This next Shoreworld act is part Nashville, part New Jersey. Co-founder Brother Love hooked up with my good friend Sarah Tomek and eventually married her. But before they were a couple, Brother Love and Sarah Tomek were hard at work making names for themselves on the scene and the national stage.
The main reason this band crosses my literary crosshairs is that Tomek is an Asbury Park girl who made her way into the national spotlight from the very stages we here in Monmouth still go to see cutting-edge music. Lighting up the drums for Maggie Rose, Tomek has played with many acts such as Bebe Buell and eventually wound up hitting the skins for the legendary Steven Tyler from Aerosmith. I’ve known her for years and going back to her band performances before the legendary Days Awake, and I’ve been in her corner ever since. Tomek made a move to the Music City and hooked up with Maggie Rose’s band, and she hasn’t looked back since.
Brother Love, along with founding partner Alex Haddad, founded Them Vibes. They released their debut record, Shine On, independently and began hitting the Nashville and Austin scenes as a five-piece band playing coveted gigs at the High Watt, The Basement, The Mercy Lounge, The Continental Club, and the Blue Bird Café, to name a few. Their wild, high-voltage revival of a live show was brought to festival crowds at Austin’s SXSW; they were the headliner at The Tomato Music and Arts Fest; opened for the Flaming Lips at the Sound Harvest Festival; and, in front of thousands of onlookers, they have opened for such classic artists as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet.
Them Vibes’ sophomore release was the massive hitting EP TV. Grammy Award-winning producer and engineer Richard Dodd (Tom Petty, George Harrison, Counting Crows, The Civil Wars, Kings Of Leon and Wilco) took the helm as producer. The result was a five-song cliff dive of psychedelic, hard-driving, slinky-grooving, swamp-howling rock ‘n’ roll.
The single “Mamma’s Gotta Secret” took radio by storm, with national radio play on over 20 stations nationwide. Network television began to taken notice as well. Both albums’ respective cuts garnered placements on ABC’s Nashville, NBC’s Grimm, Fox’s Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life, CMT’s Redneck Island and Dude Perfect, and the Netflix Original Series The Ranch. Their biggest commercial success was led by their raucous song “Crying Shame,” which was chosen by T-Mobile to lead their spring campaign.
Off the heels of their strides Stateside the band turned their attention across the pond, embarking on a month-long European tour and playing sold-out shows in Germany, France, Belgium, Slovakia, and Spain, gaining critical acclaim, radio play and most importantly throngs of new fans.
When they returned to the U.S., the band went right to work writing and recording their new album, Electric Fever. Larry Florman (Brother Love), Alex Haddad, lead guitar player Kyle Lewis, and the prodigious, up-and-coming Nashville producer Bobby Holland wanted to make the most ambitious rock ‘n’ roll record to be issued in the last decade. With the help of the rhythmic fury of drummer Sarah Tomek and bassist Judd Fuller, Them Vibes did just that. Recording everything full band and live at Addiction Studios in Nashville, Electric Fever is a kaleidoscope of sound and sonic ecstasy. The 12-song LP is colored in Muscle Shoals soul, hip-shaking beat break funk, Southern rock harmony guitars, heavy tribal rhythms injected with rock ‘n’ roll ferocity, broke down acoustic delight, and all and above driven by harmony and groove full speed ahead.
The self-titled single “Electric Fever” has already been leaked to the number one independent radio station in the United States, Nashville’s WRLT Lightning100, and in its inception, has caught quite a buzz. The single, due to popular demand, has been officially released on iTunes and every major music streaming platform, and the album Electric Fever is due out late spring. The band will be hitting the U.S. interstate in support of their new record. And they will be returning to Europe in June for a whole month of shows and festivals.
The band sent me their music, and I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about it with our dear readers.
First up is a song called “Shoot The Messenger.” This song is straight out of the 1960s Rolling Stones glory days. Guitars are musical excellence as bass and drum work (courtesy of Tomek on drums and Judd Fuller on bass) as Brother Love grinds into the verse. Brother Love is a grounded and original singer. His tone rivals the greats we all know, and he brings the swagger to the party like no one else. Guitar work (courtesy of Kyle Lewis and Alex Haddad) rips into the meat of the song with all the soul of Ronnie Wood and Dave Davies (The Kinks). Verse and chorus construction roars as the band works through their compositional journey of musical brilliance.
