And so the day finally came when our most prized Parisian, a sharp young man appropriately named Pierre, had to leave behind our humid habitat and return home to regale fellow Frenchmen with stories of 40° Celsius weather and $4 40s. His last hurrah was staged at the ever-swanky Speakeasy on Saluda, and, walking up, I noticed the aesthetic contrast of my never-swanky digs. This was exacerbated in the presence of the impeccably dressed/bespectacled Pierre who leaned against a parking meter, answering a question between drags of a cigarette.
“Oh, well, I know there was a band that just blew me away at the Burrito show. With the guy and the girl and all that wall of sound?”
“Que Será Será?”
Pierre grinned. “Yes, this band, they were something good, you know? I was, the entire time-”
He dropped his jaw, opened his eyes wide, and pulled his head back to demonstrate his reaction to their live show.
Of course, when you speak of the devil, he usually shows up, and thus, coming ’round the corner that very moment, no lie, was their bassist, Mitch Thompkins and lead singer Kyle Berry.
Though, with an angel voice coming from his angel face, it’s quite a fallacy to describe Kyle as any kind of devil. After saying hello, I went inside for a few drinks, caught up with some friends, before returning back out front to join Kyle and some other buddies who were curbed up, watching the usual 5-points parade of lunacy go on by.
I asked him about QSS, particularly about their plans. He hinted at future releases, especially an idea for an ambitious music video that really piqued my interest. As he gestured to help me visualize their planned journey for an upcoming tour, I got a sense for this moment’s significance in describing QSS as a band. They were hardly haphazard. They visualized their planned journey through music, as well. Everything was vision.
However, a vision’s manifestation into existence is all it is worth in the end. After all, the Hindenberg was as high-concept and ambitious as all get out. Inspired by (arguably) France’s greatest modern composer, Claude Debussy, with an (indie/post)rock sensibility, or what they describe as popera, they take a very interesting approach, utilizing Berry’s classical training with the rawness of what a four-piece can get across. But like that fated blimp, there are many vulnerabilities ascribed to an over-the-top kitchen-sink approach, especially with a live show.
They released Face The Night, a three-song EP recorded themselves a couple of months ago, so I took an opportunity to load up their bandcamp and listen.
My face was the same way, Pierre. As soon as Berry’s voice cuts and quavers through the fuzz and sparkle above the frenetic calypso drums, singing, “You’ve got me now,” on the title track, the feeling is mutual- you truly get got. The undeniable chops of Andrew Jernigan (drums) and Katie Leitner (vocals) and Thompkins provide further legitimacy to the execution of this vision.
Like an opera, the songs evolve, have movements, building to a frenzy to only burst into a more mellow piano-driven lounge landscape, or other times, a more pleading vulnerable piano and vocal pairing that would be easily accompanied by the singer drenched in a spot light, surrounded by an ornate set, sending a song of longing to an off-stage character, perhaps their paramour.
Paws, my favorite track, brings out the latter image quite beautifully, with its heartfelt and impassioned wails, especially from Leitner, that beg for a backstory, and an ending that reminds me of the series finale of The Sopranos. The final track, Spinning Words, would likely give someone with synesthesia a hallucination of a really entertaining chase scene from a 70’s spy movie/musical, with twists, tone shifts, and syncopation that take you unawares. The synchronized pauses, steady builds, and haunted background vocals all lend to the impressive cohesion of the group as a band. The element of trajectory in their music evokes a feeling of there being some special Que Será Será gene that’s been spliced into each song.
And, apparently, I’m not too far off. As the drinks wore off and yet the night wore on, I found myself in the back of a now-emptying Speak’s discussing the possible origins of music, in all its subjective and abstract mystique, with Kyle and Mitch.
It was then that Kyle gave me a bit of insight into his creative process.
“Think about your basic Do Re Mi scale. I like to employ Do, Mi, and Ti. Just a sequence of notes. And you can either use those in a direct melody line, or you can sing that line, or put it into the chords. I also really like major 7 chords.”
I cut him off with a stupid comment: “Like in that Alicia Keys song? If I Ain’t Got You!?”
“Right. Anyway, I think it’s helpful not only to think of subject matter, but to have a concrete idea when you’re writing out of complete nothingness. You can have the whole structure of the song around this idea of Do, Mi, Ti. My lyrics, and Katie’s as well, have a rise of optimism too, reaching a pinnacle like a Mi, that come down to the Ti, which is below the Do, and you’re left a bit more deflated than when you started. It gets to the point where we have an album that is, 80%, built around these three notes.”
It goes without saying that Kyle Berry studies music, (and you can totally taste it in his songs). But, of course, not everyone enjoys an occasional dive into a tome of musical theory. Confused? No worries-
ENJOY MY DEMONSTRATION
Always a taste-maker in my circle of friends, Pierre’s impression of QSS’s ability to pull off their ambitiously constructed wall of sound rings true- a wall built on a concrete foundation of a solid-ass rhythm section, with the mortar of interwoven synths and energetic guitar between bricks of pure golden vocals. And though he may be back in France, his sense of taste has given us a guide to follow, more specifically, a band to watch. With the amount of thought and effort put into their songs, I’m proud to know that they sprang from our very own Fizzy Pop City, and I’d very genuinely like to see Que Será Será experience great and well-deserved success as a band.
P.S. As a Latino, it gives me great joy that you all put the accent marks over the A’s in Será. Not that it makes a big difference in the US, but I support anything to reduce the number of people asking me if I’ve heard about that band KAY SARAH SARAH. Gross.
(Also, don’t be an ass- be sure to like Que Será Será’s facebook page.)