Classixx Traveled the World and Soul-Searched for Sophomore Album 'Faraway Reach'
Listen to Brian Eno's song “On Some Faraway Beach,” and the last thing you'll think about is Classixx. It's not played on synthesizers, but rather a real piano along with drums and guitars. The melodies are lush and build dramatically, but it's still downtempo. Then the lyrics come in. “Given the chance, I'll die like a baby on some faraway beach, when the season's over. Unlikely I'll be remembered, as the tide brushes sand in my eyes, I'll drift away...”
Pretty bleak stuff, and yet, Classixx latest LP, Faraway Reach, is titled in reference to that emotionally turbulent song. Eno is a musical hero of Classixx' Tyler Blake and Michael David, two best friends since 6th grade who grew up listening to the same misfit music in one another's rooms.
Those years of broad taste-making paid off, though. Faraway Reach is a beautiful amalgamation of people, places, styles, and feels. It's more finely polished than the duo's debut, Hanging Gardens, on which they spent years trying to get enough original material for an album. This time, they were able to be more selective. Where Hanging Gardens was proof of aural concept, Faraway Reach is a cohesive thought, the result of two years well spent toward a more focused vision.
“I think it was easier this time,” Blake says. “Each time you do something, I think you learn from your mistakes, whatever you didn't like about what you've done before.”
On the surface, this album is smart, sexy, and fun-loving, the perfect soundtrack to any sunbathed shore or day at sea, but dig a little closer, and the Eno influence is there. There's melancholy hidden throughout its shimmer, much in the manner of The Smiths, another band the duo pays homage to in the video for “Whatever I Want” with T-Pain.
“I've always liked that deeper emotion in the lyrics when the music is upbeat, and the other way around, too,” Blake says. “It's not something that we necessarily intend to happen, but when it does, it's pretty cool.”
Faraway Reach is as much New Order as it is Hall and Oats, at once joyfully optimistic and lyrically downtrodden – not that the guy's can take full credit. Classixx collaborated with eight singer-songwriters across three continents to round out most of the album's 12 funky instrumentals.
“The goal was really to visit a lot of different places,” Blake says, “and work with a lot of different people that were very different from each other. (We wanted) our music to be the thing that ties it all together.”
The duo got up close and personal with Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos, bunkering down in his Manhattan living room to write and record “Safe Inside.” It's a moment Blake calls “the most honest, intimate vocal on the record.” They also traveled to Syndey, Australia, and took a back-to-roots journey to South Africa to get in tune with David's birth country. There, they caught up with his family and made time to record the lustrous hip-shaker “Ndivile” with Zulu singer-songwriter Nonku, a song that “holds a very special place on the album,” Blake says.
Last Saturday at the @elreytheatre was the culmination of untold hours and tireless work from a lot of collaborators. We've been extremely fortunate to work with kind and talented people on this, and we can't wait for everyone to see the show!! Tour dates coming soon! Shoutout: @redbulllax @sleevesmith @julaaay @katiegdavid #farawayreach
South African percussion is peppered throughout to give extra exoticism to an album full of playful rhythms. Songs like “Just Let Go” make you want to jump up and down, even as How To Dress Well sings about overcoming pain and suffering. In retrospect, much of the album seems referential to the title in that way. There's an overall theme of reaching; reaching for a loved (“Eyes on You”), for self-confidence (“Whatever I Want”), for happier days (“Fine Times”). In hindsight, Blake finds it captures his own feelings on the recording process.
“It's not like we're a band that writes the songs, then sing the songs, then records the songs,” he says. “We have to make this music, then try to find somebody to sing the songs, (then) try to get the time for us to get together or get them motivated to do it. It always kind of seems like this far thing that you're reaching for, but it finally comes together and when it works, it feels really good.”
Basking in the finished product is as sweet as a day on a beach. Blake and David are excited to take it on the road, along with a brand-new live set and visual performance. Animations of the album's collaborative singers will hopefully bring their presence closer to fans in the crowd, and just hearing the music play might transform a dark club into a sunny Southern California shore. In that way, Classixx have success in their hands, because with Faraway Reach, they've certainly arrived.
Jul 16 – Los Angeles, CA – KCRW's Sound in Focus
Jul 24 – New York, NY – Panorama Festival
Jul 29 – Montreal, Canada – Osheaga
Jul 31 – Chicago, IL – Lollapalooza
Aug 06 – Buena Vista, CO – Vertex Festival
Aug 13 – Somerset, WI – Summer Set Festival
Aug 14 – San Diego, CA – Valley View Casino Center
Aug 16 – Salt Lake City, UT – Rockwell @ The Complex
Aug 27 – Los Angeles, CA – FYF