It starts with the muted, chikka-chikka strum of a Fender Telecaster electric guitar and the clacking metronome of drumsticks, while riffing on a slight, but healthy case of secret identity.
“I show up to your Halloween party / without a costume on,” singer/guitarist Shay Park coos, her voice caressing the syllables of each word. “Everyone keeps asking me / who I am supposed to be.”
This is the introduction to “Halloween Party,” and it’s the first song Pittsburgh’s Soda Club laid down last week when the band started recording its debut EP, Enjoy, at Broadcast Lane Studios in Homestead.
“I think pop is such a misunderstood sound — people associate it with the Top 40 and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I want to reclaim pop,” Park says. “We’ve haven’t pinned [how to label our sound] down. ‘Hard twee’ was my favorite genre, but maybe that’s just because that’s the kind of music I envision making myself.”
On this August afternoon, as producer Chris “Lurch” Rudyk set up microphones at his studio overlooking East Eighth Avenue, the members of Soda Club debated just what sound they were trying to capture on the four-song debut the quartet hopes to release this fall.
“Lo-fi dream pop? Bedroom pop? Add ‘pop’ to all these words and you’ll get close,” singer/saxophonist Jarrett Krause says with a laugh.
“It’s so nice when someone says to us, ‘It doesn’t fit into a niche,’” Park adds.
The music is certainly original. Park eschews distortion on her guitar, lending Soda Club a lot of straight lines and shimmer. Drummer Mason Jaynes provides a funky kind of groove, and Krause and bassist Tosh Chambers give the music, which showcases an inviting naiveté and innocence, its texture and color.
“They’re their own thing,” Rudyk says between takes. “These guys are like Talking Heads meets I don’t know what. And Shay’s got this polite, almost British thing.”
The group was listening to playback near an enormous, digital tracking board channeled through vintage analog effects. Park mouthed the words to “Halloween Party,” Jaynes mimicked the drum patter by tapping his legs, and Rudyk offered commentary.
“Can it swing?” Rudyk asks. “Really get into the ride [cymbal] there. We can overdub that. I really want to hear you get into a groove.”
This was not everyone’s first trip to a studio. Jaynes and Chambers recorded a demo with their previous band, Pawn Scum, in Squirrel Hill in February 2016. That record, unfortunately, never saw the light of day. But it informed their selection of tracks to record.
“Inevitably, we just went to the first four songs we wrote and changed a few things to make them feel new,” Krause says.
It also informed the members’ sense of determination, which peppered conversation as they prepared to record with Rudyk.
“We can’t turn this into the white whale,” says Park, referencing Moby-Dick. “We’ll nail it.”
And then, they did.