Hearing Aide: Major Player ‘Grift & Gum’

Jeff York and Liz Strodel of indie soul/rock project Major Player kicked back at a local bar to discuss wardrobe malfunctions, zodiac signs and how Major Player was almost a funk cover band. Amidst the silly antics, York and Strodel expressed serious enthusiasm about the recent release of their debut album Grift & Gum, which was recorded, mixed and mastered at More Sound Studio. Their playful demeanors in conversation slightly contradict the album’s make-up, which manifests a moodiness wrought with the emotional drudgery of deteriorating relationships.

The somber title track offers minimalist guitar and drum work with Hammond organ weaving through ambiguous lyrics. The song grapples with the need to persevere in the face of an uncertain fate.  York postulates “I laid down by better days/Reach out for better days,” his words chased by echoing organ, produce a resounding emptiness to match the dark intangible hope for a better future.

York notes how the straightforward instrumentation on the record affords the musicians wiggle room to improvise and experiment with live performances. Improvisation may become most necessary in instances when Strodel’s sticks weasel their way into the tangle of bracelets on her wrist, causing her to obscure the beat. Such was the case during their December show at Funk ‘N Waffles downtown, much to the audience’s amusement. York views these occasional hiccups as happy accidents explaining, “When she messes up, it sounds good.” Strodel jokingly mused how she can play down offbeat occurrences with an “I meant to do that” attitude.

The second track, “Hailey,” careening through slightly more buoyant rhythm, questions the validity of a soured relationship, asking as many couples have, “Could this mean at last now/that we’ve past our/infatuated moment/What drew us so close in.” “Static Noise,” speckled with bluesy guitar riffs imparts a dejectedness often felt after a breakup. Heavily distorted instrumentation adds a sense of unfamiliarity akin to the newly single state in which one relearns how to act independently. “Hard From Now On” showcases the most progressive rhythm on the album. The lyrics allude to finding new love in religion, or some greater cause contingent on the listener’s perspective.

Despite the melancholy nature of the album content, the abbreviated collection of songs is alluringly presented in the vein of ethereal trip hop. York assembled this first taste of Major Player from a larger catalogue of material he’s already written. As York plans to release more songs in the spring, the entire band also plans to write material collaboratively and continue to characterize their musical identity. Though Major Player has strayed from becoming a cover band devoted to The Meters, as was the original intent, listeners might recognize a cover or two thrown into live performances in the near future. York and Strodel, along with bandmates Nick Mazzeo (keys) and Andrew Greacen (bass) are looking forward to performing more in the warmer months.

With beer glasses nearly empty and conversation winding down, Strodel sarcastically offers to disclose their zodiac signs for interview purposes. So for anyone curious, York is an Aquarius and Strodel is a Saggitarius. Both wryly smiling York added, “Take that for what it is.” A simple sentiment which also reflects the bands’ laid-back attitude for their open-ended future.

Key tracks: Grift & Gum, Hailey, Hard From Now On