Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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The Sound

The Envy Corps’ troubled relationship with pop music


Envy Corps plays Wooly’s on Friday, Oct 11.

Envy Corps plays Wooly’s on Friday, Oct 11.

“Envy Corps is Radiohead for Coldplay fans.” That’s how the band has referenced itself in T-shirt form. And curiously, whether you take that as a statement of self-congratulation or one of oblivious pretentiousness, it doesn’t make the sentence any less fitting.

The Envy Corps has always taken a high-minded approach to its own music. That some of it has brushed up against mainstream success seems more incidental than outright planned, and that suits the members of the band just fine. After the band found a measure of notoriety thanks to the song “Gnats” being featured on an episode of HBO’s “Entourage,” it has undergone a minor rebellion of sorts with the release of 2011’s “It Culls You,” which eschewed a large amount of the pop sentiment found in 2009’s “Dwell” and replaced it with the above-mentioned Radiohead pastiche.

“We’ve had a troubled relationship with pop music over the last few years,” said guitarist Brandon Darner. “I think a lot of that comes from the feeling that that’s what people wanted from us.”

The members of The Envy Corps have never seen themselves as momentum chasers, and the idea of releasing an album full of songs like “Gnats,” just because it seems to be where the money is, has always kind of appalled them. At first blush, that seems like a contradiction for a band that’s gotten a paycheck from HBO, but Darner is quick to remind you that it was the mainstream that came calling on The Envy Corps, not the other way around.

“We certainly couldn’t write songs for hire, because they would just sound like songs for hire,” Darner said. “But I think there was a sense of you get all this time to put out music, then, when it comes out, suddenly everyone’s a… I mean, my mom will tell me what she thinks we’re best at. And I’m like, ‘Well that’s just one thing we do.’ That’s how we see it. We’re never going to be like, ‘Oh, that song? That’s the sound of the band.’ Because that’s not the type of band we are. We have a sense of not wanting to disappoint anybody, but we know that we have to please ourselves first. I’d like to think our fans understand the kind of band we are, and I think they could tell if it was phony.”

The band has made it clear to everyone watching that its music — its happiness — comes first: When Vertigo Records was putting together the track list for “Dwell,” the band nearly walked away from its record deal over the inclusion of the song “Baby Teeth,” a track the studio found expendable but that the band was emotionally staked to.

“(‘Baby Teeth’) was one of the first songs that really drew the band together,” Darner recalled. “We would not put out an album without that song. And they were like, ‘Oh, we didn’t understand that it meant so much to you,’ and that was really one of the first indicators of ‘do these people even get us?’ ”

But for The Envy Corps, even though the sound may vary from album to album, there will always be some of that “Baby Teeth” sentiment in everything it does.

“We’ll always write songs like that, because that’s who we are as a band,” Darner concluded. “Songs that maybe don’t mean much to the average person as a commercial song, but that have deep meaning to us. To me, those are the songs that — when I think of great albums — those are the songs that matter.” CV

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