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The indie rock Merseybeat of the Gregarious Oranges

Orange rhymes

Gregarious Oranges isn't cookie cutter music. Photo courtesy of Facebook

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In The Last Waltz, the Band describes how they landed on their nondescript name. After trying out on-the-nose names such as the Honkies, and being in the middle of a typhoon of bands named things like Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Electric Prunes, and the Chocolate Watchband, Robbie Robertson and company threw up their hands and decided to call themselves the Band. After all, what more do you really need to know?

The Gregarious Oranges may have a name that calls to mind the psychedelia of the late '60s, but their sound recalls a period in music that came almost a decade earlier. Drawing from the Merseybeat sound of the early '60s - which included early Beatles, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Herman's Hermits in their ranks - the Gregarious Oranges sound like they came beamed in from an era that predated not only the psychotropic revolution, but the general inclusion of R&B that eventually made rock and roll what we know it today.

"As a kid, I kind of didn't like the Sixties music, growing up," says bassist Joe Hayes. "And then, I had this thing where I started listening to it, and it became the best thing in the world to me. And I said, ‘Wow, I want to do something like that.' They became my idols."

Eventually, Hayes would join up with school friends Howard Turner and Will Chi to form the Gregarious Oranges when they were still in ninth-grade. Five years later, the Gregarious Oranges still look quite young, but their skills at recreating the Merseybeat sound (or "mercy beat," as they winkingly call it) have come quite a long way.

"We were all friends who just started out loving music," says Hayes. "We went to the same music class. ... As soon as we started the band, I knew it was the thing I wanted to do. It was like a calling, and I was only in ninth-grade."

Their recent LP, Moonlight, is strongly reflective of their penchant toward the early '60s, but there are modern touches thrown in. Hayes and Turner trade lead vocal duties, and their modern indie rock side tends to take the foreground when Turner takes the mic. The bouncy, swooning "Beautiful Woman" takes cues from Merseybeat, with its light, driving beat, but the general sound of it could've come from the early '00s indie renaissance.

Love is a preoccupation on Moonlight, touching on all of the classic themes that began to arise in the boon of early pop music. The aforementioned "Beautiful Woman" finds our protagonist utterly baffled how such a perfect woman could end up with such a lousy guy. The next song, Hayes takes the lead on "Tell Me That You Love Me Too," which embodies the sort of hard-edged, gut-shot emotion that the music of the early '60s doesn't often get credit for.

In music, it can become a trap to find yourself looking behind you too much. Being nostalgic for the music of the past is helpful, to a point, but it can become stifling. Similarly, looking only to the future is a pitfall that catches its share of narcissists and egomaniacs. Staying in the same spot encourages a static music scene; a way to find success is to have the ability to deftly juggle the past and the future, which the Gregarious Oranges handle with aplomb. No one wants to be a tribute band, which is what they'd end up sounding like, if their Merseybeat fascination wasn't tempered with tuneful indie rock.

Why did they call themselves the Gregarious Oranges? I forgot to ask. Maybe because Marshmallow Overcoat was taken.

GREGARIOUS ORANGES, w/ Lazer Fox, Where My Bones Rest Easy, Mi Amore Cadenza, Crisis Arm, Airs, 10 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 12, Le Voyeur, 404 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia, no cover, 360.943.5710

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