Reviews

Places

Author: Amanda Mattos
09/27/2007 | DCist.com | www.dcist.com | Feature
We were as surprised as anyone to discover we had never done a Three Stars feature on Georgie James. With a big, heralded entrance onto everyone's radar last year fueled by lots of live shows and an EP that won the hearts of pop lovers throughout the city, they became one of D.C.'s premiere bands. The band is driven by Laura Burhenn and John Davis (formerly of Q and Not U), doing their best take on vocal-driven, 60s- and 70s-inspired pop-rock. They've headlined our own Unbuckled series, the Black Cat and the 9:30 Club, they've opened for international acts like Camera Obscura, and they're fresh off of a tour of the UK and about to embark on an even longer cross-country and international trek, landing home in November for a gig at the Black Cat.

This week, the band released their highly-anticipated full length, Places. Putting some serious, focused time into the album at Inner Ear's Silver Sonya Studio, they re-recorded six of their original seven songs ("Need Your Needs," "Long Week," "Hard Feelings," "Places," "Cheap Champaign," and "More Lights"), and recorded six new tracks. The most notable change from the original recordings is a stark upgrade in production value. You can hear the time and precision that went into each track on Places. Nothing's overpowered by a more prominent element; every instrument and voice is perfectly placed.

The album is beautifully organized, which makes it highly listenable. After it went into my CD player, it didn't come out for a few weeks. Great for singing along to while you drive with the windows down, the harmonies and wonderfully paced choruses are hard to deny. Opening up with "Look Me Up," a quick paced piece with a catchy guitar line and toe-tapping percussion, and all the way through to closer "Only 'Cause You're Young," which starts off with hand claps and keeps us interested all the way through, the album doesn't really have a low point. Stand outs are the new versions of "Long Week" (a Burhenn song) and "More Lights" (a Davis song), and new songs "Cake Parade" and "Comfortable Headphones." Burhenn's voice couples twee emotion deftly with a light bop for tunes that would make you cry if you weren't too busy bouncing up and down. From breakups to the war to urban living, the topics traversed on Places sound like a very D.C. conversation among friends. If you don't like pop music, you're not going to like Places. But if you do, pick it up and watch it rocket to the top of your most-played list. We caught up with Laura Burhenn over a few spare moments at home in between tour dates and talked about the new album, favorite tour destinations, and milkshakes.

Visit Georgie James online at: georgiejames.com or on MySpace at myspace.com/georgiejames

See them next at: The Black Cat on November 16

Buy their album at: Crooked Beat, Olssons, Amazon, Insound, iTunes or anywhere else you can find Saddle Creek artists.

Questions for Laura Burhenn of Georgie James

You guys are coming off of a slew of European dates. How was that experience? Any foreign travel anecdotes? Favorite places? Places never to return?

Touring in Europe was amazing, but a little short as we only got to do five dates in the UK, one in Rotterdam, and one in Berlin this trip. We really can't wait to get back this November to see our new-found friends again, and to make new ones in other cities all over -- we'll be there for about a month -- all over continental Europe and up into Scandinavia.

I personally loved Manchester. It had good vintage shopping, delicious Indian food on Curry Mile, and a great art museum, Urbis, with an exhibit on interactive guerrilla art in public spaces -- like masking taped and knitted graffiti, public pillow fights and subway parties, etc. -- and another great one on the Hacienda. It was cool to see the Hacienda exhibit in Manchester, where it lived and breathed and made a haven for some amazing music.

The only problem with tour is that you don't get to spend enough time in any one place. So there are cities I could absolutely adore. I just didn't get enough time to properly fall in love with them -- yet.

Those foreign dates marked the first part of an extensive tour. How do you guys prepare for touring? What are your must haves?

To prepare for tour, we try to sleep as much as possible, spend as much time as we can with the people we love, and remember to do laundry. You also end up with these endless lists of things to do: rehearse, buy new guitar strings, get all the gear in order, make sure we have all the merch in place, etc., etc.

How are you touring van? Bus? Is your whole band coming with you?

We're touring in our cozy little van. Our band, Michael Cotterman, Paul Michel, and Andrew Black, will be with us as well as the very talented and wonderful Shervin Lainez, who will be tour-managing and photo-documenting the trip.

Georgie James rocketed into recognition in the D.C. area pretty quickly; have you found good crowds in other cities too? What's reception like beyond our fair city?

We've met some great people in other cities and are looking forward to meeting a ton more this fall. Everyone's been really receptive. You have general geographical differences to how the crowds respond (some parts of the country are fold-your-arms-and-nod-your-head kinda crowds, other parts are throw-your-whole-body-into-it kinda crowds), so you learn to appreciate the differences and not take it personally when not everyone's singing along. Some people are not singers-along by nature.

What are you most excited about with the new album? Any stand out tracks? Improvements from the EP?

I'm most excited that the album is finally done and out to the public! It's been a long trek to get here -- and we're still just at another beginning again. All the songs that were on the EP have been completely re-recorded, except for "Aftermath," which is only available on the digital U.S. "Need Your Needs" single and the UK "Need Your Needs" 7" record, and we're much happier with these versions. We took the time to flesh out all the harmonies and extra percussion and guitar parts and all the minor little details, some of which you won't hear 'til the fourth or fifth listen. I personally think all the tracks are stand-outs, so I'm probably the wrong person to ask.

How was your experience recording Places different from recording your EP? Were more resources available to you now that you're on Saddle Creek?

We recorded a lot of the EP on our own (in our practice space on a lap top) and did it pretty quickly. "Places" was done over a two-month period (we thought it'd only take two weeks!) at Silver Sonya with the help of Chad Clark and TJ Lipple, who are brilliant. We really took our time with the full-length to make sure the songs were given all the TLC they needed. And we recorded "Places" before we ever talked to Saddle Creek, so that relationship didn't play into the way the record was made. That said, we're elated to be working with Saddle Creek. Couldn't be happier.

I've heard pretty universally positive things from people who've recorded at Silver Sonya. Did you guys enjoy working there?

We loved working with them. They're amazing guys. Not only are they committed to making the best records possible, they're talented, super smart, fun -- and funny. And you have no idea how important that is when you're spending weeks/months on end with people in a confined space -- sometimes 'til 5 in the morning or later.

Any last minute D.C.-stops you'll be sure to make before embarking on your tour?

I've been craving a milkshake from the Diner like nobody's business. I'd also like to see the Hopper exhibit, but am trying to find a day/time when it's not filled to the brim with tourists.

Where are you most excited to play? Any venues or towns you've played in the past you're looking forward to?

I'm psyched to play the first shows with Ted Leo particularly the Canadian dates. And I'm definitely looking forward to L.A. on Halloween. We're still trying to figure out a good band costume...
Places

Places

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