Call it prog-mo. Slow mathcore. Devise any portmanteau of two or more musical genres that fall under the moodier side of the rock umbrella and you’ll nail down their sound—maybe. Yet like any musician who’s doing it for the right reasons, the young men in The Cities Love You can’t categorize their sound under a single genre. It’s what would play at cyborg proms, heavy on shimmering synth and robo-rhythms but with brooding, distorted guitars and lyrics unabashedly steeped in matters existential.
It’s not a sound you’ll find in abundance on Maui. While there is, contrary to popular belief, rock and roll here, The Cities’ brand of rock is more likely to be featured on the soundtrack of a Lost Boys remake than, say, at a bar.
In truth, probably the main reason you won’t be seeing these guys at many Valley Isle venues any time soon has more to do with local politics than the supposed lack of demand for original rock and roll on Maui. You see, the dudes are all under 20 years of age. This means that the Maui County Department of Liquor Control bars them from playing at certain venues (ones that sell booze) during certain times.
If their recent gig at the courtyard at 33 N. Market is any indication, they do have a fan base, which I’ll admit consists of girls who all look to be well under the age of 20. But with limited venues and very few opportunities for airplay (a phenomenon recently punctuated by 92.5’s formatting change from modern rock to island sounds), it’s tough for these guys to get their stuff out there.
They met through a small network of musicians while in high school, but have only been rocking out in this configuration since November, when one of the boys heard about an all-ages show in Kihei. “We kind of just wanted to play,” remembers bass player and vocalist Adam Nolan, 19.
After that, they say, it just clicked.
Since then they’ve gigged twice at all-ages Oahu venue The Spot and have rocked out at one or two Maui shows. And they have already churned out some strong original material. Their latest release features four well-constructed, carefully engineered tracks. While their sound won’t likely appeal to those who aren’t fans of slow but dynamic, angst-ridden rock, anyone can appreciate the quality of the musicianship, especially given how young these guys are.
Guitarist and lead singer Jon Belen says he writes each song’s lyrics, strings them over a basic chord progression and turns it over to the other guys in the band, all of whom have equal creative control.
They got their enigmatic name, says Belen, from what he has experienced while traveling in large cities. They seemed welcoming, and more likely to appreciate the sounds he and his band want to generate.
The guys draw influence from a sizable spectrum of artists, though all cite Atlanta-based Sent By Ravens as a major inspiration. Guitar player Mikey Spencer lists Cigur Rose and Thrice among his major influences, while Nolan adds Norma Jean, Color Revolt and Leo Waiau to the list. Drummer Ryan Flecklin says the Beatles and This is a Stickup have helped shape his style. Belen gives the most diverse (and perhaps telling) list of artists: he lists Katy Perry and, yes, High School Musical along with Pink Floyd.
Mauians who want to check these guys out should note that time is running out: the band, seeking a greater profusion of venues, is shipping out to California later this summer. They do have an upcoming gig or two, including a benefit for Hope Chapel on May 28 (the guys are Christian, but don’t label themselves a Christian rock band) and a possible in-store performance at Hot Topic the following day. MTW