By Following His Own Muse, Bassist Adam Corbett Expands The Restoration’s Southern Experiment
New South Blues
Adam Corbett on his own | photo by Jordan Lawrence
Over the last five years, few Midlands-based bands have boasted the ambition of The Restoration. Started in Lexington and led by Daniel Machado, the group has journeyed through two folk-rock tales based in a fictionalized version of their hometown — one a story of miscegenation and betrayal in the 1800s, the other a depiction of Biblical zealotry and shocking violence set a century later. The band has explored adaptations of these Southern Gothic narratives for both film and stage, and even when it ventures into less conceptual territory, it has most often lobbed biting indictments at modern hypocrisy.
Somewhat counterintuitively, the group has also proven itself an able live act, blazing through bluesy rambles and crackerjack rock to contrast moments of sweeping chamber pop. The diminutive Machado is the obvious focal point, but he’s balanced by Adam Corbett, a lanky bass player who contributes a few lead vocals and provides a laid-back foil for the fiery frontman.
The Restoration has never been just Machado’s show. Saturday, the group will prove it, backing Corbett as he celebrates A & B Are So Far Apart, a debut EP that presents a drastically different vision. It’s a big step for Corbett, but he isn’t making much fuss over it.
“This record came about because I had this laptop with GarageBand on it,” he confesses. “I just noodled around. It’s just in my house, and I’m messing around with it.”
What: Lazy A & the Green Thing (Adam Corbett with The Restoration)
Where: Red Door Tavern, 134 1/2 State St.
When: Saturday, May 24, 8 p.m.
More Info: reddoortavern.net
Over time, his noodling transitioned into swirling pop experiments. “Strange Things” decks its raw and rambling acoustics with washed-out electronic flourishes, recalling Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. “Glow Worm” jumps and jitters, slinking through funk and indie pop, offering a more rustic interpretation of tUnE-yArDs’ futuristic propulsion. Neither have much in common with the pan-retro folk-rock preferred by The Restoration.
The latter song, Corbett admits, is actually built on a base of preset loops included with the software.
“I recorded five or six times with drums over the top, just trying to get a weird thing,” he admits. Elsewhere, he resorts to playing synthesizer with his computer keyboard and donning high-pitched vocal effects that recall Daft Punk and Kanye West.
He didn’t plan to release these early efforts, but was encouraged by his friends, particularly Machado, who set up the album’s release on Bandcamp — which ties A & B into The Restoration’s ongoing discography — and booked the show on Saturday.
The support, along with the fact that his laptop was stolen in January and then miraculously recovered with the hard drive intact, compelled Corbett to make use of the material.
To fill out the EP, he returned to two songs he wrote for his wedding day — the bouncy opener “I Do” and the closing ballad “Anywhere” — both of which remain effusive and romantic while avoiding any clichés or dopey proclamations.
“I write best under commission,” he explains. “And when you are about to get married, you are about as wild with love as you’re ever going to be. I was just trying not to be all Justin Bieber about it.”
Tracking all of the instruments and vocals himself, often straight through the laptop’s onboard microphone, the EP proves that Corbett can fascinate and entertain no matter the circumstances.
The release also bodes well for The Restoration’s future. The players are hard at work on a new concept record — this time conceived by Corbett — that chronicles the story of Reverend Samuel Harper, the character that leads the pro-North catharsis (“Praise the Union! Praise God!”) that serves as a moral compass for Constance, the group’s 2010 debut.
A former music minister who remains a liberal Christian, Corbett will once again foil Machado. Harper, an abolitionist preacher sent to lead a Lexington congregation in the antebellum South, is a stark contrast to Machado’s Roman Bright, the zealot and murderer that dominated 2012’s Honor the Father.
“[What] I’m about is love,” Corbett says, emphasizing that he’s “not really pro-religion.”
“I love Jesus,” he continues, “and I think he’s about the same thing.”
The bassist downplays any tension that his perspective might cause within The Restoration. After all, such conflicts are exactly what the band is all about.
“We all have friends that disagree with us, even good friends, ” he says. “It’s not hard. We have so many things in common. Some people put a lot of stock in their opinion. I’m not one of those people.”