From the opening notes of Sun Showers, the first full-length effort from the rapidly evolving indie-everything troupe Homemade Haircuts, there’s an unmistakable statement of creative intent.
Throttling guitar chords and a dynamic drum fill set the stage for rippling melodic lead guitar lines and reverb-drenched sun-kissed vocals that yank the laid-back bedroom pop of the group’s previous efforts into the rock show.
It’s perhaps not even fair to compare what Homemade Haircuts sounds like now from their earlier efforts, which were largely the product of what frontmen Bob Magee and Evan Delp admit was just them learning how to be a band while they were undergraduates at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
Neither Delp nor Magee had ever seriously played music in a band before, bonding over a shared love of big, boisterous 2010s alt-rock groups with strong pop sensibilities like Cage the Elephant and The 1975. And there’s a certain casual, strumminess to those early songs, which can often feel more akin to early Alex G or Mac DeMarco if it weren’t for their pop sensibilities, which were evident from the start.
“We weren’t really playing very many shows or anything. We were really just learning how to write songs,” Magee said. “And Evan, who mixes our music to this day, was [learning] music production. Homemade Haircuts was just kind of a project for learning how to make music.”
Even given the casual nature of their approach, the duo found some early success on streaming services, particularly after a quirky Twitter interaction with YouTube influencer Jenna Marbles led to their song “Fairy Tale” getting more than a million Spotify streams and popping up on a few of its algorithmic playlists. Their approach, with layered, dreamy vocals atop winding-yet-infectious melodies, clearly worked.
With the songs on the new album, though, the duo enlisted drummer and bassist Blake Hunter (Bellavida, Bull Moose Party) to fill out the sound just as they were ramping up their live performances. Hunter, a young-yet-seasoned vet in the Columbia music scene who teaches both guitar and drums for Freeway Music, also brought some music theory acumen and chops to the group. The result is a record that compares more readily to their self-described influences, as well as local indie rock heroes like Band of Horses or Susto.
“I don’t think it was a coincidence that this album was formed also during the period that we were starting to play shows,” Magee said. “I think we realized the kind of music that we wanted to be playing for audiences and the energy that we wanted to bring to the shows.”
Delp added, “When we were starting out in college, drum programming was the best tool we had. I think we realized the limitations of that, in a sense. I really feel like the depth and variety of our sound [expanded] because we opened up with [Hunter], and he had a unique perspective.
“I think that made it a bit more broadly ‘rock’ than we would have made it on our own,” Delp added, “but that’s the beauty of the collaborative process, getting in a room and seeing how great it feels when you’re listening back and things changing in really beautiful ways that we couldn’t do on our own.”
While the band produced the LP, there’s clearly a lot of polish and poise that wasn’t as readily apparent in its antecedents. By building on the charms of those early bedroom pop efforts while consciously reaching for room-filling energy, the band, now relocated to Charleston, is ready to see how far their music can go.
Hunter names Charleston outfits like Susto and Brave Baby as early inspirations for the possibilities of his playing, and local drummer and producer Wolfgang Zimmerman as a big drumming influence.
“I just remembered being enamored with them when I first stayed playing music, when I realized that these bands were in the same state as me, just two hours down the road [from Columbia],” he said. “I thought they were amazing.”
Magee echoes that sentiment, noting that “since we met Blake and felt like we became a band, being from South Carolina has been really important to us.”
“Just doing this in South Carolina has definitely colored our experience and all of our influences. We’re happy to be a South Carolina band.”
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