The musical brainchild of Troy Van Leeuwen (Failure, A Perfect Circle, Queens of the Stone Age) and Serrina Sims, California’s alt-rock Sweethead takes it’s name from a vintage “vulgar” David Bowie song, and it’s sound from the various eras of rock music.
“Antony”, this first piece, recorded and shelved, not released until late 2014, represented the band prior to becoming known for any signature sound or carriage. Sweethead had yet to step out and stake their claim in rock and roll land. This tune lays a smart foundation for what would become a cornerstone of the band’s sound: clean, articulate, restrained verses which give way to intense, dip-your-hand-in-battery-acid distorted choruses.
Simply the band’s original incarnation, fairly dark and dramatic “Antony” represents another tune bespoke of love and loss, understated and sensual. Sweethead’s modern, cultivated approach to songwriting shines, allowing lead vocalist Serrina Sims her elbow room to shine on this ever-so-slightly psychedelic, mid-tempo rocker. The song communicates most readily through personal lyrics that seem substantial. Overwrought and sore, this lady pours her soul out to this guy, who, full of contempt, brushes off her concerns and threatens to leave. There’s a dichotomy: the fantastic concept is that, because the band has two vocalists, one can take each part. Sims and Van Leeuwen act it out convincingly enough to make it stick.
“Antony” is slick, sophisticated, catchy, and alluring. For delivery, the music doesn’t rely so much on melody as much as it does on contrasts of light and shadow. As both a producer or arranger and musician, few can match Van Leeuwen’s tact in adding subtle color, texture, and substance to layers within a song. The opening salvo sets the mood: broody synth and murky, distorted bass. Delectable lap steel guitar permeates and saturates through layers to take listeners on a brief, near-trancelike jaunt.
While “Antony” itself spent some time in Sweethead’s unheard archive, it’s concepts and ideas were expanded on the band’s full-length (released on The End Records). “City of Dirt” contains some of the same tempo, melody, and counterpoint motives, and “Running Out” shares similar sparseness and a more emphatic, slower tempo. This song, released as a teaser for an upcoming release, is presented to fans as a lyric video. It has some stunning visualizations: colorful liquid diffusions, oil droplets, and so on, becoming a three minute feast for your ears as well as your eyes. Recommended for fans of well-crafted ‘indie’ rock of any make.
Check it out yourself: it’s free!