Andy Martin, lead singer of The Backgrounds, laments the fact that there are so many other musicians named Andy Martin. “I think there’s an ’80s hair metal guy, and maybe a killer trombone player named Andy Martin. I got tired of so many other musicians named Andy Martin. It kept me up at night,” says Martin, who is originally from Pittsburgh and now resides in Philadelphia. Martin followed up his eponymous 2007 debut album with the 2010 release of This Town, which was released under the new moniker The Backgrounds.
Despite the name change, Martin remains the driving force behind the music, which showcases a fusion of folk, blues, and classic rock elements. Other than keyboardist Mikel Azpiroz, none of the accompanying musicians on This Town played with Martin on his 2007 self-titled debut album. Rather than being part of a collaborative effort, Martin does most of the legwork in composing and executing his vision of the music. “I have no idea how to jam,” Martin freely admits. “I work out most of the songs and structure myself, and then try to share [my vision] with everyone else.”
Working with a variety of musicians, including Neon Trees bassist Branden Campbell, Martin manages to create a sense of unification on a mini-EP that contains only five songs. His occasionally simplistic lyrics belie a vocal ability that makes a strong cameo in the third track, “Sego Lilly”, as well as the title track, “This Town”. “Sego Lilly” in particular features a performance by Azpiroz that evokes Elliot Smith’s keyboard-playing from Figure 8.
Martin says that all of the songs on This Town are at least somewhat autobiographical. The lyrics on a couple of tracks, including “You and Me” and “Long Long Road” perhaps veer too far into the Martin’s personal experiences without making a larger connection to the album as a whole. Nevertheless, even these tracks are reminiscent of the folk-rock of Tom Petty or John Mellencamp, and hold up well enough on their own. The EP’s final track “Coming Down The Mountain” is eminently relatable, and represents a nice compromise between the autobiographical and the purely artistic as it explores Martin’s feelings about leaving one phase of his life and entering another.
In listening to The Backgrounds, you get the feeling that Andy Martin is an old soul who draws upon a deep repository of great musicians who have come before, including Simon and Garfunkel, Credence Clearwater Revival, and The Velvet Underground. “I also listened to my dad’s album a lot growing up,” Martin says. “Back when he was in school in Utah, my father actually recorded an album at the same studio [Rosewood] where I recorded my album. I grew up listening to that, so I guess I should list him among my musical influences.” Indeed, Martin’s lyrics and musical stylings suggest that he is aware of his place in history, and uses that knowledge to build upon his own artistic foundation.
If you’d like to hear more from Andy Martin (lead singer of The Backgounds) and not Andy Martin (killer trombone player) nor Andy Martin (80’s hair metal guy), go to http://thebackgrounds.bandcamp.com/
and check out his self-titled debut album and This Town, both of which may be downloaded for free.