by Adam McGrath
The Technicolors have been honing their particular brand of guitar rock while relentlessly touring the country over the past two years. Their debut album Listener draws a straight line through the past 40 years of rock history, but still has a decidedly forward-leaning sound.
As the band slid into their set at Milkboy Philly Saturday night with album opener “Again”, it was evident that their time on the road had allowed the band to crystallize into a tight-knit ensemble. Lead singer Brennan Smiley is also an excellent guitar player, and he likes it loud. Sometimes it was difficult to hear Smiley over the heavy unison parts with guitarist Mikey Fanizza and bassist Mike Nicolette that characterized much of the set, and the shoebox that is Milkboy’s music room didn’t do them any favors.
From speaking with Smiley about a week before the show, I knew that he enjoyed and emulated some of the great rock acts of the 20th century. “All of us are big fans of older, classic music,” he says. “In my opinion, there were certain things that were being done better back then. I enjoy paying homage to and drawing inspiration from older music.”
Smiley has been involved with music his whole life. From a two-year-old playing drums (until a Batman obsession sidetracked him at three) to starting guitar lessons at ten, Smiley learned from his father, who was a musician and producer. Smiley took trips with his father to Nashville during his formative years, and played on several records his father produced.
“Him bringing in those Nashville session guys opened up a whole new standard of playing,” Smiley says. “Being introduced to that high level of musicianship early on, just being around it, seeing what’s expected of you as a career musician, really influenced me and got me excited about really trying to get good at something.”
That work ethic served Smiley well once he made the transition from writing and recording artist to full-blown rock performer. With The Technicolors, he’s learned that being a touring musician is not about being perfect.
“The most important thing for me is to not get too worked up about little things,” Smiley says of life on the road. “If you’re expecting it to be something that you’re totally going to be on top of, random things are gonna pop up and not every show is gonna go how you want it to go.”
I’m sure one of the challenges of touring Smiley alluded to is drawing a steady crowd. I have to call out Philly rock fans for not turning out to Saturday’s show. During The Technicolors’ set and even into the headliner DTCV, there were barely 20 people at the club. And a little rain is certainly no excuse. You should kick yourself for missing out on the band’s gem of a cover, Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” Their version maintains the haunting quality of the original, and offered a nice change of dynamics midway through the set.
Things ramped back up with the hit “Sweet Time”, and the energy kept up through closer “Hollywood.” Fanizza broke out a baritone guitar, which allowed the band to play the same riff in three octaves, hammering home their musical point of view in watertight unison.
It might seem that rock music is on a recent upswing, but The Technicolors are proof that it never went away. Smiley told me, “I don’t think rock ever died. Maybe in the pop world, the trends, it went away for a little bit, but if you’re in a rock ‘n’ roll band, you don’t care about that. If that’s the kind of music that you write, you’re not too concerned with that. As far as I’m concerned, it never needed a rebirth.”