The Specs aren’t really into titles. Though the local indie band has made several albums — including 2009’s self-titled, radiant pop-rock disc — none have ever been given a name. Comprised of drummer Shawn Krauss, bassist Brett Nash, guitarist/chief songwriter Steve Tirozzi, and keyboardist/lead vocalist Eric Galloway, The Specs haven’t spent much time naming anything since 2001, during the band’s conception. “Shawn just came up with the name,” Tirozzi tells us. “We deliberated over the name for a long time, and nobody could agree on anything. One night Shawn just said, ‘The Specs,’ and nobody hated it or anything. And that was it.” Now, over a dozen years later, The Specs will soon drop their second ever full-length release. And nope, the record doesn’t have a name — not yet anyway.
Krauss, Tirozzi, and Galloway got their musical start in Columbia in the mid-’90s with bassist Nick Brewer. Tirozzi describes their sound back then as “total Frank Zappa progressive,” morphing briefly into something a little more jammy. The four friends had been practicing together every single night when they decided to really go for it. “We got the bright idea that we could move to Boston and become successful,” Tirozzi says.
Boston didn’t stick for the band, known then as Dax Nummy, but the move was worth it. The four recorded their first album there in Beantown, and though it was never titled or released, it was a start. And Tirozzi worked at a bar/venue frequented by indie-rock gods of the day — Guided by Voices, Blonde Redhead — bands that continue to influence their sound.
After they chose Charleston as the next adventure, the band arrived to a thriving indie music scene they fell in love with, and they gave themselves a new name. The Specs made a very Brit-pop rock, five-track EP in the early 2000s called, naturally, The Specs. By this time, they’d picked up local musician and artist Kevin Hanley as their new bassist. Nash signed on as bassist in 2011.
From the start, The Specs have rehearsed every week at the same practice space. From 2006-2008, the band met there to compose The Specs’ first full-length release, which turned out to be a concept album all about sleep and dreams.
The new disc, due out early next year, has a theme, too. Because a couple of members had experienced personal losses, the songs they wrote during that time wound up being centered around mortality and life after death. For example, “Silver Coated Sky,” a big, anthemic ballad, is about the hope that maybe there’s a heaven above.
“A couple of years ago, my grandfather died, and he was a raging atheist,” Tirozzi says. “He didn’t believe there was any possibility of anything, and my mother was raised Protestant, and then she became a member of the Catholic church because my father was Catholic. So she had a conversation with him when he was on his deathbed about whether or not this was it. She told him he would be surprised, and he was kind of like, ‘I hope so, but I just don’t believe it.’
“In ‘Silver Coated Sky,’ it talks about fear and whether or not we’re accidental,” Tirozzi continues. “It’s a tough one. I find myself frankly thinking — like in Life of Pi, it’s kind of a neat ending — if you’re left to choose and no one knows which is right, one of them seems a lot better of a choice, right? No matter how you slice it, one is more favorable. If I had to pick one to be reality, then I’d choose for there to be something. I would not want the other one, for sure.”
But things aren’t always so deeply contemplative for the band. Tirozzi says the new album is mostly full of songs they started tracking two years ago, when they were in that reflective state of mind. But the stuff written since then follows no real coherent theme, including a fun one you’ll hear only at live gigs.
“Go For Launch” was written for friend and musician, Jim Faust of Dumb Doctors, and, formerly, Go For Launch. “Basically he and I sat at Tin Roof one night and he told me how someone from another band called Go For Launch had sent him a cease-and-desist letter,” Tirozzi says. “And it was the most interesting story. So I went home, and I wrote the song ‘Go For Launch.’ The first line is, ‘Jim Faust is Go For Launch/ He’s got his mind made up/ They wont leave him alone/ It’s a matter of legal counsel.’ Now the song has become our favorite to play, even though it’s not our deepest cut or anything.”
The band has done so much songwriting since completing the new CD, Tirozzi reckons they should be able to begin work on yet another record before too long. In the meantime, there’s plenty of big indie-rock gold getting mastered and ready for 2015. The inspired collection, awash with stadium pop, explosive ballads, and obvious influences from The Beatles to The Walkmen, will ultimately be called … something.
“We can’t have another untitled album,” Tirozzi says. “So this one, we might put a title on.”