Ex Cops will play on April 23 at the Bowery Ballroom, 7pm, $12 adv.; $14 d.o.s.
Despite the popularity of Phil Collins Day, you’d be hard-pressed to find an indie band sampling a Genesis song, particularly a track that’s not one of the veteran British rock group’s biggest hits. But that’s what Brooklyn’s Ex Cops did in using the hypnotic and dark-sounding percussive loop from “Mama” and it turned into an equally-arresting if mysteriously-titled track called “S&HSXX” to lead off their recent debut album True Hallucinations. As the band’s singer-guitarist Brian Harding told me last month while Ex Cops were on tour in Ohio, that song was born out of listening for samples on YouTube.
“That had been a song that I’ve always liked,” he said in a phone interview, “so I took it to a friend. We basically looped it for five minutes. The original version of that is five minutes long and we just found some cool synth sounds and it became something where I just thought it would be a cool introduction to the album because it sounds like nothing else on the whole album.”
He’s totally right about that. With the exception of “S&HSXX,” the rest of the songs on True Hallucinations is gorgeous-sounding indie pop–lo-fi, atmospheric and melodic. The group, founded by Brian and singer Amalie Bruun, crafts an exquisite 11-track work that remarkably clocks just above 30 minutes—it contains one terrific number after another: from the punkish rush of “Ken;” through the SoCal sensibility of “Spring Break;” and to the very trippy “Jazz and Information” and “The Millionaire.” Accentuated by shimmering guitar and lush vocal harmonies, Ex Cops’ music has been compared to British and New Zealand indie pop.
“We take it as compliments, but it’s not something that we put too much thought into,” Amalie said. “We come from different places musically. A lot of those bands Brian has never heard of, a lot of them I never heard of. It’s not something that’s necessarily true, but we take it as a compliment because those are great bands.”
Visually, Ex Cops in return pay a compliment to a legendary band in their video for “Ken”–the stark black-and-white clip is a homage to the Replacements video for their beloved “Bastards of Young.” “It’s a favorite video of mine,” explained Brian. And also providing a source of creative inspiration for the band comes courtesy of Craigslist for the quirky yet infectious song “Broken Chinese Chairs” “I was just looking for stuff from a while ago and that was one of the headlines,” Brian added. “It struck me that’s a bizarre thing to sell on Craigslist.”
Brian, who had previously been in the band Hymns, hails from North Carolina and has lived in New York City for about eight years; Amalie is from Denmark. The band has been in existence for over a year, said Amalie. “Brian and I met at a show in New York,” she said, “and sort of knew some of the same people. But then we started playing shows together and I slowly started to like him. (laughs) Then we became a band. We’ve known each other for four years now.”
At first, the two didn’t have much in common musically. “We come from two very different places,” said Amalie. “We did have one song that we kind of both liked to play, which is the Jesus and Mary Chain and Hope Sandoval.” “We kind of based our career on “Sometimes Always,”” Brian said, referring to the Jesus and Mary Chain song.
True Hallucinations is not just the band’s debut album; it also marks East Village record store Other Music’s initiation into the music business as a label. Ex Cops was one of its first signings. “I was a huge fan of their store like forever,” said Brian. “Since I was a teenager–as a tourist in New York–I’d always came there. I’d always ask the staff members for recommendations. I made this little EP and brought it there, they sold the EPs, they were coincidentally starting a label that month, so they called me and asked if we wanted to be the first band. I think it’s the best record store in New York.”
Meanwhile, the band is currently on tour that will run through May 8 in West Hollywood. “We loved to go to Europe,” said Amalie. “But first and foremost, we’re probably going to go to Australia and Japan, and hopefully we could do Europe.”
When I asked Brian and Amalie about the mention of both Neil Young and Neil Diamond as artists they like on their band’s Facebook page, a shared sense of humor–one that keeps them sane on the road, presumably–emerged:
Amalie: “I think it’s Brian being like tongue-in-cheek.”
Brian: “I do love Neil Diamond…I love them both.”
Amalie: “He loves them. I love Neil Young as like a whole–I don’t know–the concept of Neil Young and his songs and everything about him, but I don’t know how much it has to do with us musically.”
Brian: “It was kind of more of a bad pun.”
Amalie: “There’s a lot of that going on in the tour bus.”