Better By Morning is the creation of Jake Brooks (vocals, guitar, bass, keys) and Johnny Gravitt (Lead and rhythm guitar), they’ve released their first EP You Say. It’s aptly titled as many listeners will have much to say after hearing this. Joining them on this EP are Roy Stein on drums of, My Plastic Sun and Jet Black Berries and Johnny Cummings, organ on tracks 1 & 3, also a member of My Plastic Sun and Jet Black Berries, their live performances feature Bradley Paquet (bass) and Kyle Squires (drums). Stein and Cummings come to the band through Nazareth College where Brooks is a student and Stein a Professor and Director of the Music/Business program, quite the interesting combination. Stein was enlisted to help finish the EP after their previous drummer departed and the multitalented Cummings was introduced to the equation by Stein. Together they’ve created a frankly stunning first release, bolstered by the nimble ears and fingers of Cody Niver at CGI Studios in Ontario, N.Y. and Tim Lynch at The Recording Company, Albany, N.Y. Track 2 was mastered by Joe LaPorta at Sterling Sound and the balance by Cody Niver at CGI Studio. Deftly talented artists’ each, the end result is even, yet dynamic with an underlying impulse for a number 11 on the volume knob.
If you have any knowledge (and you should) of Stein and Cumming’s work in their bands My Plastic Sun and Jet Black Berries, you’ll know these are two of the most remarkably talented individuals working from the Rochester area. To have them participate and speak as highly of Brooks as they do says volumes of what is in store from Better By Morning. Like Cummings, Brooks is a multi-instrumental talent, his voice is both commanding and sensitive, its depth belies his age. The band hails from lovely Saratoga Springs, N.Y., so having surroundings that inspire are certainly falling in their favor. The strength of his musical partnership with Gravitt is clearly evident and they’ve set a high bar for themselves. The hallmark of great pop and rock are big guitars, Gravitt provides the needed licks to accentuate and power the sweet melodies. Better By Morning has implied that planning for another EP is already in the works, but that’s for later, let’s get right to their current offering.
While they’ve chosen “alternative” as the box to click genre wise, the songwriting duo of Brooks/Gravitt prove it’s much more than that with their lyrical and musical flexibility that conjures the energy of an early U2 with Coldplay intellect and diversity. The opener “Bird Won’t Fly” really lays it out there with a solid hook, soaring vocals and a driving rhythm, immediately listenable and repeatable. “Sell” has a Franz Ferdinand feel, the syncopated guitar and layered harmonies rise and fall into the breathy verses.
“Hearts” is pure melodic power-pop in spades, it hits on every cylinder from the call and respond vocal to the rich instrumentation. The mix is so even that the bass pushes the melody line while the drums pacing is bright and on top of it, swelling with the guitar and urging the emotive delivery from Brooks. Very dynamic and well-engineered. “Pages” sounds like the built-in single, the catchy guitar riff, the easily assessable lyric, it pushes, bounces and urges motion within the listener. Trademark stuff for well-hewn power-pop.
The closer, “Change Your Mind” gives Gravitt a chance to really cut it loose and get outside of the box a little. While his subtlety throughout the earlier songs is within the formula and fitting, there’s always space and frankly need, for that signature riff. I’d like to hear more of it. The restraint demonstrated by each player throughout is admirable, they obviously have the chops to run-over each other trying to grab the limelight. It shows a great deal of maturity and thoughtfulness to avoid that trap and work as a cohesive unit.
Key Tracks: Sell, Pages, Change Your Mind
I believe there is a ton of room for growth with Better By Morning, I also believe that there is another personality they take on when they play live. They’ve just announced an opportunity to see just that at Bug Jar in Rochester on November 11. Details on the show and their EP are available at their many social media and internet outlets, their website, facebook, twitter