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Phonolux returns with a hot sophomore album

Photo: Josh Huskin, License: N/A

Josh Huskin

Let any sonofabitch follow that — Calvo, Romero, Guillermo, and Novak getting ready to burn 502.

If Phonolux means "sound plus light," having the band's second album release party at 502 Bar makes complete sense. It is the matching of a band that's all about achieving perfect sound with a venue known for both the quality of its sound and light systems.

My advice to those used to going to more central music venues: drive a little bit; it'll be worth it.

Besides the quality of its songs (a blend of Beatlesque epic pop, indie adventurousness, and Supertramp keyboards), Phonolux has a rare ability — both live and on record — to switch instruments on any given song, with the songwriters singing their own songs. The changes are so frequent that, even for them, it's hard to keep up with who plays what.

"For example, on [first single] 'Bored,' Buddy [Calvo] is always on piano, I play guitar, Art [Guillermo] is on drums and Dave [Novak] is on bass," says Miguel Romero Jr. "But in 'Easy,' I'll be on bass, Dave will be on drums…"

"No, I'm on drums," interjects Calvo.

Yet both Phonolux albums are a cohesive collection of solid, elegant songs, catchy enough to hum and sophisticated enough to demand full attention. For Nashville Fires, Romero offered up-tempo rockers ("The Hipstocrite," "American Dream") and Dave a power ballad ("Talking in my Sleep"), but the bulk of the album, as on the first one, belonged to Calvo.

"With Buddy, he basically throws a rock against the piano, and whatever chord he hits, that's the first chord of the song," jokes Romero. "Seriously, he gets a drum beat in his head, then a tune, then he hits on the piano and tries to find the chords he has in his head. Then we all jump on board."

And they all jumped on board considerably more than on the self-titled first album, where all the songs where pretty much arranged by each composer. Nashville Fires is Phonolux's ultimate "band" album, despite the fact that all but three songs belong to Calvo.

"Buddy makes up in quantity what he lacks in quality," says Romero. "I'm completely kidding, of course."

Calvo counterattacks: "[Novak and Romero] take forever to write. I just record more at home and bully the other guys into picking my stuff."

The album's name is also a joke that started while making the first album. Proud for coming up with the name Phonolux, Romero decided to Google the name. Horrified, he found a Nashville record store with the same name.

"We kind of got pissed off because we thought our idea was original, so we developed this horrible feeling of burning the place to the ground to get it out of the way," Romero says. A couple of days later, they needed a name for a new song and Romero jokingly offered "Nashville Fires." It stuck, and it was included on the new album. But don't look for hidden meanings — the song has nothing to do with Tennessee.

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