Over a couple of afternoon beers at Dee's Café, Nic Snyder and Josh Sickels of The Takeover UK are discussing their musical influences when a daytime drinker in a dirty T-shirt interjects. "I heard you say something about '60s pop -- I was 20 years old then," the man says, launching into a slurred treatise on the music of the pre-Beatles era. "It was a different thing then," he says, dropping a string of vulgarities and racial slurs as examples of things you didn't hear in music back then. "You didn't disrespect anybody," he says vehemently, before wandering off.
Snyder and Sickels nod sagely, despite the fact that It's All Happening, their debut EP on the heavyweight Rykodisc label, carries a parental-advisory sticker. "It's kinda embarrassing whenever you show your album to your parents," says Snyder, one of the band's two vocalists and guitarists. "I just figure that's the way people talk. That's at least the way we talk."
"Our EP only says 'fuck' once or twice," says Sickels, the band's drummer, adding that it wasn't a big deal to make clean versions for radio. As Snyder jokes, "It's not like watching Die Hard on TBS."
But life for the members of the local band -- which includes vocalist and guitarist Mark Solomich and bassist Adam Shash -- does seem likely to get a lot more action-packed. Right now, they're another hopeful rock band living with parents and holding down day jobs. But they plan to tour heavily here and overseas when the full-length album Running with the Wasters drops this fall.
It's All Happening is intended to introduce the band to the world, offering a taste of what's to come. Over the five hook-laden songs, The Takeover UK welds gravelly Clash guitars to pop melodies influenced by the band's beloved Beatles, brought to life through Snyder and Solomich's snarling twin vocals. You'll also catch touches of '60s-pop production, like the tinkling glockenspiel on "Lean On It" and the children's choir, sax and handclaps on the celebratory closer "Don't Wait Up."
Recorded at the Monster Island studio in New York, the EP and full-length were cut live to tape -- a method rare today, since it's more costly and difficult than software-based recording, but one thought to provide subtle old-school sonic properties. "We just wanted to bash it out, no click track, just primal pop-rock," says Sickels. The band finished recording in October 2007, but not before running up a huge tab resulting in a "hostage situation" the members are reluctant to discuss, and having to go back to the label for more money to bail them out.
"We're not too good at practicing self-control," admits Snyder. "Every night we'd go out and get hammered, and come in and be hung over." They are good, however, at the combination of gumption and brash hustle that has gotten them to the point of having a fighting chance in the music business.
The band officially started in June 2004 -- the day after vocalist and guitarist Solomich graduated from Boston University, returning to Pittsburgh to join the rest of the members. All knew each other from high school and stints in various local outfits, and they'd been trading demo tapes, writing songs and laying the groundwork for some time.
The basic idea was "Let's play music -- and let's do it for our careers," says Sickels. As the band developed from a more mellow, twangy style into its current high-octane roar, the members also tried to integrate themselves into the local scene, alongside more established bands like Camera, Shade and Black Tie Revue.
"We were just kids from the suburbs, they didn't know who we were," says Sickels (most of the band hails from the Irwin area), but before long, they were sharing the same stages. Nowadays, "we're friends with bands, but we've always made a point that we want to pave our own way." Part of that route was touring cross-country with Juliana Theory and Zao, who also hail from the Irwin/Greensburg area. A year later, in the fall of 2006, a contact from that tour offered to secure the group a residency at an Los Angeles club.
"We were like, 'Well, we can sit in Pittsburgh and keep playing the same clubs, or put what little money we have together and just go out to L.A.," says Snyder. The band slept on floors a couple of months, playing shows, but failed to attract much industry attention until the last day, when they met their future manager. "We went back to Pittsburgh, and within a month he made it happen," says Snyder. "He put us up in the studio to record our demo, and then from there he just started being our manager, getting a hold of a ton of hot labels." Numerous label showcases in New York led to signing with Rykodisc in March 2007.
"It's basically just a lot of hustling, man, just getting out of Pittsburgh," says Sickels. "You've just got to get out, or you're never going to get anywhere." Snyder quaffs his beer and offers a little barstool philosophy: "You basically have to shrug off every single responsibility that normality would give you."
The Takeover UK with Triggers and DJ Huck Finn. 10 p.m. Thu., May 22. Lava Lounge, 2204 E. Carson St., South Side. $5. 21 and over. 412-431-5282
- Ready for their close-up: The Takover UK