Scene: Brite Winter music festival – Punk Porch Stage at Mulberry’s – February 24, 2018
It’s a brisk Saturday afternoon in Cleveland. With the temperature hovering barely above 40 degrees, Ledges takes the stage to kick off the festivities at one of five host venues scattered around the West Bank of the Flats. Band vocalist Andy Hoffman leans into the microphone as he negotiates the lyrics of the forlornly hypnotic, “Teenage Daydream.”
“Tell me, girl, where is your head/Tell me, girl, WHERE IS YOUR HEAD,” Hoffman implores.
Ledges music is earnest and captivating. Their sound is an intoxicating cocktail of indie and pop. For the thirty minutes that they are performing, time gets twisted and slow. It doubles back upon itself.
The Akron-based band, At a Loss for Words, is front and center at Musica, a safe-haven for local musicians and national touring acts in the Downtown district. On this evening, they are playing with, among others, future stand-outs, Seafair. Though the raw material is there, the quintet doesn’t have the confidence or polish that they would later show when they rebrand themselves “Ledges” in 2014.
The story, however, starts even earlier than that. Vocalist Andy Hoffman recalls a childhood spent attending “old-timey Baptist church” services. Three times a week his family would go. Three times a week the spiritual hymns would not only entertain a restless child, they would capture his imagination.
In the second grade, he began to play classical guitar. Like most boys of a certain age, his interest wandered. In the eighth grade, he picked it back up. His musical tastes soon gravitated towards Top 40 alt-rock.
“I learned ‘Wonderwall,’” he chuckles.
As Hoffman grew older, he encountered bands like Jack’s Mannequin and Copeland. Their emotional, poppy sound spoke to him.
“I discovered a new vein of music that I connected with,” he says.
So in 2014 while the vision for Ledges was being crafted, the singer brought those influences, as well as a predilection for kindred spirits, Manchester Orchestra, to the table. He was into angst-y, guitar-driven rock and that is what he was looking to create.
Be that as it may, many of his bandmates had tastes leaning toward electronic music. He was against it at first. It didn’t feel authentic to him.
Nonetheless, the friends forged on. Pinches of rock, electronic and 80’s pop were added to the pot. Their sound became rich and nuanced.
The group released “The Indian Summer” in May of 2014. The titular track is nearly seven minutes of haunting indie goodness.
When it came time to record a follow-up, the band turned to producer Will Hess and the 100-year-old former Gothic revival grey stone church where he worked (Ocean Way Nashville Music Studios) to birth their debut LP. The spiritual pedigree of the space was kismet with Hoffman’s fundamentalist upbringing.
Each member of the band contributed lyrics, riffs and melodies to construct the songs that comprise “Homecoming.” They would travel to Nashville every couple weeks to record for two or three days before returning to Akron to generate more material. It took them six or seven visits to complete the album.
“It was a long process,” says Hoffman. “At times it was really hard…almost painful…to work on it.”
The result of that effort is a pretty terrific album. Be it the soaring immediacy of “The Ocean” or the bombastic ache of “New York,” Ledges taps into feels both high and low. The band knew when to nudge the brakes and when to slam on the gas to achieve maximum effect on each track. The blend of sincere lyrics and escalating sonics translates as artistically genuine and irresistibly infectious. Upon release last year, “Homecoming” was lauded by fans and critics alike.
And that brings us back to 2018 and back to “Teenage Daydream.” The spell is broken as the set concludes. There is a buzz of chatter in the air as the audience disperses. The band diligently breaks down their gear and packs it away before shuffling off into the cold Cleveland night.
Find Ledges online at ledgesmusic.bandcamp.com and on Facebook @LEDGESmusic.
(all photos courtesy of Ledges)
Ted Zep can be found daily at SuperNoBueno.Wordpress.com.