When you grow up around your idols, whether they're world-famous rock stars or just your way cooler, older brother, they're bound to make an especially deep impression. And when members of the rock quintet Envy on the Coast were going through their teens, their Long Island homeland was also going through its own musical growth spurt.
Since the 1990s, the area has produced a pack of heavy alternative, pop-punk and emo/screamo bands such as Glassjaw, Brand New and Taking Back Sunday. The not-yet-Envy guys witnessed them getting bigger and hotter. Inspired by the influence and success of these neighboring groups, Envy opted to give music a go in 2004.
The band's 2007 debut full-length album Lucy Gray (named after a Wordsworth poem) was the first official release on Photo Finish Records. It helped start a buzz for the label, which has since made friends with Alternative Press magazine. The two joined forces to produce last year's Press Play: Volume 1, a compilation of newcomers such as Envy, as well as established bands including The Used and Dillinger Escape Plan.
With song elements varying in style and pace, Lucy Gray confirms that Envy can't really be lumped in the often-easy-to-pigeonhole genre of emo. Songs grow sharply from soft, flourishing riffs into booming choruses of guitar noise and screaming vocals, then bleed into graceful two-part harmony. The band's sound is musically aggressive but classically structured, fronted by vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Ryan Hunter.
Where many bands fiddle with the dynamics of guitar and rhythm tempos, Hunter uses keyboards: "Mirrors" features a simple piano intro, and "Sugar Skulls" has a heavy organ banging in the background throughout. Both songs allow the keyboard to dictate its direction.
The rest of the album contains rockers, ballads and complex combinations of the two. Lucy Gray was recorded over a period of several weeks, while the band holed up in an upstate New York cabin during the dead of winter -- conditions which left the members no choice but to focus on every detail. With a promising debut and an already-large following, Envy on the Coast has been added to the ranks of the New York scene they once so envied.
Envy on the Coast with The Sleeping, The Secret Lives of the Free Masons, You the Symphony, and The Gay Blades. 7 p.m. Sat., Aug. 23. Mr. Small's Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $12. All ages. 412-821-4447