Alternative indie pop rock band Never Shout Never (aka Christofer Drew) and his fellow band mates have released more than 100 songs in the relatively short time that they’ve been a band. Last year, Drew delved into his back catalog and picked out a few fan favorites to rerecord for Recycled Youth
A "re-imagining of nine previously released songs but recorded with entirely new styles and instrumentation to make them unique once again,” the album was the first installment of what Drew, whose wispy, high-pitched voice can silence a noisy crowd of punk rockers, has said will be a regular series.
“We’ve been playing the music for so long and we wanted to do something that was different and fun and kinda quirky,” Drew told us at the time. “We wanted to get back to our roots a little bit and get back to the folky vibe. We just have so many old songs and we love them all and we still play them live.”
Eric Palmquist (Bad Suns, Night Riots, Wavves, Trash Talk) produced the album, which was sold as limited edition CD on the band’s Mid Winter's Nights Dream Acoustik Tour, which included a show at the Grog Shop.
“It was super chill,” says Drew via phone when asked about Recycled Youth
and the accompanying tour. “It was just a fan piece. We wanted to make something for the people who like to dive in deep. It got a cool reaction. We did an acoustic tour behind it and had some string players out for some of the shows. It was a scaled back tour. It was nice to revisit those songs. It’s definitely part of the first installment. We’ll just keep doing it and try to do one every year as a little icing on top for the fans.”
Last year, the band delivered its latest studio effort, Black Cat
. Drew began writing the songs that appear on the album in 2013. Then, in 2014, working over several months in Los Angeles with producer, Dennis Herring (Elvis Costello, Modest Mouse), Drew changed his approach to recording the album by welcoming both the band and Herring to write with him and embracing a pre-production process that helped them to shape and mold the songs before recording.
“I’ve been wanting to get the band more involved in the writing process for a long time,” says Drew. “Ever since 2011’s Time Travel
, I’ve been incorporating the band more. Initially, I wanted to make a point to give the guys some writing credits on the album. Want to make it more of a team project. I have so many side projects and solo work. Never Shout has become a band with some of my best friends. It’s fun to jam out songs with the guys and get their ideas."
He says he trusted producer Dennis Herring from the start.
“He’s a talented guy,” says Drew. “We hit it off pretty quick and started writing together and the stuff we wrote together worked out great. I just went with the flow. It wasn’t like it was my way or the highway. This is the first record where I just went with the flow. I’m glad I did that for that record. I don’t think I could do every record like that. I enjoy having full creative capability to do whatever I want without guidelines. I hint there needs to be a balance between doing it that way and doing it the other. It’s all learning. I personally feel that I have yet to make a record that I truly believe is great. It’s hopefully leading up to that.”
The album’s opening track, the snotty “Hey! We Ok,” features a piano riff and call-and-response vocals. It’s a righteous anti-anthem dedicated to anyone who feels like he or she just doesn’t fit in.
“I liked writing a song for people who don’t fit in and are different from the status quo,” he says. “It’s a dorky little song, but it’s fun and uplifting. It’s the first album in a while where I think our fans will listen to the songs and want to feel good. That’s not my favorite track. There’s not much depth to it, but it’s definitely a crowd favorite.”
“Fone Tag,” another uplifting tune, features a spirited bit of trumpet.
“That was a vocal melody that I had and we were trying to figure out the best music to accompany it,” says Drew. “The trumpet player from Capitol Cities came over and we busted it out. It worked really well.”
A song that Drew says he wrote when he was 18, the tender, acoustic “Peace Song” stands out as a genuine call for a better world.
“I remember the day I wrote that song,” says Drew. “It was a special day. I wrote three songs that day. It was one of the first times I wrote after smoking pot. I was at my parents’ house, and I was home alone. I told my mom I wrote three songs that day. That one made her cry and she always wanted me to record it. I wanted to do it in a genuine way.”
The loud guitars on “Woo Hoo" nearly overwhelm the vocals, and the song’s bridge features call-and-response vocals that sound like they’re being sung through a bullhorn.
“I recorded some of those vocals on an old radio mic,” he says. “We used analog vintage pre-amp stuff. I was trying to get the entire record more crunchy.”
The album represents another accomplishment for Drew, who started writing songs when he was only a teenager.
“My dad was always playing guitar and singing and stuff,” he says. “I grew up in a church setting so there was always music around. I played open mic nights when I was 14. I would get help from other people too. I worked up a couple of jobs and saved up for a MacBook and got Garageband on there. I worked on songs every day. I put a lot of hours into figuring it out and a lot of late nights drinking coffee and having no life.”
The incredibly prolific Drew says he’s even started recording the next Never Shout Never album.
“We started recording this last time we were home and took the reins back and we’re going to self-produce it,” he says. “It’s a conceptual piece and a little more psychedelic. We’re doing an animated movie that coincides with the record. It’s super fun. Who knows how it will turn out or how we’ll put it out. It took so long for Black Cat
to come out that we got antsy and we’re already over it and we want to make something more interesting. At least, that’s what we’re hoping to do.”
Never Shout Never, Metro Station, Jule Vera, Waterparks, Me Like Bees, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $18, houseofblues.com.