From somewhere amid the suburban sprawl of southern New Jersey comes Blank Pages’ brand of indie pop. Led by guitarist, singer, and songwriter Greg Potter, the band has been creating their unique brand of rock ‘n’ roll for more than 20 years. It’s a familiar story. Hearing a Beatles record for the first time at age five fueled Potter’s obsession with melodic rock music. He took up the guitar, started writing songs, and recorded so many demos on his four-track cassette machine that the heads wore out. Potter formed Blank Pages in college to focus on his evolving melodic, guitar-driven power pop.
His influences expanded to include cult classics (Big Star), new wave (Elvis Costello), and modern power pop purveyors (Sloan and Jason Falkner). Blank Pages has been recording and performing Potter’s original music since 1995.
The band has released five full-length albums on the FDR Label and has appeared on several of the label’s successful themed compilations, including Who’s Not Forgotten, FDR’s Tribute to the Who, Left of the Dial, A Pop Tribute to the Replacements and About a Girl. The current lineup features Potter, Ed McCaffrey on drums, and Jason Brown on bass and guitar. Potter’s childhood friend Jon Mollenhauer has contributed lead guitar to many of the band’s releases.
Past members include founding member and bassist Wayne Philipp, as well as drummers Joel Marsh and Tom Vesneski. Their latest record, Before Your Summer Fades, is set for release on the FDR Label on Jan. 19, 2017.
The FDR label is a small New Jersey indie label with a big power-pop heart. Formed in 1996, FDR Label is known for wildly popular tribute CDs based on The Replacements, The Who, and the ‘80s movie tribute, High School Reunion. Releases have featured the ever popular Guided by Voices, Frank Black, Mathew Sweet, Pat DiNizio, Bo Diddley, The Bigger Lovers, Bastards of Melody, The Successful Failures, The Dipsomaniacs, Taggart and many others. Mick Chorba, a name that has graced these pages several times in the past few years, runs the ship with help from an excellent staff and they have done an excellent job with label duties to date. Chorba, of course, also man’s the helm in The Successful Failures, a New Jersey based group that has garnered much praise both here and in other publications.
Blank Pages are no strangers to the stage or studio, as mentioned above they have released several studio records as well as playing most of the areas more popular clubs and stages. The new album, Before Your Summer Fades, is described as “an acute pairing of lyrics that sound the alarm on subjects such as uncertainty, loss, and inevitable change with his signature melodic sounds.” His webpage calls it a “unique blend of old school and modern pop that is distinctly Blank Pages.” This record comes after a seven-year hiatus marked by the arrival of children and the loss of old friends.
So, let’s take a deep, Shoreworld dive into the world of Greg Potter and Blank Pages, and see what Before Your Summer Fades is truly all about.
The first song up is called “Take the Stage.” Potter kicks things off with The Records pop sensibility and style. Guitars mesh with bass and drums as Potter lays down his signature vocal sound. Melodically speaking, “Take the Stage” is filled with chimey six-string work and intricate harmony vocal work. Hand claps lay into the mix as Potter applies intricate chord patterns and solid rhythm patterns to his piece. The tone is solid 1980s pop, and the lyrical theme tells the story of life on the stage. I love the changes in the chorus as chords turn far left from the verse and second part of the chorus. If you dig bands such as The Records or Joe Jackson, you’re gonna love “Take the Stage.”
“She’s Got the Knack” is up next. Blank Pages runs with their stylistic theme here as well. Reminding me of groups such as Jason and the Scorchers and The Beatles, “She’s Got the Knack” is a cornucopia of pop sensibilities and expert songwriting skill. Once again, Potter and crew overflow with melodic harmonies and chord knowledge. Lyrically speaking, Potter lays out his skillful viewpoint of mixing the love of a girl with his point of compositional know-how. Bass, drums, and guitar all mix amicably as Potter’s vocal focal point bring it all together with style. Jangly guitars mix with cool riffs and single line lead breaks throughout this piece. Percussive highlights also bring life to the piece as drums support guitars and bass with pure Knack style.
Moving around the disc, I come to a song called “Make Up Your Mind.” Blending the styles of The Monkees with The Beatles and The Byrds, “Make Up Your Mind” blends tasty guitar work with solid drums and fluid bass work. Potter’s vocal style is once again a focal point here, and he lays out his message with flair and expertise that is unmatchable. Harmonies are superb and are the icing on a very delicious cake. Potter is an expert at choruses, and this one is no exception. Memorable for days, “Make Up Your Mind” stays in your head long after you turn off the player.
“So Long Old friend” is an ode to the loss of someone close. Potter has so much emotive skill in his vocal that it’s hard to ignore the message in his lyrics. Acoustic guitars mix with bass, drums, and electrics as Potter lays it all out. This song is yet another that reminds me of The Beatles or even Wings. Potter steers his ship with skill and genuine passion as he slides into his choruses. Another song that stays with you long after it ends, “So Long Old Friend” is a top-notch piece that should find success within the Blank Pages fanbase and beyond.
Another great song is “Writing a New Tale.” Drums kick things off with hanging bass licks and guitar before Potter joins the vocal fray. “Writing a New Tale” is another song that reminds me of the great groups of the 1980s. This tune has hints of early Godfathers, REM, and Husker Du. Potter’s guitar prowess is entirely evident here as he blends fascinating chord arrangements with riffs and intricate lead guitar work. Potter’s vocal attack demonstrates original style with an understanding of real delivery with his thematic lyrical style. His vocals have a unique tone, and fell as he digs into his story. Lead guitar blows its breath into the middle-eight like nobody’s business. Potter mixes clean, chimey rhythms with slightly distorted lead break very much like the late James Honeyman-Scott from the Pretenders. Just enough grit to keep things rocking but with an air of melodic interpretation that keeps the song humming and steeped in their very own style.
Blank Pages have done well with Before Your Summer Fades and I can’t wait to see them play some of this material live. There is a total of 12 mesmerizing songs on this record, and even though I didn’t have time to cover each one, I can say that the album is entirely both impressive and compositionally sound. If you get a chance, please go over to the band’s page and buy this latest FDR record as I know you’re going to love it. For more information on Before Your Summer Fades and Blank Pages, head over to gregpotterrocks.com.