Pop music for picky people

Stalemate’s eclectic ways
By CHRIS CONTI  |  December 9, 2009

SEA-WORTHY Stalemate are radio-ready, too. Photo: SAMANTHA JANE SYTNIK

Lincoln-based quartet Stalemate host their CD release party at the Blackstone on December 23 in honor of their sophomore effort, We Will Carry You Out to Sea. The newly-solidified lineup continues to make the rounds throughout Rhode Island, having played close to "100 shows if not more," keyboardist Matt DeMello told me earlier this week prior to another sold-out show with frequent co-performers Roz Raskin and the Rice Cakes and Prayers For Atheists. DeMello shares vocal duties with guitarist and co-founder Cory Waldron on We Will Carry You, a "genre-flipping, thoroughly experimental yet undeniably pop record," as accurately promoted on their site (MySpace.com/Stalemate). Works for me because I don't know what to call it. It's seriously unique alt-pop that at times sways from Hall and Oates ("When I Sing") to early Jimmy Eat World ("Maybe Tom Cruise Had a Point").

"Our guiding principle is eclecticism," DeMello said, "but it wasn't like, 'Oh Jesus, how do we succeed in combining rhythm and blues ballads with noisy punk riffs?' It was more just formulating the ideas we had already sketched out."

Waldron elaborated: "We want each song to be as identifiable as if you were to hear Marvin Gaye, Billy Idol, the Replacements, and Elton John on the radio, in that order."

We Will Carry You Out to Sea was recorded over two 10-hour studio days, but took another 18 months to finalize, with Michael Lamantia of Makeupbreakup eventually taking over production duties. Stalemate seem to be rolling in good company, garnering dues mostly on the live circuit. Rice Cakes drummer Casey Belisle worked the kit for Stalemate's debut Grand Experiment before Kevin Pereira stepped in full-time, and Sam Brunner recently signed on as bassist. The band will continue to play out locally through the winter behind the new album.

"I've known these guys for a long time and they continue to impress me," Raskin emailed in support. "They have genuine lyrics and song structures that I believe are hard to find. And they always put on a killer, energetic show."

Said Prayers For Atheists frontman Jared Paul, "Stalemate work their collective asses off promoting and performing. We love playing out with those guys."

We Will Carry You Out to Sea taps into multiple platforms; on the standout cut "You're Not a Morning Person Are You," a cozy sax solo gives way to Waldron's gnarled and distorted guitar chops, leading into the blue-eyed soul of hammed-up ballad "When I Sing." On the other hand, the hook on "Maybe Tom Cruise Had a Point" is upbeat spazz-rock and should be an entertaining highlight on the band's next wave of gigs.

"I refer to our sound as 'pop music for picky people' — it has a nice ring to it," DeMello told me. "Before that I'd say 'power pop' only because we own distortion pedals and love Prince."

STALEMATE + ROZ RASKIN & THE RICE CAKES + BEAT SURRENDER | Wednesday, December 23 @ 9 pm | The Blackstone, 1005 Main St, Pawtucket | 401.726.2181

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