Akron's Librarians With Hickeys to Release Full-Length Debut on Friday

click to enlarge GRACE CARMEN
Grace Carmen
All four members of the Akron-based power-pop act Librarians with Hickeys have crossed paths over the years. A few of them even played together in various bands. But all four never played together in the same band until 2016.

After forming, the band would only play a couple of shows a year until 2018 when the group independently released “Until There Was You,” a catchy power-pop song that showcases the twin guitars and vocal prowess of Ray Carmen and Mike Crooker.

Based on that single, Big Stir Records founder Christina Bulbenko signed the band to her L.A.-based label, and the label will issue the band’s full-length debut, Long Overdue, on Friday.

“She heard our song on a radio station in Ireland, of all places, which was playing it, and wanted to release another single with us,” says Crooker via phone. “We did [the 2019 single] ‘Black Velvet Dress’ for them in 2019, and then, they asked if we wanted to release an album. We couldn’t say yes fast enough.”

Long Overdue is available for preorder at bigstrrecords.com/storenow.

The band draws from acts such as the Beatles, the Byrds, Big Star, Teenage Fanclub and the Posies, and “That Time Is Now” sparkles with guest vocals from L.A.-based pop chanteuse Lisa Mychols. “Be My Plus One,” a song about seeing the Baseball Project perform at the Happy Dog, recalls current power pop greats such as Nada Surf and the Posies, and “Obsession” has a Byrds-like quality to it.

Farfisa organ drives the rollicking “Leave Me Alone,” a tune that features a French telephone operator. The song was originally just an “aside,” but when the other band members heard it, they ran with it. Because the song initially just came to a dead stop, Crooker dug into his file of samples and threw it onto the tune’s end.

“We all survived the '70s and '80s and grew up listening to bands like the Raspberries and 20/20,” says Crooker. “When it came time to write stuff together, it led us in that direction.”

When the label asked the guys to cut the album at the end of 2019, they played a couple of shows, and after a gig in February at the Kent Stage, they were going to finish the album. The pandemic hit, but the record was mostly done, so the group just had to add the finishing touches.

“[The shutdown] actually made for a better record because I was able to spend the time working on it non-stop,” says Crooker. “Because we had some extra time, we’d ask how many extra handclaps we could add to it. I wouldn’t recommend it as a motivational factor going forward, but it turned out okay given the circumstances. We had it mastered by Jeff Koval at Sta Level Recording in Akron. He helped put the shine on it.”

The pandemic put a damper in the album’s roll out, but Crooker says the guys are doing their best to give it the push it needs. "That Time Is Now" has picked up some momentum and was just played on Rodney Bingenheimer's Rodney on the Rock show on Little Steven's Underground Garage SiriusXM channel.

“There’s no road map for putting out a record during a pandemic,” says Crooker, adding that the band has already recorded a music video for "Black Velvet Dress" that'll likely come out later this year. “If it weren't for the pandemic, we would be playing shows, but we’ve had to shift gears and do more online and virtual stuff. I haven’t even seen the rest of the band since our last show in February. We have all tried to pull on our online connections and stuff like that, but there’s not much else you can do. It’s all new for everybody.”

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