“Electric Fever” turns into an entirely different direction. Bringing the funk like something out of the 1970s, Them Vibes kick proverbial ass as they take a great big romp down the avenue of R&B-flavored funk rock. Drums and bass lay strong foundation work as the guitar brilliance of Lewis and Haddad tear things up like Morris O’Conner or Roland Bautista from Earth, Wind, and Fire. Brother Love jumps into his role with great enthusiasm as he sings his mode of “Change.” Talented beyond his American roots, Brother Love is a real frontman and bandleader. Backing vocals are seamless and add tons of moxie to this funky piece. The verse work lines up addictive choruses that stay with you for days and days. The band doesn’t overplay or get too showy here. They remain in the pocket and play just for the song, and it works like gangbusters.
Up next is a song called “Love Will Never Fade Away.” Brother Love gets right to the point with this one, and it’s a winner. Wordplay Brother Love is a master. His choice of words always makes sense, and he never wastes an ounce of emotion on the wrong syllable. Guitars are dynamic, coming in and part-funky rock tune, part-1960s Beatle-esque psychedelic-driven chorus, and the song is all hit. Tomek and Fuller hold down the fort while Haddad and Lewis mix things up like some weird combination of David Gilmour and Earl Slick. The lead guitar in the middle-eight rips a quick, two measures of six-string fire as Brother Love comes back to hammer an incredibly catchy chorus into the minds of all who listen.
“Who Do You Love” is up next. With a strange and delightful combination of Levon Helm and The Boxmasters, “Who Do You Love” is as close to a country-based hit as this band gets. Brother Love shines brightly on this selection. Vocally speaking, he’s about as diverse as you can get. Part Tim McGraw, part Billy Bob Thornton, Brother love weaves his story with a tone all his own. Lewis and Haddad bring up the past with playing styles along the lines of Steve Cropper and Jim McGuinn (The Byrds) as Brother Love keeps everything in focus. Backing vocals flourish, adding to the flavor of Brother Love and keeping the whole song in focus. Tomek and Fuller pull out a rock-inspired country crossover rhythm unlike anything else out there today. This is a song that should see tons of airplay and the tune to put this band further up on the ladder of success.
Moving around the disc, I came to a song called “Dance All Night.” This tune is yet another strong song with the country-flavored crossover in the crosshairs. Guitars slide and scream into complex changes as Brother Love shifts pitch and vocal style throughout. Drums and bass nail this strange and beautiful number to the proverbial floor as Lewis and Haddad mix it up with everything in their bag of six-string tricks. Vocals are excellent, and the harmonies dazzle the mind.
Another outstanding song is “Out Of The Blue.” Melodic guitars chime and ring as drums and bass lay sparse and sporadic patterns on the floor of this passionate song. Brother Love pulls back here, alternating power with emotion and mixing it up well. Harmonies are once again an important part and do what they need to without getting in the way. When it comes to guitars, Lewis and Haddad come out of the shadows to lay melodic patterns or echo-laden slide parts with grace and style. “Out Of The Blue” is another well-written song that should do well for this band in both radio and live play.
I wish I had more room as I would’ve liked to have written about every song on this outstanding disc, but this is all the space we have right now.
Them Vibes have roots here in the north as well as the southern reaches of Tennessee and beyond, but the main reason I wrote about them is that their music is truly outstanding and needs to be heard everywhere. This is an exceptional combination of classic rock sounds, sharp country shards and scads of blistering old-school soul sounds.
The record will be released on vinyl and CD on May 5 and will also be available on iTunes, as well as the band’s website. Look Them Vibes up as soon as you can and support a group that’s making real musical waves all over the country and the world beyond.
Them Vibes will be back in New Jersey on July 13 for Brookdale The Night’s Songwriters on the Beach Series in Belmar.
For more information on Them Vibes and the release of Electric Fever, head over to their website at themvibes.com.
EDIT: While I was under the assumption that Brother Love was the main singer, Alex Haddad also contributed lead vocals on the record. Sorry Alex, I didn’t mean to leave you out of the action.