New rock band The Simplicity release "Laughter" ahead of upcoming album Dahlin', recorded at Rialto Row with an ensemble of local musicians | Photo by Ruta Smith

Frontman John Bias climbed on top of The Royal American bar as he sang, knocking things over and accepting a shot from the bartender. It was The Simplicity’s second show back post-pandemic to showcase songs off the upcoming album Dahlin’, a compilation of rock ballads and uptempo existentialism. The new single, “Laughter,” dropped July 23. 

The Simplicity, a three-piece rock band that also includes bassist Tommy Merritt and drummer Drew Lewis, relied on friends in the album’s recording process completed at Rialto Row with producer Wolfgang Zimmerman.

 “Without Wolfie’s insight, we would have come out with a totally different record,” Merritt said. 

Contributions include vocals, violin and percussion from Sally Mahon; Contour’s Tyler Sim on keys; Sam Jaeger on guitar; along with Brady Skylar of Daddy Beemer’s and Dan Fetterolf on guitar and violin. 

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Lewis said. “Having the piano and the extra people in the room — all the ideas floating around — there was no way to hit a roadblock. There was so much energy in the room with everybody working together.” 

The seven songs on Dahlin’ were tracked in a single weekend. “We got lucky because most of the songs that made the record were written on the spot,” Merritt said. The spontaneity of the recording process underpins the obscure creativity each new song captures.

Dahlin’s content came from both instantaneous composing and gradual development of lyrical themes, with influences ranging from modern and old school punk like Omni and Dead Boys, to more classic groups like The Band, Velvet Underground and Stooges. 

Another song on the upcoming album, “War,” was one the band didn’t even rehearse before going into the studio. “It was more just a funny idea we had,” Bias said. While the new song, “Percy Street,” was shaped from Bias’ memories of living at a house venue called Makeout Reef. 

“We would throw shows with Crumb, Omni, Inner Wave — great bands on the come up that are on the radio now,” Bias said. “I look back on that as some of the fondest memories of my life, both good and bad. That song encompasses how I was feeling at the time, and how I still feel.”

The July single, “Laughter,” is an experiment with mad howls, dissonant chords and furious picking — proving the band isn’t afraid of appearing unhinged. 

The guys appreciate being on the fringe in Charleston, which is known for its Americana — it gives The Simplicity that “fresh underdog kind of vibe,” Merritt said. “Now that the world has reset, this is not a bad place to be.”

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