Rob LaFond Takes Off on ‘When we Fly’
Mainstream music has never fully embraced genres wholesale.
There’s been a flirtation with Folk, an awkward dance with Jazz and Blues, but whenever these artists land on popular music’s radar, it’s usually because they glammed up or toned down the genre from which they came.
Even now as Folk gets a pop makeover by legit acts like Jamestown Revival, it’s still mostly kept by purists, fans who unconditionally love the genre.
And then there are those musicians who can pay homage while making the music their own.
When first hearing Rob LaFond’s EP, “When we Fly”, it’s clear that the Boston by way of L.A. singer-songwriter has written a love letter to his musical influences. In fact, he has a pretty ambitious plan for a small collection of songs.
Here is a guy who clearly has listened to a lot of Blues, Folk, and even Doo-Wop, in addition to the modern interpretations of those old styles (i.e., the Black Keys’ take on traditional Blues music).
But instead of feeling schizophrenic, the songs on “When we Fly” hang together as a cool, if loosely-tied whole. Like a great book whose plotlines are only tenuously related, yet add up to a sum greater than the parts, LaFond’s approach feels laid-back and unforced.
The first single, “Dreaming of You” evokes light and airy pop from the universe of Buddy Holly. But listen a little closer, and you realize that the song pairs LaFond’s contemporary voice with classic pop-rock tropes (reverbed guitar, warm organ, back up singers) to build something unique, a monument perched on the border between past and future.
Perhaps the secret sauce to all of these tracks, the element emphasizing their common identity is the stellar production by Raymond Richards. Richards has produced scores of bands, including breakout indie darlings, Local Natives. Together with an all-star rhythm section featuring Jesse Ingalls on bass (Ben Harper, Rickie Lee Jones) and Adam Topol (Jack Johnson, Mason Jennings) on drums, the music sounds confident and easy-going.
On “Don’t Need me, Baby”, LaFond deftly shows his love of blues, which is buttressed by performances that you almost feel more than hear.
It’s a sign that the players know when to shine, and when to sit back and just be quietly powerful. They play in service to the music, and follow LaFond on his stylistic journey through the remaining tracks on the EP.
“Born in The Sunshine,” the twangiest song of the bunch, shows off an appreciation of the hard-luck and hard-living protagonists of many a country tune. With piano and pedal steel guitar, LaFond conjures up the dusty saloons of a bygone era, while giving them a contemporary tweak.
The approach pays off nicely, as it does with “Sunday Evening”, which nods to folk-rockers like Ryan Adams. Punched up with organ and simple, catchy guitar, the track takes the EP’s biggest step into the future along side LaFond’s contemporaries.
“When we Fly” is the first of a planned trilogy of EPs. With any luck for listeners, they’ll continue to mine LaFond’s influences, while showing how they affect his own, modern style.