By Robin Moss
They’re loud, they’re fast and they want to be your friends.
Consisting of members Cary Hansen (vocals), Chris Peterson (guitar), Jordan Krawkzuk (bass), Devon Forbes (drums), and brothers Jared and Bryce Smith (keys and guitar respectively), Rival Town deliver tightly crafted “new wave” melodic pop punk.
Astonishingly, the band has only been together since April, but in that time they’ve released an EP, a single, two music videos, and a line of merchandise. And all before they’d even played their debut show.“We had it all under wraps, everything was shot, everything was recorded, merch was ordered. We wanted to hit the scene with kind of an overload,” says Forbes.
So far so strategic. But perhaps even more amazing is the fact that three of the guys have never played in a band before. “Everything just clicked,” says Smith. “The members in the band now are all the original members. Everybody was on board right out of the gate. We all came together and said let’s do this.”
Produced by Mark Governali at Decibel Audioworks, the four songs that make up the band’s stellar debut EP Deadlines and Milestones are lean, catchy, inventive, and expertly performed. Gone are the straight up Green Day-style, four-chord pop punk tunes of the early 2000s, replaced instead by dynamics, technicalities, and diverse instrumentation. Featuring thundering drums, chunky guitars, swathes of atmospheric synth, and Cary Hansen’s note-perfect tenor, the finished product is of an incredibly high quality. In fact, it’s rare that a new band on the scene arrive so fully realized and with such clear vision.
With titles like “Potential,” “Runner Up,” “Twenty Years,” and “Lie to Me,” it’s clear that themes of loss, regret, aging, heartbreak, and quarter-life crises inform a large part of their lyrical content.“Our songs are all about realizing that once you get past the 20s you’re not a kid anymore,” says Smith. “You’re a grown up and life hits you hard.You sort of yearn for the younger days and a lot of my songwriting is ‘what am I doing now?’ I still want to be young, we all do.”
Though still only in their late 20s, de facto band leaders Bryce Smith and Devon Forbes display a staggering level of self awareness, leadership, and drive, the result perhaps of having spent several years on opposite sides of the country cutting their teeth in a number of semi-pro bands. “We take ourselves really seriously, but we don’t want to come across like we take ourselves really seriously,” says Smith. “We just want people to have a really good time. Even if it’s the smallest venue in town we want you to feel like you just went to a rock show.”