing, and trying to solder some wires together — trying to make it work,” deLanda laughs. “It just made sense [to record all-analog].” Vanhoeven joins in the laughter, her pants now blanketed in cat fur.
The technological limitations of analog exaggerated the interconnectedness of Extra Classic’s songwriting process and recording method, rendering it challenging at times. “[We had] to think inside of eight tracks,” Verhoeven says. DeLanda (formerly of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone and the Papercuts) adds, “If we weren’t able to express ourselves with eight tracks, then we needed to go back to the drawing board.”
The absence of ProTools notwithstanding, Extra Classic masterfully braids elements of Jamaican music, which include dub, reggae, Caribbean music, and American R&B/soul/pop — among others — into its own brand of multidimensional grooves. Despite technical constraints, they were able to create a kaleidoscopic album that impeccably honors the style of music that they love dearly.
Borrowing its moniker from the eponymous album by reggae legend, Gregory Issacs, Extra Classic was also inspired by Jamaican music thematically. “I drew inspiration, as a singer, from the amount of feeling and soul in [this] whole genre of music,” Verhoeven says. “Times are tough. You got a lot of shit stacked up against you, but [you find] some sort of way out and hope.”
This is strikingly evident in “You Can’t Bring Me Down,” an anthem of strength, resilience, and empowerment. Upon a cursory listen, it’d be understandable if someone was to categorize Extra Classic as a reggae band. But in songs such as “Angel Eyes,” Verhoeven’s vocals gently hover above an airy arrangement, recalling ’50s American pop, à la Patti Page. In the closer, “Give Me Your Love,” her richly nuanced and soulful voice emanates more of an R&B vibe.
Verhoeven attests to the band’s inherently eclectic sound, “I’d say we’re influenced by reggae music. But, I wouldn’t say that’s the kind of band we are. I would say we’re psychedelic dub rock.”
Petting King Jonezers, deLanda interjects, “It’s like the rock and roll’ers think we’re reggae. And the reggae guys think we’re rock and roll.