Hometown: Somerville, Mass.
Members: Dwight Hutchenson (vocals/guitar), Jon Christensen (guitar), John Herter (drums) and Shaun Curran (bass)
Album: Electric Scenes
For Fans Of: Spoon, Walkmen, Television
Inside an old paper mill, Soft Pyramids write songs that slyly unfurl from asphalt-guitar figures to chandelier-flicker codas—all in less than four minutes. “As much as we love big-guitar rock songs, whenever we try to do it, it feels cheesy,” says singer/guitarist Dwight Hutchenson. “We can’t really seem to make ourselves do it.”
Other Soft Pyramids tunes find the Somerville, Mass., band exploring maraca-peppered melancholia, a la Spoon. Bassist Shaun Curran engineers and produces the band’s recordings. “What I like to do is make it sound, not over-produced, but like there’s magic,” Curran says. “Because I like to hear that in the recordings I listen to.”
Guitarist Jon Christensen and drummer John Herter met Hutchenson in 2009, when a singer/songwriter they were playing with asked him to help mix some recordings they’d been working on. After their bandmate moved on, Hutchenson, Christensen and Herter continued to work together—and keep the nifty two-story rehearsal space they’d been using—which they eventually remodeled and dubbed the Napoleon Complex.
Now, during Soft Pyramids’ recording sessions or rehearsals, Napoleon Complex is illuminated solely by red electric light emanating from Chinese lanterns the band hung overhead. “That place is my second home,” says Curran, who first bumped into Hutchenson at Charlie’s Kitchen in Cambridge. “We all live pretty close to it now, and I’ll often go there late at night. It’s like a glorified high-school kid’s basement, so we get to be children there.”
Soft Pyramids cut the basic tracks live. The rhythm section sets up on the first floor of Napoleon Complex, leaning on Herter’s elliptical patterns. In the loft overhead, the guitarists cast angular, Television-like lines, and Christensen’s leads can vary from the raindrop-arpeggios on “Prisoner’s Tune” (from Soft Pyramids’ 2011 EP Electric Scenes) to the blissed-out wrangling on “Dwightsnake.”
Yes, that was the working title for what ended up being Electric Scenes’ opening track. “We figured out you can’t have every (working title) be ‘New Song or New Song 2’ and someone came up with ‘Dwightsnake,’” Hutchenson says. “And when I finished the song, I can’t remember the name I came up with, but it just got this big veto, ‘No,
“Dwightsnake” is better.’ I thought some of the other songs would be the ones we put out to the blogs and stuff but that’s the one people latched onto. Which is sort of unfortunate because it doesn’t have a real name.”
What “Dwightsnake” did have was Walkmen-like propulsion and Hutchenson’s excellent, art-house-saunter vocals. “Dwight has the best work ethic of any person I’d ever played in a band with,” Curran says of his fellow songwriter. “He’ll play a part until it’s right, and as far as coming up with a vocal melody on the spot, it’s always good. And then he’ll keep trying different things until it’s really good.”