Not many things can make me long for my teenage years again, but See Green‘s performance as part of the Launch Music Conference last Friday did just that. Courtenay Green and her friends – Greg Pejar, Blake Paulson, Andrew James, Brandon Smith, Nick Confalone, and Drew Lawrence – were pop-rock minstrels come from the faraway land of California to get our feets tapping and lift our spirits on an evening that was quickly turning thunderstorm dark.
Courtenay Green writes and orchestrates all the music, blending together tinkling keyboards, perfectly tinny synth horns, a steady bass line, and whimsical percussion (including some great tamborine) to make music that reminds you of something that you’re not sure you can identify but that you really like. At one point, I flashed back fifteen years to junior high when “Oh Ricky You’re so Fine” was my favorite song. There was just something about See Green’s music that made me want to dance and peg my jeans.
Their music is influenced by – depending on who you ask – Neko Cash, Blondie, Hey Hey Mamas, The Strokes, and even a little Jethro Tull. They have this great sound that uses 80s music as a base and then lays over it the edge of today’s Indie scene and the complexity of classical music. As Courtenay said, their songs “are like mash-ups.”
When they perform, they embody their own sound. The keyboardist drops inside himself and closes his eyes dreamily; the synth player busts out the robot from time and time, and Courtenay, well, she swings her guitar a la the Robert Palmer girls in “Addicted to Love.” Their performance was great – fun and lively – perhaps even more so because a massive thunderstorm brewed up and blew the canopy right off of them. They kept playing though – true performers these.
When I asked Courtenay what spice she would be, she said a pepper, maybe a Piri Piri, “where the delayed burn hits you later.” That seemed an apt description to me – their music sounds so fun and light when I hear it, but when I tried to put it into words, suddenly there’s a complexity of flavor I didn’t notice at first. Perhaps this depth comes from the wide-ranging nature of Courtenay’s musical choices – from The Pixies “Here Comes Your Man” to the music of her childhood – Spencer Davis Group, Buddy Holly, Simon and Garfunkel. Or perhaps it’s just that Courtenay is quite a talented songwriter, one who can blend the fun of simple lyrics with a layering of instruments to make something greater than the sum of its parts.
Maybe, also, some of the pleasure of See Green’s music comes from the obvious joy they get from music. As Courtenay said, the most beautiful thing she’s ever experienced is “playing music with people and feeling it click. You know that you sound good. Everything is just right.”
Just right, it is. See Green’s music is beautiful and intriguing, the way those really hot girls in junior high could wear leg warmers and look absolutely awesome. A little retro, a little odd, a little fierce, a little just right.
Check out See Green’s new video inspired, in part, by two Peter Max posters Courtenay’s mom gave her years ago, and give their music a listen, too. You may just find yourself donning the acid wash, too.
Courtenay’s Book Recommendations
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst