The bari-sax and toy-piano-driven “Dog,” a memorable song on You Scream I Scream's last album, Bug in a Light, pits panting man's-best-friend (“You better like me 'cause I'm your best friend/Dog-dog-dog-dog”) against backward-hat frat boy (“You better like me 'cause I'm your best friend, dog”). Bros and kids, it turns out, can equally love dogs.
Floyd Kellogg, the co-founder of the Nantucket-NYC-CT band, along with partner/drummer Audrey Sterk, continues the deadpan-dual canine/bro-speak. “You know you're my pal, never a phony,” he sings. “You know I've got your back/That's right, you're my homey.” There's some Dire Straits/”Money for Nothing” guitar going on around it, pointing to cartoonish, mid-'80s video-songs, the kind Gen-Xers, even bros, loved as children.
If You Scream I Scream makes slightly goofy earworm music, easily latched onto by both kids and bros, it's not entirely an accident. Kellogg and Sterk, starting out as I'm with Stupid in 2008, produced what Kellogg, speaking to the Advocate by phone from his home in Nantucket, described as “really groggy, two-microphone demos.” They gave them to Chris Ballew, former singer of the Presidents of the United States of America, best known for the mid-'90s hits “Peaches” and “Lump.” Ballew, who now produces childrens' music under the handle Caspar Babypants, subsequently asked Kellogg and Sterk to open for the Presidents on what would be their final tour.
“When he brought it to the people promoting the tour,” Kellogg said, “they were like, ‘This band doesn't exist. There's not a lick of it on the Internet.' We were like, “Okay, let's make a MySpace page. Let's do this. Let's do that.' It went rolling from there.” Ballew's music, Kellogg said, is all about being super-fun and catchy. “I think that's what our band originally was. I think it still has those elements. But it's developed into something else.”
That something else is Zookeeper, You Scream I Scream's terrific, more serious new release. There's nothing quite as novel as “Dog,” although “Cars,” the opener, awash in overdriven keyboards, announces they don't plan on shedding any earworm-ness, even if, two-and-a-half minutes in, you don't hear any vocals yet. There's no rush.
“Some of my past bands were all about trying to get to the hook,” Kellogg said, “in 45 seconds. All of this radio stuff that record labels at the time were looking for, this formula.”
“Cars'” bookend on Zookeeper is “Uh, Drugs,” Kellogg's ode to the cyclic nature of popular music as a means to differentiate yourself from your parents, over four synth/steel pan chords. “'Cause of the songs you sang, your parents thought you did drugs/'Cause of the songs they sang, the parents thought they did drugs/Cause of the songs they sang, the parents thought they did drugs/And on, and on, and on and on and na-na,” Kellogg sings. He's got a point.
You Scream I Scream, who'll play a show on Oct. 27 at the Submarine in New Haven (with Tommy Diehl subbing on drums), is part of a collective of talented musicians affiliated with Casa de Warrenton, a Hartford home studio co-owned by drummer Jeff Jahnke. There, Kellogg has produced the local prog-rap group Mandrake Mechanism, singer-songwriter Becky Kessler, New York's Steel Phantoms and the Sweet Ones, Boston's the Bold Type and many others.
Bands, Kellogg said, come up from New York and down from Boston to get out of either city and to record in a house. “People have some nostalgia for Led Zeppelin recording in a house, or the Stones or whomever. It gives you the feel of staying there and making your new record and completing it that way.”
Bug in a Light started, literally, with some songs and a click-track. “It was just Audrey and myself just goofing around, doing a band,” Kellogg said. “We added members and it felt more like a band.” Kellogg and Jake Vohs, the band's keyboard player, share a fondness for cheesy keyboards. They fill spaces usually left open — and quickly filled in — by guitars. “I've always wanted to put guitar on our music. But not having it is kind of what made the band sound the way that it does. That limitation is what makes it sound the way it does.”
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You Scream I Scream w/Fake Babies & Party Horse, Oct. 27, 9 p.m., free, The Submarine, 75 Daggett St. Apt. G-2, New Haven.