To say that the Borders Corporate Office was filled with a plethora of talented and creative people would be an understatement. Within its walls were artists, writers, poets, musicians, actors…the list goes on. I didn’t really know Chris Richards was in a band until he left the company though. One of my colleagues had an album called The Sad Sounds of the Summer on his desk and I was intrigued. I went back to my desk, listened to it, and gushed about it when I returned it. It wasn’t until then that I put two and two together. After that, I needed to hear more, so I went on a quest to find Mystery Spot. When I finally got my hands on it, I was just as satisfied. Both of those albums were filled with the most infectious power pop I’d heard in a long time. Listening to it just made me happy. In fact, in terms of local Michigan artists, I hadn’t heard a band that affected me this much since the days of Frank Allison & the Odd Sox.
Chris Richards and the Subtractions put out a new album this year entitled Get Yer La La’s Out and it’s filled with tunes that should be considered as the gold standard of power pop music. If you haven’t heard of Chris Richards and the Subtractions yet, you’re in for a treat.
Chris recently sat down and answered some questions for my Friday 5 Questions with… feature. Below are his answers.
Chris Richards and the Subtractions on the set of their music video for “It’s Something”
There’s just something extremely fun and genuine about your music. What goes into making your brand of power pop?
It’s all about melodies for us. I generally will start with a guitar hook that immediately writes the melody. Once that happens the rest is gravy- bring the song to the boys and we establish a “feel”. We have a lot of up tempo songs but honestly they all begin somewhat in the creepy realm of ballad-ville. We tend to demo most of our songs in my basement studio so by the time we set out to record them officially- they’re pretty well vetted. The key to making a band work is you all have to be on the same page…and I’m in that perfect place now.
How do you see your sound evolving from Mystery Spot and Sad Sounds of the Summer to your new album?
I like that you picked up on that. Mystery Spot was a fun record to make as I had a ton of songs and made a bunch of different bands from people I have recorded with over the years (Hippodrome, The Pantookas and what would eventually become the Subtractions). We had no rules so anything went. Sad Sounds was a very easy album to write and record. The songs came to me rather quickly and you could tell once we started rehearsing them they really worked well for the band. Get Yer La La’s Out was a kind of a tough record for us to finish. I wanted to apply the standard power pop sheen to the songs but for whatever reason that approach really frustrated me. So I eventually just let the record become a harder record with less melody guitars and harmonies that you would find all over the previous two records. The other bit of the evolution we really like happens to be almost every review states that each record is better than the previous and they all really loved Mystery Spot. So we must be doing something right.
For folks who might not be familiar with your band, fill in the blank. If I like Matthew Sweet, then I’ll like Chris Richards and the Subtractions.
He’s a kindred spirit…the love of the Beatles, Kinks and the Who- as presented in the ’80s ’til present.
If you could tour with any band in the history of music, who would it be and why?
I guess Big Star. Though they never achieved any success so I may have went insane each night knowing that only a few would’ve taken in the tour. Alex was the sweetest guy on the planet and I figure we may have learned something from him in the sense of composition.
Any last words?
Support what you want to support and love what you want to love…just find time for music as it will do your soul good. Trust me.
I’d like to leave you all with the video for “It’s Something.” If you like it, check out chrisrichardsandthesubtractions.com for more details about the band and how to pick up some of their music.
If you want to try it before you buy it, two of their albums are also available to stream on Spotify.