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Fun meets fury on The Crown Vics’ ‘Hell Yeah!

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Fun meets fury on The Crown Vics’ ‘Hell Yeah! (photo courtesy of The Crown Vics)

Just when I was beginning to wonder if I would hear another great Maine-made album before the end of the year, “Hell Yeah!” by The Crown Vics found its way to my cluttered desk. 

The entire album was recorded in one long weekend at 430 Bayside, a venue in Ellsworth which has been hosting a series of house concerts for more than a decade.

The Crown Vics are: Andrew (Drew) Myers (vocals), Jennifer Myers (vocals), Frank Schwartz (guitars), Gordon Fellis (bass) and Steve Peer (drums and vocals). The entire band contributed to writing the album’s 14 songs.

As The Crown Vics approach their fifth year together, “Hell Yeah” cements the band’s status as one of Maine’s finest purveyors of the early rock genre known as rockabilly. But a stripped-down early rock sound is only part of the band’s (and the new record’s) appeal. A more apt classification might be “diverse-abilly.”

“Hell Yeah!” opens with “Boogie Man,” a futuristic/retro hybrid with a Middle-Eastern flair that one can imagine blasting out of Uma Thurman’s bedroom radio in “Pulp Fiction.” The song has been gaining traction on WERU 89.3 FM, the indie non-commercial community radio station based in Orland, as well as on rock stations in Syracuse and Cape Cod.!

“We had the number one song on WERU for two weeks,” said Steve Peer, drummer, vocalist and PR maestro for The Crown Vics.

“They’ve been great in helping us get the word out about the band and the new album. They’ve also been playing the locally-titled songs like ‘Lubec Monster’ and ‘Southwest Harbor Girl.’”

WERU has also been playing the title song as well as “Cheshire Moon,” sung by Jennifer Myers. The Americana/Tex-Mex-sounding song is jokingly referred to by Peer as the album’s “Dolly Parton/Led Zeppelin” rip-off.

“It sounds like a hybrid of ‘Jolene’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven,’” Peer said with a laugh.

The Crown Vics is a band that does not take itself too seriously. The music, however, is another matter altogether. 

“Early on, I remember sitting at Finn’s Irish Pub here in Ellsworth,” Peer said. “We were trying to figure out what kind of band we wanted to be. Frank (Schwartz), our guitar player, said ‘What about rockabilly?’”

Peer’s first thought was that rockabilly would be too specialized a genre to pull off.

“It’s really hard to simulate that stuff,” said Peer. “They use ancient equipment and learn stuff by chance. It’s hard to copy it.”

Then Peer happened to look down the bar where he saw “a theatre guy” he knew that might be able to help them out.

“It was Drew Myers,” Peer recalls. “I saw him in a community theatre production of ‘Grease’ and I knew that he liked the early Elvis-style stuff, so we started talking.”

With Myers on board, Peer suggested the first band road trip. Not to perform a show but to watch other bands play theirs, with eyes wide open.

“Halifax was about to host the East Coast Music Awards,” Peer said. “Canada knows how to treat their musicians. And musicians in Canada know how to treat each other.”

Peer says that The Crown Vics witnessed some great music that weekend, and realizes now how beneficial the trip was for his band.

“I said ‘This is what a rock and roll community is all about.’ It was good for some members of the band to see how it works. Going to a concert is much different from staging one. It was good for some of us to see how the sausage was made.”

Upon their return, Peer says The Crown Vics entered a phase of extreme wood-shedding.

“We played as often as we could, and we weren’t afraid to travel,” he said. “We did a lot of corporate shows at the beginning. We’d go to New Hampshire to play an AT&T conference or a wedding in Cape Cod. We’re a great dance band. Even then, when we were pretty shabby, we could get a room going.”

“Hell Yeah!” is a remarkably diverse collection of carefully-crafted, concise, multi-genre songs. In addition to rockabilly, The Crown Vics explore world music, the Broadway musical, vintage country, comedy, vintage early rock and dance music and even techno (listen for a false-ending on the album’s last song “The Criminal.”)

Peer said it best on the album’s press release: “‘Hell Yeah!’ is a crafty, unflaggingly ambitious, humorous, post-punk, genre-bending collection of hits, if we do say so ourselves.”

As for any worries of being tagged as strict retro-rockers, Peer says he sees the band as a continually evolving unit.

“The best bands keep morphing into something new,” he said. “U2 started out as four punks from Ireland. Fifteen years later they were dancing goblins in Berlin with a disco album. There’s no need to get wound up about having an image to sell. It’s best to keep evolving.”

“Hell Yeah!” by The Crown Vics is available on CD from CDBaby.com, for download from iTunes and Amazon and for streaming via Spotify.  

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