It's not uncommon for a musician to have a day job to make ends meet, but Steve Gretz is a far cry from the office worker who waltzes down to the corner bar with a guitar on the weekend. His day job is SAT tutoring in New Jersey; his night gig involves fronting a band from Pittsburgh.
About two weekends a month, Gretz and Joe Tanner (who recently joined him in Montvale, N.J.) travel back to Pittsburgh to be with the band.
"It's like the National Guard," says drummer Dan Harding. "Actually, the National Guard is only one weekend a month, right? You could be doing better with them."
As Gretz is both the primary songwriter and the vocalist for Good Night, States, it might seem more sensible that he just find some Jersey lackeys to be his backing band. But that, you see, isn't how Good Night, States works. More than a simple backing band for Gretz, Good Night, States is both a collaborative project and a group of friends.
Gretz, Harding and bassist Trevor Baker met at Grove City College in the earlier part of the decade and melded musically in the now-defunct Like Summer. More recently, Tanner and keyboardist Megan Lindsey came on board.
Their debut album, Short Films on Self Control, is nearly a year in the making; recorded last spring, it laid about for much of 2007 as the band anticipated a possible promotion deal. The deal fell through, but Kevin Killen -- an engineer who's worked with everyone from U2 to Shakira -- had shown interest in the record regardless, and ended up mixing it for the band.
That fact alone should be indicative of the album's quality and cohesiveness -- what Good Night, States has released is a solid pop record that's a notch above most everything similar that's being released locally at this point, and one that could hold its own against most national competition.
Short Films recalls first and foremost Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, an album Gretz admires and took inspiration from. For all its popularity, that album didn't necessarily generate a new body of work from other artists, he posits. "You don't hear that many albums since it came out that really respond to it artistically," Gretz says. "We tried to appropriate some of the abstractions of those arrangements."
The result is a record heavy on concepts and dense production, but with a core of simple, catchy pop songwriting accented by light instrumental accessories (timely synth punch-ins, glockenspiel accents). It's a more-than-respectable first effort, and one that's well worth the two working weekends a month.
Good Night, States CD release with Lohio and Army of Me. 8 p.m. Sat., Feb. 9. Club Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $7. 21 and over. 412-391-4951 or www.clubcafelive.com