“Our music is not so much co-writing as it is producing,” guitarist and backup vocalist Sam Sanford of the quartet the Person & the People declares over beers at the Muddy Pig in St. Paul. “Nick [Costa] showed me the demo to one of the songs, and I told him it has to sound less Jimmy Buffett. I think I actually hurt his feelings.”
The members — sans Sam’s twin brother Andy who plays bass — Sam on guitar, lead singer Costa, and drummer Brock Parks all laugh at the memory. It’s actually Parks’ birthday, so the band is celebrating a little early to lead into more drinks that night. Brock replaces former member Adam Mallory who moved to Seattle midway through 2015. The band wanted Mallory to be a part of the process, so the drummer quickly recorded his part right before packing up and moving across the country.
The sound on their new album has mellowed and is even represented in the title: Dark and Low. While writing, Costa let the influences of Weezer and Ryan Adams seep into the new aesthetic of the album. In the midst of writing for this record, he also decided to scrap his ongoing solo project, Me As a Pilot, to focus more on the Person and the People, making a collective effort to move the ship forward and fit it in between his gigging with the 4onthefloor on guitar.
“I feel a lot more confident playing guitar onstage,” Costa says coming off a three week tour with the 4onthefloor. “The reason I keep coming back to this band, is because it’s home base for me. I’ve known these guys for so long, it would be weird if we didn’t play together. I don’t feel strange bringing songs to the table with them. When I decided not to do Me As a Pilot anymore, I knew the songs would only get better as a band as opposed to me playing them by myself.”
“Living with Nick, I’ve realized we’re not like a lot of artists where we’re concerned that what we’re doing is good. There’s a lot of songs that didn’t make this record. I think we’re way more concerned with just doing something – whether it be good or bad. That’s what helps you write good songs – just do something. You get better at it. I’ve got one song on the record that I wrote, but it’s the best one,” Sanford jokingly claims.
Once again, the band worked with producer Dan Mariska, where he lent his guidance on the tracks, “He’s a great songwriter, and I really trust his input. When he can leave a song alone, I take that as a compliment. The second he says, ‘Maybe we should do this instead,’ you know you have to change it up," shares Costa.
“It’s a light touch,” adds Sanford “It’s not like we’re getting Taylor Swifted in the studio. It’s cool to be working with someone who is doing so much in sound these days. It was only recently that we came to the realization that we wanted to take this music thing further than just a hobby – almost to a fault. Now we know that real jobs suck. We found we were actually getting better as a band, so we should try and do something with it.”
Reading through the track listings is a bit like reading a day in the life of the band members: "Go Back Home," "Sleep All Day," and "Hot Summer Nights." "Hot Summer Nights" recalls Ryan Adams during his Cardinals era, with Costa's voice weaving through a tale of a relationship gone sour. Dark and Low is an album with heart and rough edges but contains a lustre that comes from the guitar tones and lyrics. There are moments when the strains of Weezer's pop sound and Band of Horses' country stylings can be heard, full of soul and feeling and variety within the songs.
“I personally feel like this is the best album we’ve ever made; it’s the one I’m most proud of," Costa declares. "All of the other records, I was hoping they would come out as cohesively. When this one was done, it just was. I found my voice a little bit more when writing these songs. They’re still reminiscent of the last records, since some were written right after the last one.”
Parks adds, “As a fan of the band, when I listen to the first two records, I thought, 'Sweet, you guys just put out a CD.' I would listen to them, but not much after that. With this record, I listen to the CD just to listen to it. It’s super good and listenable.”
The Person & the People Dark and Low CD Release
With: Murder Shoes, Tabah, and the Persian Leaps.
Where: Kitty Cat Klub.
When: Saturday, April 23, 2016; 9 pm.
Tickets: $5, more info here.