It’s way scary when your passion, your talent—the very thing that unites thousands of people, pays your bills, and even burns your calories—ain’t workin’.
But that was the case for the Supertones when they began jamming on song fragments for their fifth album and follow-up to their hugely successful CD, Loud and Clear.
“We had anywhere from 25 to 40 ideas going into rehearsals,” says stalwart bassist and founding member, Tony Terusa. “It was a frenzy of material that we jammed on and listened to and tried hard to make work—but it wasn’t working.” (Translation: Sink or swim time!)
Where many bands would call it quits or at the very least settle for producing a sub-par album, the Supertones’ experience, tenacity, focus, and faith weathered the middle-of-the-night storm on the lake—as if you’d expect anything less from these guys!
“We sat down and said, ‘This is what we want to do. We really need to concentrate on the beats the melodies…’” Terusa explains, “and then, whammo!”
Whammo is right. The 15 songs that made the cut for Hi-Fi Revival came fast and furious, making it easily the hands-down catchiest piece of work the Orange County quintet ever produced. Each song practically gasps for a shot at radio airplay—but not at all in a for-
mulaic sense. According to Terusa, the success of the recording sessions hinged on getting back to what’s important to the band.
“Creating the pop element on Hi-Fi Revival was a very conscious decision,” Terusa reveals. “We talked about the three most important things to our sound: the lyrics, making the melodies as catchy and hooky as we could possibly get them, and having fun. We’ve found that if we don’t write songs that we aren’t grooving to or having fun playing live, then there’s just no point.”
That kind of cast-away-your-cares attitude is responsible not only for the pop sensibilities of Hi-Fi Revival, but also for its unabashedly diverse presentation. Take the raw, James Brownish-funk (yes, funk!) of the aptly named, opening salvo “Superfly.”
“That was actually the last song we put together in the studio!” Terusa explains. “Me and Mojo [a.k.a., vocalist Matt Morginsky] have been influenced by old soul stuff for years—the Meters, Sly & the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder—but those guys are geniuses…and we’re not!
So doing funk has been scary for us. I mean, you gotta do funk right! There are a lot of bands that get stoked on funk, try it, and it just doesn’t work. So we’ve always said, if we ever do funk, we’re gonna do it right. And it turned out really well—there’s a high energy level
to it, but still in the Supertones’ style.”
And while you’re basking in old school soul, get ready for the “My Sharona”-like beats and verse melodies of the fist-in-the-air slammer, “Go Go Go.” Or the exuberant progressions of “Welcome Home” (sure to be a crowd pleaser with a chorus that tips an appreciative hand to a standard tune the Blues Brothers made famous, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.”) Or the Bo Diddley rhythms, Mexicali horns, and slam-dancing energy of “Attitude.” Or the standout, punkish, heavy-groovin’ rocker, “I’m Just a Man.” Or the unmistakable soulful horns (not ska horns) in the reverent ballad “Hold Onto Jesus.”
Speaking of that former flavor-of-the-month genre, don’t let the lack of reliance on ska make you think the Supertones have abandoned the sound altogether—far from it. “Ska is still close to our hearts, and we love it dearly,” Terusa notes. “But we’ve gradually progressed
toward other sounds as well since our first two albums. We’ve just tried to do our own thing—and just be the Supertones, whatever that sounds like! You’ll hear some ska in there, for sure, but in general, we’re just trying to be the band that the Lord is leading us to be.”
Oh, and hold the phone! The other reason why the recording went so well? It had a ton to do with the Supertones’ latest producer—and their choice is a head-turner, believe you me: Brent Bourgeois.
That’s right! The man who’s cut almost all his production teeth on adult contemporary artists (Sandi Patty, Cindy Morgan, Rachel Lampa, among others) stepped into, believe it or not, very welcome waters when he allied himself with the Supertones.
“For Brent, it was like ‘Finally! This is my forte!’ See…when he was touring in the ‘70s, he was surrounded by the funk and soul that infused rock at that time—and that sound used a lot of horns. I gotta give props to Brent for the horns on the album, especially on ‘Hold Onto
Jesus.’ We were aching to make that one really memorable and special. I was saying, ‘We have to do something big!’ The hook, the message, the style, even the 6/8 time signature—which we’ve never attempted before—called for it. Then Brent heard it and thought it need-
ed some Tower of Power/old Chicago-style horns—and he made that song into something rhythmic and beautiful. We just rode on his coattails!”
And not only did Bourgeois bolster the horns, he upped the overall pop ante—and often not in ways that the ‘Tones were completely used to or comfortable with.
“He would hear a hook and make sure it was there as prominently as possible,” Terusa explains, “but to get there he cut time out of some songs: ‘Okay, this one’s over.’ He cut and sliced things, changed things, rearranged things. That’s why the songs are all so brief—
yet they sound like they could just keep going. Brent brought all that out.”
The Supertones’ lyrics have always been uncompromising and in-your-face (albeit with a smile), but given everything the band had been through since Loud and Clear, the resulting lyrics reflect a clinging to Jesus like never before.
“In my mind, this whole album is about Jesus,” Terusa says. “From our last album to now, we as a band have gone through our hardest time ever. There’ve been some personnel changes, and some personal things have come out.”
Among the most notable changes was the departure of drummer and founding member, Jason Carson, who’s now a youth pastor—a move that’s been hard on the band (they’ve yet to replace Carson with a full-time member), but one they fully support.
“We definitely want to preach and sing about Christ—but not a false sense of Christianity. To us it’s just complete reliance on Christ and on his Holy Spirit in this tough world. There are so many struggles and so many joys and so many hardships and so many blessings…but without Christ, all of those things are nothing. We sing about it in ‘Brand New Thing’: ‘Oh I knew there’d be trouble / It’s what happens when you live.’
“When Christians go through tough times, so many of them ask, ‘I’m a Christian, why is this happening to me?’ But instead we want these new songs to help believers start saying, ‘I’m a Christian…thank God I can lean on him!’”
Source: BEC Recordings