Progressive rock, perhaps above everything else, is a genre that most rewards subtlety and dynamics. For rising NYC-based prog luminaries Jolly, their 2011 opus, The Audio Guide To Happiness (Part I), released in March, is as complete as it gets.

Not only are the songs novel, imaginative and sincere, but through extensive scientific research into the use of binaural tones, the band was also able to make one of the best rock records of 2011 a legitimate “therapeutic auditory experience.” Because of the underlying binaural tones, Jolly’s music is scientifically proven to enhance feelings of happiness, relaxation and focus. What other band can say that?

“I think our writing process is more or less what inspired the concept,” says keyboardist Joe Reilly. “When we were initially writing, we felt like, ‘Oh, we like playing a lot of heavy music and we like playing a lot of lighter, ambient stuff.’ That whole combination of those dynamics sort of shot off the idea of combining the stuff to make a therapeutic music system.”

So what’s with all the science stuff? Are they a bunch of Ph.D.s who decided to start a rock band?

“No,” laughs drummer Louis Abramson, “We are a bunch of losers who decided to start a band.”

“Our music, from day one, has been about bringing an emotional feeling,” he says. “We’ve always been interested in this dynamic, musical, emotional journey through music, and not just a bunch of songs that are in the same vein. We always were interested in dynamics. The music was there first and the music was made to bring this dynamic emotional response. And then we thought, ‘Let’s flesh it out more with this whole science hoopla.’”

But The Audio Guide To Happiness (Part I) isn’t just an experiment in psychology and brain chemistry. It’s an incredible rock album that delivers on every level you could possibly want. Beginning with the slow, sauntering “Ends Where It Starts,” electric guitar drives the chorus as a shimmering, distorted bass adds gravity and teeth to the heavy bite of the verse. Singer/guitarist Anadale (one name is all he needs) hypnotizes with his dawdling vibrato as he lets every syllable trickle off of his lips.

The aptly-titled, and upbeat, “Joy” follows with a beautiful piano melody which Anadale later claims for the vocals during the chorus, reinforcing one of the record’s most memorable tracks.

“The Pattern” comes two tracks later, and it’s no surprise this is the band’s most popular song. Once again featuring some of the greatest bass tone I’ve heard since Karnivool’s Sound Awake or even Tool’s Aenema, the track feels like flying, with a briskly-paced verse driven by a syncopated snare pattern and inspiring chorus. An airy bridge leads the song further into space, setting up a malicious, angular breakdown, which takes the track into a nosedive and out.

As if to survey the damage, Jolly slows it down with “Storytime,” a reflective piece, and one of the most beautiful the band has to offer. Guided by leisurely, waltzing piano, it’s here that we realize how important keys have been this entire record, creating landscapes and veiled rewards that make up the Jolly sound.

I could go on and on but the point is there’s not a weak track on this record. It will undoubtedly find its way onto a number of top 10 lists by the end of the year. It gets better on every listen, making it a frontrunner for this guy.

Though the results of the quartet’s collaboration are uncommon, they began the way many bands do when drummer Louis Abramson found Anadale on Craigslist.

Joe Reilly, a high school friend of Abramson’s, came into the picture after Louis decided to reconnect with him and ask him to play in the band. The Jolly sound materialized in the trio’s first sessions, while bassist Anthony Rondinone, a college friend of Louis’s, joined after their first album, Forty-Six Minutes, Twelve Seconds Of Music, and the departure of their original bassist.

A lighthearted and capricious group, their passion for writing heavy, progressive music is equaled by their enthusiasm towards their fans. The four casually poked fun at me and at one another over the course of the interview. Anadale even laughed off my poorly conceived, slightly contentious (without meaning it) inquiry, “Where do you get off having one name?”

While Anadale chooses to remain a mystery, the group was forthright when asked about the name Jolly, and the strange coincidences that lead to The Audio Guide To Happiness.

“We just wanted something short and memorable, and not too pretentious,” says Anadale. “That’s basically where it all came from. It’s actually surprising that there wasn’t any band called Jolly because it’s such an obvious sort of stupid thing. Plus, you could put it in front of anything and it makes it cool: like Jolly Truck, Jolly Socks.”

The band came up with the name before their first record, before even discussing The Audio Guide To Happiness.

“They had nothing to do with each other,” exclaims Louis, expressing his own surprise at the eerie correlation.

“We’re just really into being happy and stuff,” suggests Anadale. “It’s way heavier to be happy.”

Certainly, composing the two-part Audio Guide To Happiness presented challenges to the band, but between all the interviewing and surveying and research into binaural tones, the band never saw their idea as limiting.

“At the end of the day, the thing we wanted was that whatever organically comes out of us, that’s gonna be the song,” explains Louis. “And then, if we get to a roadblock where we’re not sure the direction we wanna go, that’s where we bring in the other stuff that we figured out or believe to be true. The bottom line is that this is music and that this is coming out of us organically. It’s just more options for us, really. It guided [the writing], but didn’t define it and didn’t restrain it.”

The Audio Guide To Happiness (Part II) is finished and the band await the right time to release it. They say that they want to do more touring before determining a release date with their record label, InsideOut Music. Even after taking on such an ambitious project, they are excited about material and concepts for their fourth record.

“We already have material, we already have ideas,” says Louis. “There’s so many different directions we wanna take though, and so many different things we want to try.”

 

Jolly will be performing at Arlene’s Grocery in NYC on June 11. For more info, go to jollyband.com or facebook.com/jollyband.

 

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