Searching for Sound

event silent comedySan Diego folk/rock outfit, The Silent Comedy, gets loud

When discussing the differences between The Silent Comedy’s live and studio sound, Josh Zimmerman could very well be talking about two separate bands.

“We’ve always come across much more rock ’n’ roll when we play in front of people,” the bassist and vocalist says. “And then when we go into the studio, it’s always come out on the other side sounding very flat [by comparison]. So we’ve been wanting to capture that rock energy, the bigness of the sound from the live show, and just haven’t been able to yet.”

But they are getting closer. The band’s latest release, the Friends Divide EP, harnesses more of that raucous, raw live sound they have been trying to replicate in the studio. The gritty, Americana/rock track “Light of Day” is filled with impassioned cries from Zimmerman, and “Always Two” sounds like it was recorded in a spooky alleyway. Zimmerman attributes this to the efforts of producer Frenchie Smith.

“We were doing a lot of one-off sessions with different producers who have a buzz in the industry, but each time we would do one of those sessions, we really weren’t happy with how the songs came out,” Zimmerman says. “In the middle of all that, we ended up doing a session with Frenchie Smith, and the kind of electricity we had in the room, the ideas he had, really pushed us to expand the sonic palette of the band. So the one song we did with him ended up turning into the EP because we were so excited about the sound we were getting.”

The collaboration has led to many pleasant surprises, including The Silent Comedy’s first single, “God Neon”—a stomper of a rock track filled with hip-shaking swagger. While nowhere on the EP is the band’s energetic live sound more apparent, the band did not expect “God Neon” to become a single.

“We thought stuff on the folkier side, like ‘Simple Thing,’ would get people’s attention right away,” says Zimmerman. “It’s very inviting and more uplifting than a lot of our material, so we thought that was going to be the one people would absorb the quickest. I didn’t think ‘God Neon’ would be the song people would gravitate toward right off the bat, so that’s been a big surprise for us.”

Many things have caught the band off guard in the past few years. In addition to “God Neon” getting heavy radio play in Southern California, the band has toured with ZZ Ward, opened for Dave Matthews Band, and had its songs appear on multiple History Channel miniseries. Not only are these surprises continuing to happen, but sometimes they feel downright surreal.

“We’ve had a lot of weird situations where we’re recognized in public in environments you might not expect,” Zimmerman says with a laugh. “I was in L.A., at a Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake show, and I got recognized at The Rose Bowl multiple times, which is not normally the environment I would think people would pick me out of a crowd. So those things are a bit absurd and strange, but we feel like we’re still the same band we’ve always been, and we’re just trying to get incrementally better as time goes on.” 

The Silent Comedy will perform at 9 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15, at The Catalyst Atrium, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10/adv, $12/door. For more information, call 423-1338.

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