Music » Noah Bonaparte Pais: On the Record

The Pharmacy with Native America

New Orleans is suddenly overrun by quality rock bands. Is the Pharmacy one of them?



  It's a more complicated question than it sounds. Weekend, the trio's third album, is for certain a Crescent City product, written and recorded in a Mid-City rental house during the first eight months of 2009 and issued as a split release in March by local imprint Park the Van and Seattle's Don't Stop Believin' Records. Captured using only a four-track, an old microphone and some cheap effects pedals, the LP plays out like a lost artifact from 1965 London, with a low-lying cloud of reverb obscuring singer/guitarist Scott Yoder's jagged Jagger twang, Brendhan Bowers' skipping drum patterns and Stefan Rubicz's mood-swinging, Zombies-inspired keyboard bass lines and solos.

  "It was definitely something, I think, that we all had to do, in a natural kind of way," Yoder says of the backward-looking platter. "We all gravitated toward older '60s stuff. New Orleans was definitely the catalyst for being able to bring that out of us."

  The group itself, however, is harder to pin down. Born on Seattle's neighboring Vashon Island, the Pharmacy has become something of a timeshare band, one that now must be considered at least half ours: It's putting an international tour on pause this week to lay down leftover tracks for another album here. "I definitely miss New Orleans a lot," Yoder says. "I think about it more than I think about Seattle when I'm on tour."

  Which is to say he's been thinking about it a lot. Since leaving town in August, the band has spent as many nights on the road as at home, taking Weekend's tunes everywhere from a May booze cruise in Manhattan ("this trashy, smelly, weird little boat that went around the Statue of Liberty") to the Funk Hostel in Zagreb, Croatia — a high point, Yoder says, of a spring swing through Europe. "The more east we go, the more fun things seem to be. ... It's definitely a different vibe from America. People are a lot more cerebral about their enjoyment of music. There's all these people there just kind of standing and staring at you. You're not really sure what to make of it. You learn to go through the set expecting no interaction with the audience, really. Then you'll finish a set and talk to a few people and realize that they really enjoyed it.

  "They're very specific though," he laughs, adding with an unspecific Eastern Bloc accent, "'Song 1 was very good. Song 2, no.'"

  Even persnickety listeners will have a hard time faulting Weekend. The band's formerly kaleidoscopic psych/pop suddenly finds laser-guided precision, both musically and lyrically, on the eerily Stones-like zenith "On With the Show" (whose cascading, painted-black hook takes turns on piano and violin) and "Children on TV" ("Remember we were just children on TV / And the whole world was just what our eyes could see?").

  Weekend's companion album, the bulk of which will be recorded this week in the 9th Ward, continues the retro-rock mining while playing up the grungier garage aspects, Yoder hints: "It's more '90s, in a way. I don't think I will ever not think of Nirvana."

  After its first trip to Mexico, a cool-down summer in Seattle and an annual fall jaunt, the bicoastal band plans to return to New Orleans in the winter. For Yoder, it seems, home is where the guitar is. "I think it's safest to say that we're a band that started on Vashon Island," he says, resigned. "I don't know if we're a New Orleans band, or a Seattle band, or a Zagreb band."

The Pharmacy with Native America

10 p.m. Saturday, June 12

Circle Bar, 1032 St. Charles Ave., 588-2616


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