If you didn't know better, you might think that Velvet Crush's "Teenage Symphonies to God" was a lost work from the late '60s. After all, such songs as "Hold Me Up," "Time Wraps Around You" or "Faster Days" boast the same kind of chiming guitars, tight harmonies and well-crafted choruses found on the Byrds' "Turn! Turn! Turn!" or the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds."
But Velvet Crush couldn't have made this album back then. For one thing, no one in the band would have been old enough.
"Actually, I think the last of us just turned 30," says bassist Paul Chastain, over the phone from his home in Providence, R.I. "But I think the reason we do this is that we heard this music when we were little, and we sort of clung to it. It stuck with us."
Velvet Crush isn't a retro act, exactly, as Chastain and his band mates (Ric Menck on drums and Jeffrey Borchardt on guitar) count alterna-rockers Matthew Sweet, Mitch Easter and the Gigolo Aunts among their peers. Still, Chastain wonders whether the band's music would mean much to younger listeners.
"I wonder if we're connecting at all with that age group," he says. "People closer to our age might get [the older influences] in our songs, but when you're appealing to people that are younger, they don't really have that background to draw on. So maybe we are anachronistic or something. Which might be to our detriment."
It's not as if the band tries to sound old-fashioned. "It's just the way we do it," says Chastain. "We never consciously set out to do it in a certain way; I don't know that many bands do. You just want to be good, and then you draw on certain things. "We worked with Mitch Easter on 'Teenage Symphonies,' and he was pretty helpful, helping us come up with sounds that work in the context of the songs. Certain things that maybe wouldn't seem right to somebody else seem right to us in that old-school way. Like when there's a lot of harmonies on a song, a cleaner guitar sounds better, like in a Byrds way.
"You just do what you think is right, and that comes from the palette that you've created for yourself from your likes over the years."
As for mass-market success, Chastain says he and his band mates have pretty much resigned themselves to the fact that the kind of rock they make isn't as popular now as it was 25 years ago. "The bands that I really am into from that era, they all made hit records," he says. "That was what it was all about. The Beach Boys made hit records. The Beatles made hit records. The Byrds made hit records.
"So I don't know. Obviously, we haven't written a hit single, as far as the '90s are concerned. But our sensibilities steer us in this direction. [Those bands] sound pleasing to us, and our writing ends up sounding more like that."
To hear selections from Velvet Crush's "Teenage Symphonies to God," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6134 after you hear the greeting.
Join the Crush
When: Wednesday, Jan. 11, 10 p.m.
Where: Club Midnite (2549 N. Howard St.)
Call: (410) 243-3535