Monday, June 18, 2012

Virals Are Coming Up With The Sun

Shaun Hencher has come full circle. The musician, born and raised in the small town of Worcester in west England, left home only to return again. When he did, he found a refreshing sense of purpose in his new musical sound.

True, Worcester isn't what most people would describe as a happening town when it comes to music. But Hencher’s roots are there, along with his girlfriend, house, and a cat. It's also the same place where writing songs would become a welcome distraction from his other worries — dead-end jobs and the immediate future.

Hencher trades in noisy punk for a alternative power pop.

Hencher is best known to some as the front man for noisy punk rock band Lovvers. With the Lovvers, he made a mark with his thoughtful songwriting and scruffy, scuzzy vocals. Now he is playing, writing and recording under the Virals name.

The name came to him in a dream one night, so he woke up and wrote it down. He couldn't believe no other band had laid claim to it. That's all it took, and for Hencher it seemed to fit.

The Virals' 4-track EP called Coming Up With The Sun was released on the Tough Love and Sexbeat labels and features a sunny U.S. feel while retaining some familiar U.K. footings. Originally, the EP was meant to be a studio only one-man project with Hencher playing all the instruments (except drums).

Unlike recording with the Lovvers, this EP wasn’t recorded live. It also didn't have to survive any give and take between band members. Instead, Hencher shares songs written during a period of contemplation and unrest.

The irony is that writing them down and recording them might be Hencher’s own ticket to a sunny future. The Virals are catching on, earning some positive attention from critics and fans alike.

A new beginning after releasing one double-sided single and an addictive EP.

For Hencher, this is a new beginning all over again. He never expected The Guardian to name his Virals the new band of the day, helping earn these tracks some welcome airplay on Radio 1.

The reason people like the songs is easy to figure out. They represent a shift for Hencher toward 70s power pop with a bit of slacker rock and catchy melodies mixed in. It’s effortless and contagious.

 Coming Up With the Sun, the title track, is upbeat with a lighter pop sound. It’s perhaps the strongest of the four songs and nicely showcases Hencher’s high register vocals.

Magic Happens, which was released as a 7-inch single along with Comes The Night (in advance of the EP), plays out pretty crazy on this video made by Zac Ella. The one condition was that Hencher didn't want to be in the video. So Ella did it instead, weaving in old home movies from when he was just a kid doing magic tricks.

The remaining three songs (along with the single) are all worth the download. Shake It Up mixes things up with jangly, treble-heavy guitars, big drums and a solid pop beat. Gloria takes a few chords and turns them into something bright and sunny and urgent. Dig The Moon has the EP’s best guitar work, crashing cymbals and sweet vocals. It’s the kind of song you might play during a day at the beach.

Since Virals essentially a one-man show in the studio, Hencher has had to put together a touring band for live dates. But even as he added band members, it's clear that Hencher seems to be having fun for the first time.

His standout songwriting and vocals are now front and center instead of being buried in the mix. And the result is an EP that indicates Hencher has finally grown up and knows what he wants his music to be.

Virals' Coming Up With The Sun Slides In With 4.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

It’s nice to see a rising talent like Hencher find his footing. He and his touring band are playing June 27-29 in Leeds, London and Brighton. Hopefully he will be taking his act on the road and launching his sound in the U.S. I think it will certainly catch on.

You can find Magic Happens and Coming Up With The Sun on iTunes. Magic Happens/Comes The Night and Coming Up With The Sun are also on Amazon. The Virals recently added a Facebook page too. It went live in March, just ahead of the first release.
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