Band of the Day

2011.11.16

The Pharmacy

A blend of lo-fi vintage sounds with a frenetic and spontaneous spirit
What are you doing with your life?
lyrics from Waydwyl

The Pharmacy, from Seattle, are a lo-fi rock band following the footsteps of Washington State's Garage forefathers. The group consists of Scott Yoder (guitar, lead vocals), Brendhan Bowers (drums, backing vocals) and Stefan Rubicz (keyboards, backing vocals), and was formed in 2002 while Yoder and Bowers were in high school on Vashon Island, Washington. The Pharmacy's sound is typified by its use of lo-fi recording techniques in the spirit of ‘60s garage bands, including: heavy reverb, warm bass tones, fuzzy guitars and nasal vocals, as typified on their LP and 7'' record releases throughout their tenure. In 2008, they released the Choose Your Own Adventure LP on Don't Stop Believin' Records, and in 2010 they released the Weekend LP on Seayou Records.

The rural Washington locale of Vashon Island has had an odd mix of notable residents amongst its miniscule population. Alex Borstein (the voice of Lois Griffin on Family Guy) lives there, John Ratzenberger (Cliff from Cheers) started a school there—and now the bridgeless island can add lo-fi/psych-punk band The Pharmacy to the cultural mix. Its founding members, Scott Yoder (vocals/guitar) and Brendhan Bowers (vocals/drums) started making music together in high school, eventually rounding off The Pharmacy with the addition of Stefan Rubicz (vocals/piano/harpsichord). Since then, they've traded the tiny island for Seattle—save for a summer stint living in a home near Bayou St. John in New Orleans to record their most recent album The Weekend. Recorded using just a 4-track, used microphone, and reverb pedal, The Weekend has a lo-fi vintage feel that sounds inspired by bands like The Zombies and The Shangri-Las, but with the energy and spontaneity of grimy garage punk. Opening track “Coldest Morning Light” has a cool 60s mod feel, with high-pitched “woo-ooh-oohs” intermingling with handclaps over Yoder's slightly distorted shouts of “it's like the coldest morning light!” And with its prominent organ solo, that would make The Doors proud, you can imagine women in mini skirts and men with pointy-toed boots grooving along to it. Dipping their toes into the punkier edge of the pool, the short-but-sweet song “Clockwork” starts off with a rapid succession of tick-tock noises, before Yoder declares, “it's like clockwork!” A doo-wop inspired piano line tinkles alongside grungy, distorted guitar riffs, and the song manages to maintain its catchy and upbeat momentum throughout its short duration. With the addition of string orchestration, “Waydwyl” (which stands for “what are you doing with your life?”) is one of the most memorable tracks on the album. Although the lyrics are simple (it's mainly Yoder repeating the phrase over and over), you can hear the intensity in his voice—which is only further amplified by the lovely-yet-powerful build up of the strings and organ over a traditional rock set-up. Starting off with a booming bass drum, similar to a Phil Spector-produced 50s girl group, “My Business” is what happens when doo-wop asks punk for a slow dance, beneath a glittering disco ball over a sticky, beer-stained floor. There are tongue-in-cheek lines like “My mind is a beautiful thing/But I don't know if I can sing about it today,” wryly delivered by Yoder over shimmering piano and synth lines. Ending The Weekend is “It's Over”—the perfect ending to the album, and not just because of the song title. There's a sense of melancholy with lines like “it's over before it's even started, and now we're on our own!” layered with a dizzyingly distorted kaleidoscope of quavering organ and string lines. And just like Sundays will have you daydreaming about the following weekend before the day's even ended, “It's Over” will leave you wanting to immediately press the repeat button, and going through The Weekend over and over again.