Laguardia were touring the U.S. time and again in the company of outfits like Eyes Adrift, Bobby Bare Jr., The Brian Jonestown Massacre and others even before they had a label. WELCOME TO THE MIDDLE their debut album was recorded in Los Angeles this past Spring with producer Brad Wood (Smashing Pumpkins, Tortoise, Sunny Day Real Estate, Liz Phair, Red Red Meat…) Despite working in an elaborate studio with a name producer, the band stuck to essentials: great songwriting performed with passion and obvious skill. Main singer Joshua Ostrander points out: “We made such an effort to bring the live show to tape. We tried so hard to not overproduce the sounds.
We didn’t want to use four guitar tracks or five keyboard tracks when one or two would do. And I wanted my vocals to be totally dry and singular.” On the other hand the band members did take advantage of the studio situation to experiment and expand on certain ideas where they felt it was warranted. “We’re always trying to come up with new stuff in the studio: what can we add here? Or should it go this way? In the studio there’s time to think, evaluate, and even re-evaluate,” bassist Michael Morpurgo explains. All the group’s members had a hand in writing WELCOME TO THE MIDDLE, either individual songs or collaborations with one another. Songs like “Holy Ghost” and “Sex” are ambitious yet pithy sonic adventures charged with the palpable air of excited exploration, bursting with raw power to boot.
In this and other songs, the chiming guitar lines of Ostrander and lead guitarist Lee Bernstein circle one another with elegant ruthlessness, a fabulous Flamenco danced in zero gravity. Tracks such as “Banner” and “Sleep Over” are more relaxed, expansive and subtle, but still conceptually audacious and masterfully executed. Drummer Greg Lyons spins out sparse but consistently unorthodox rhythms, abetted by Michael’s deft and pointedly melodic bass playing here and through the length of the album. The first single, “Duct Tape,” begins deceptively calm with a reserved vocal and stately guitar arpeggios, but quickly picks up force and fire powered by especially primal drum pounding by Lyons and Ostrander’s singing which grows more and more frenzied by the line.
Every number has its own unique, determined agenda to promote in turn and the group delivers the goods with impressive ability and verve. Most importantly, all this exotica has been forged into an album that is undeniably seductive and intensely infectious. WELCOME TO THE MIDDLE is every bit as ambitious and infectious as the four envisioned when they first decided to work together as a group. Laguardia grew in part out of a reaction against some members’ past experiences as musicians. Morpurgo had spent some ten years playing hooky but raucous post-psychedelia in Philadelphia’s Dandelion, releasing two major label albums.
He met Joshua through a mutual friend in 1998 and the pair hit it off immediately. Two years later, they were playing together in Ty Cobb with survivors from another local outfit, Trip 66, who had been label-mates of Mike’s former group. Morpurgo began casually recording with Lee Bernstein, the younger brother of Ty Cobb guitarist Ryan, calling Josh in to help out. Soon afterwards, the trio decided to start a group of their own, Laguardia.
All they needed was a strong drummer, smart and technically adept enough to deal with the stylistically diverse, ambitiously composed songs. “We all answered the same,” Morpurgo chuckles, “GREG LYONS! Lee and Josh grew up watching him play in Trip 66 and I watched him grow into the stellar percussionist that he is. It only took one rehearsal (August, 2000) at some crappy rehearsal room in Southampton, Pennsylvania and we ALL knew that this was going to be that ‘something special.’” After putting themselves through a relentless rehearsal regimen, Laguardia made a conscious decision to make waves-and work out the bugs-outside their home town, undertaking a string of increasingly well received shows in New York. When they finally debuted back home in Philly, they were an immediate hit and proceeded to reach out to music lovers across the country, touring from Coast to Coast again and again with several pioneering bands including Interpol and Idlewild.
In Spring of 2003, they struck a deal with Republic/Universal Records and soon thereafter set to work recording WELCOME TO THE MIDDLE. The end result is every inch the “something special” Laguardia intended when they first convened in that crappy rehearsal space six years ago. Laguardia broke up shortly after the release of Welcome to the Middle. Leadman Joshua Ostrander and drummer Greg Lyons have teamed up with Vern Zaborowski on bass to form The Eastern Conference Champions. Read more on Last.fm.
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