Neverwonder’s New Album, CD Release Party Review & Interview

Written by on March 18, 2010 in Interviews, Live Reviews, March 18, 2010, Music Reviews - Comments Off on Neverwonder’s New Album, CD Release Party Review & Interview

Letting It Out

NeverwonderNeverwonder has come a long way since I first heard them perform for a summer concert series in Northridge four years ago. The band held their second cd release party for their latest album at Octane Alley, a sport bar in Huntington Beach where the band’s iconic logo was projected on two large overhead flat screen monitors on either side of the elevated stage facing a two sided bar. The full house was standing room only and everyone was very much in anticipation as the opening act drew into the late hours of the evening. Finally Neverwonder took the stage, opening their set with the third track on the new album, It’s All Good.

Let It Out is the band’s second album, but first with lead vocalist Megan Bobo who was a former contestant on American Idol. I saw Neverwonder building their set for this album little over a year ago. At that time I could see that the band had shifted radically from their metal/punk sound with former lead singer Joy Pearson. This new sound with Bobo on board was something more like soul/rock. Even within the last year and a half Neverwonder’s sound has completely transformed.

After listening to Let It Out for the first time I wondered how and if the band I knew from four years ago was going to be able to replicate the experience of this richly produced and predominantly gospel rock I was hearing on songs like The Edge and Its All Good. The answer was affirmed immediately by the eight piece band consisting of a background vocalist (April Walsh, who also appeared on season five of American Idol with Bobo), two guitarists, a keyboardist, guest rapper, lead vocalist, bass player and drummer.

NeverwonderWhen asked about the band’s new sound and direction Vincent Ramos, bassist for Neverwonder said, “We wanted our music to revolve around Megan’s voice, to enhance her vocals as much as possible. So we went for funky and friendly. You’ve got your R&B and blues influences there- not genre specific per se, but we were thinking along the lines of Joss Stone or Pink. And Andres has always had this very funky, boogey driving rhythm. As far as influences: Black Crowes, Zeppelin, Maroon 5.” Bobo’s vocals definitely reminded me of Pink and Gwen Stefani more than once during the live show and the remix of Wild Out is definitely comparable for radio play.

Megan’s lyrics on this album are strong, but especially on ballads like Enough: “When life gives me lemons/It’s hard to make lemonade/It’s hard to say something nice/When I’ve had a hard day/And that day drags on/From one month until the next/And I’m so boggled down/In my life’s regrets.” Says Vincent, “Our songwriting process was really bringing the music and concept behind the music to Megan. Then she would listen and draw from her own book of lyrics, sometimes modifying, coming back to us and bouncing off ideas. She basically took our music and translated it into something that was accessible to her and gave real inspiration to it.”

One thing that struck me about Let It Out was that there are seventeen tracks, many of which are variants of preexisting tracks on the album. When asked why so many different renditions appear on the album Vincent explained, “We really didn’t anticipate that. We went into the studio with all of our songs written and ready for production. All of these different versions happened during the mixing process in the studio; we’d try different things and ended up liking some of these different takes so much we knew we had to get them on the album.” Help Me was one of Vincent’s favorite tracks on the new album, although I found the live version different then even the three that appear therein. He explains, “This song has really resonated with our fans since it’s about the current economic environment and people are just really grasping the idea behind it. I think it’s got great guitar hooks and vocal lines.”

NeverwonderThe standard version of Help Me was more of a country rock song, with advanced production work on the stereo channels. I didn’t find the acoustic version of the song was that differentiated, but the remix was an experiment in tempo changes and vocal mixing. As far as the intention of having so many variations of songs Vincent explained, “Megan wanted to go the Katy Perry route where you have a dance versus an alternative rock version of a take; something a DJ could play at a club versus something we’d play live for a show. It’s just another way to make our music more accessible to a broader audience.”

The album offers at least three genres, but the band’s strength is in the conception and delivery of the contemporary rock ballad like Is This The End, Spinning and Lucky. This is where Vincent and Andres Ramos’ talent shine and Megan’s Bobo’s lyrics and vocals really lift. Movin’ On and Lucky in particular accent Andres’ drumming, with a sort of Soulfly tribal metal style that is a perfect fit for the funky guitar breakdowns. Again on Superior, Andres’ choice of sassy salsa rock drumming kicks up the funk factor.

My favorite alternative track on Let It Out was the lounge version of Spinning. The piano work is the centerpiece for the bluesy vocals; the guitar and percussion subtle and only building towards the finale. Vincent concurred adding, “It shocked us how good just having the raw piano on that track was. Piano was an element really new for our fan base but our audience is really enjoying this new addition; it’s definitely taken our music to a whole new level.”  Working the keys on Spinning was a longtime friend of Vincent, Konrad Thompson, who contributed both guitar and piano parts for the album and also performed at the CD Release. His piano on Enough brought the audience to a stunned silence.

Vincent’s bass composition on Enough and the delay effect guitar work by Scott Ramsay on Movin’ On was well executed. At times the production does compete on tracks like It’s All Good when dueling guitar melodies phase in and out on the stereo channels to compete with the vocals. The two standout tracks on the album are Wild Out and Superior. The latter is a satirical farce and the stage banter on this live was hilarious. Bobo hails from a small town in Iowa and intros the song by joking about the need for Botox, breast implants and butt pads in Hollywood versus the natural homegrown look. This song is the most radio-friendly because it’s one of those get-pissed-off-and-blast-it songs with a catchy chorus tag. Wild Out has a contemporary rock feel with a rapcore breakdown and you’ll hear this rapping added into the mix again on Don’t Want Nothin’. This was the literal show stopper for the live show at the release party, followed by an encore finale cover of Brickhouse that got the house dirty dancing.

Neverwonder is actively pursuing sponsorship and tour dates for the summer in the west coast region inland through Texas.

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