By: Zachary Kolesar, In The Record Store staff writer.
Doc Robinson, the Columbus duo of Nick D’Andrea and Jon Elliott, presents a different challenge when trying to review its music. Each song contains the essence of primed pop tunes, but the texture varies from track to track. Priming for the release of a debut studio album, Doc Robinson holds true to their formula of not having a formula with the album’s single “I’m Not Gone.”
When the group released its debut single “It’s Over” at the start of summer 2016, it was a delicately-layered, triumphant breakup song; a song with great genre crossover appeal. A few months later, Doc Robinson collaborated three more songs spawned from D’Andrea and Elliott’s first studio session and released the “Golden Daze” EP.
Each song is set in a totally different soundscape, but I came to realize that the care and craftsmanship put into each track was the link between each Doc Robinson song. The project continued with the upbeat positive vibes radiated from “It’s Over,” but most noticeably, the intricate studio work and attention to detail continued to prove what make Doc Robinson such a great musical experience.
It is a strange way to describe the rapidly-evolving band, as they came together from two well-established Columbus acts — Nick D’ and The Believers and The Floorwalkers — and are always collaborating with a congregation of Columbus musicians. With inspiration coming from so many directions — My Morning Jacket, Fleetwood Mac, The Shins — Doc Robinson’s latest single, “I’m Not Gone,” keeps airy vibes alive, but does so at a slower tempo than the first batch of Doc Robinson songs.
“I’m Not Gone” is proof of the rapidly evolving progression in Doc Robinson, who plan to release a debut studio album this upcoming May, one year after the release of the band’s first song. D’Andrea describes it as capturing the soul of Mayer Hawthorne, and nothing can attest more to that than the soothing saxophone outro that closes out the three-and-a-half-minute track.
Because D’Andrea and Elliott made me realize that it is senseless to label Doc Robinson as any one brand, here is some insight that the two had on the upcoming record in a conversation we had a day before the album’s debut single was released.
On what's different from “Golden Daze."
D’Andrea: The more time we've been spending in the studio with the songs, we keep adding on these new layers where a song can go from a confessional Americana song to adding a lot of strange guitars and string parts being ran through pedals. A lot of experimentation has gone down where we're referencing a lot of bands we love from growing up that didn’t necessarily fit the Motown thing.
Elliott: It's hard for us not to — when we're doing a bunch of layering, a ton of vocals and things like that — reference '60s throwback stuff. We bring up Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Fleetwood Mac a lot. Also, nowadays, stuff like Bon Iver where they layer vocals, they do so in a way that's really melodic...using some effects and using some unconventional melody in the harmony, which is actually really more about using the studio as a band member. You have to do some of that stuff on the fly for it to. Happy accidents: things you can't do unless you try it.
On not setting boundaries in the studio.
D’Andrea: I think a big component of that too is the collaboration factor because everyone's kind of bringing their own flavor to it, so by the time the track is down, it's got a little bit of everybody on it. So the possibilities of where a song goes are only limited to who we collaborate with. A few days ago we brought in Adrien from New Thousand, a really cool violin player, and had him just put some of his own ideas down on a few tunes we had for the album, and it kind of took them in a whole new direction where it was a whole new element that hadn't been there before. I think a big part of our philosophy is letting that happen, where we're not tightly controlling what the sound has to be, we're just open to the possibilities of what everyone brings to it.
Elliott: We definitely aren't trying to fit anything into any cookie cutter-type situation. The song is always king... We've been doing this long enough to where we have a pretty good honest support group that will tell us what they like and what they don't like. We do plenty of market research in demo form, which helps to have people around you that won't sugar coat it. So when we do get a little creative and it works, it's a good feeling to know we just took a shot at something and it's something we personally find groovy.
On finding inspiration from local artists.
D’Andrea: Essential I think. It's been really cool, as people have played on the songs more, where they start to get really invested. Like, "Hey man, keep sending me the mixes as you're going.” Originally, they come in and are just playing on the songs, and there's an emotional investment that happens with the tunes where you're getting everyone's feedback on it and they're committed to making the songs great, and it really makes a huge difference.
Elliott: And plus we're having these guys, we're putting them to work. We realize that we are very fortunate to have some of these guys showing up and stepping up and singing backing vocals when we need them to and stepping up for hand claps. It's an extra hour at the studio to do certain things like that, and it's the extra time that we're grateful for them, and I think Nick said it, the emotional investment is one thing, time investment is another thing, and for us to have these guys musically interested in how the final product is going to sound. It's been a lot more quality control because we trust everybody's musical prowess. If one of the guys says, "I think we can take the tempo up a little bit," I'm like, "Alright, let's see what it sounds like." I feel like all of us are plugged into the same thing.
NOTE: Doc Robinson will perform live on Good Day Columbus (WTTE FOX 28). Saturday, January 28th, 2017 at 8:45am. Join us with this fantastic band).