There’s a great deal to love about Future Selves, the epic debut album from San Diego’s Transfer. Bound with anthemic choruses, psychedelic guitars and skewed pop hooks, theirs is a sound that clips stadium-sized riffs to anthemic lyricism. It’s little wonder Q magazine recently tipped them as the band most likely to emerge from America’s indie hinterlands in 2011.
High praise is something Transfer have gathered in bucket loads, however. Since first recording Future Selves in 2009, the four piece – Jason Cardenas (guitar, vocals) and Matthew Molarius (vocals, guitar), Shaun Cornell (bass) and Andy Ridley (drums) – soon picked up high profile support slots with White Lies, The Bravery and Killers front man, Brandon Flowers.
Along the way they amassed a growing, but near hysterical fanbase in Europe, where early arrivals for Flowers’ shows quickly tuned into Transfer’s sound. Facebook and Twitter later buzzed with good vibes; the band’s reputation went beyond the moshpit: in 2010, Cool Green Recordings signed them to their label and made plans to release Future Selves in 2011.
“It’s been a whole new experience,” says Molarius. “Things have started to roll with extra speed. Touring with Brandon Flowers was a real game changer for us. It was an intense moment because his fans are so devoted – they’d line up beforehand and wait in the cold for hours. It was crazy to see. Those people have latched onto us now. It psyched the band up for the next phase.”
While these new steps included widespread acclaim and headline shows across Europe throughout the summer, Transfer’s arrival has actually been a long time coming. The nuts and bolts of the band are located in the friendship of Molarius and Cardenas, who first met at school. The pair began recording together eight years ago and moved to San Diego in 2003 where they worked with a merry-go-round of supporting musicians. Eventually a creative tryst was formed in 2008 with bassist, Cornell and drummer, Ridley.
Acoustic sketches and song ideas were soon fleshed out. In sessions, the four took their cues from what Cardenas describes as the “five basic food groups” of rock’n'roll: The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Stones. Further inspiration was drawn from My Morning Jacket, The Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire. Noise-some melodies were laid down and an album’s worth of demos began to take shape.
“We love bands with big dynamics and big songs,” says Molarius. “Those groups worked at a time in rock’n'roll where you could be revolutionary. Experimenting with songwriting, using a variety of instrumentation, Incorporating cellos, strings and horns, as well as huge, ballsy blues and heavy soul. Those bands really inspired us to not put ourselves in a box or pigeonhole ourselves with one particular sound. We wanted to make a pot pourri of rock’n'roll.”
Meanwhile, Cornell’s arrival provided added inspirational, not just in Transfer’s melodic engine room, but via his recording expertise. Having worked as a local producer with his own studio space, Cornell’s facilities and production savvy meant the band could experiment at leisure. Later, as Transfer added extra muscle to the songs that would make up Future Selves, tracks were self-produced/mixed with Cornell and Mark Needham (The Killers, Fleetwood Mac) at the controls.
“Shaun’s a mad scientist when it comes to music,” says Molarius. “He’d been collecting a lot of gear and building up this studio in a warehouse out on his ranch in northern San Diego. It was out in a canyon and very secluded. We basically holed up there for a month while we were writing the songs. Maybe some of that isolation came out in the tones of the music. It certainly had an organic feel to it.”
The recording proved both expansive and ambitious. Psychedelic riffs burned with a poppy energy on songs such as Losing Composure and Like It Used To Be. Elsewhere, Brian Wilson-style harmonies arrived swathed in chiming guitars and pianos on Take Your Medicine and the soulful Get Some Rest. The band even experimented with soaring prog rock on Enojado. With the recording finished, Future Selves’ over-arching mood was of an epic album that that brimmed with festival anthems and hefty rock riffola.
Meanwhile, a creative ethic, which first took shape in the recording and production of Future Selves, was extended into the band’s other work. They opened their own studio in downtown San Diego, called White Horse Recorders (Cardenas: “Our home base”). Meanwhile, the video for single, Take Your Medicine was awarded with the Platinum Remi (or first prize) at Houston’s 2011 International Film Festival.
“That song is personal to me,” says Molarius, who takes lyric-writing duties for the band. “Throughout my life I have had exposure to, and have always been curious about, psychoactive medication. Mostly interested in its purpose and application. Not to mention the influence of the corporate machine of pharmaceutical companies. I spoke to director, Nader Husseini about making a video that reflects the lyric and tone of the song and he developed an animation idea for it.
“It’s an amazing piece of art. In the video, there’s a girl being attacked by a monster-like character with tentacles. It’s wearing a lab coat and magnifying glass and vials are sticking out of his back. The beast gets hold of her and starts to vomit pills over her. Eventually he devours her as they sink into blackness. It’s very weird and dark.”
The fruits of this creative hub are now being converted into large-scale praise. In America, the band are tipped for Big Things. Europe is catching on as well. Headline gigs across the continent this summer and Transfer’s re-released debut seem set to further their growing reputation.
“It really fills our sails to get such a positive response,” says Molarius. “It justifies the efforts we’ve put in up to this point. We know Future Selves is something special and we’ve always believed we’re a great band but of course, we’re biased. Now people outside of our little world are talking and saying some good things. Gotta like that.”