The Strokes. Paul McCartney. Daniel Caesar. Put those influences together, and you have a band not content with playing it safe, but going straight to the heartstrings as all great bands should. It’s about big-time hooks, sugar sweet singalongs and all the fun you can throw at it – and it’s why The Candescents are about to be a whole lot of people’s new favourite band.
“Y’know,” starts frontman Alex Harris, “you have all these expectations of what it’s going to be like, from watching documentaries or whatever, but I’m just a big fan of people liking what we do. It’s confirmation that we haven’t been wasting these past four years.”
Through determination, passion and an insatiable knack for writing the sort of choruses primed to be bellowed back in fields and venues all over the world, The Candescents have built on the first strings struck in an Ohio dorm room.
“I was going to another college at the time,” Alex recalls, “but I was visiting a friend one weekend who was like, ‘Hey, you should meet this guy I know also called Alex’, and I was like, sure!
“We met and chatted, we sat down, and I played him two songs on an electric guitar, and he played me this mixtape of all these instrumental beats. I was in a band at the time, but slowly he stole me away from them.”
The rest is well, now. The Candescents did things the storybook way. We’re not talking about lucky breaks here and there, no cheeky talent show wins or anything like that. It was countless hours playing, recording and growing up together – evolving into the sort of band who have their fingers firmly locked on the pule of high school life and the ups and downs that come with it.
“I mostly write about love,” explains Alex, “and I feel like a lot of people don’t write about it really well.”
It’s quite the step from a childhood playing marching drums and plucking away on acoustic guitars, with the stars aligning when the fabled Alex (Von Lehmden) he met happened to have a brother, Cory, who played bass.
Along with drummer Miguel Alfredo Acero III, The Candescents emerged as a band that wasn’t just there for the fuck about but with ambitions larger than that. A level of serious in the midst of the good times.
“It’s funny,” recalls Alex. “You use the word serious, and that initially was one of the big things that drew me towards Alex, and in turn The Candescents – how much he had his shit together and how willing he was to do the not-fun things that the other bands I’d been in hadn’t wanted to do. You need someone to do that if you want to be successful.”
Life at college is fun (trust us, it is), and as a band, they absorbed that feeling – something that shines through on their statement EP ‘Riverside Dr.’ – spending countless hours playing in dodgy weather conditions and dorm rooms to get a foundation of who they exactly were.
They admit that at the start they were a “Strokes rip-off” before evolving, bottling that stir in the gut and confident swagger that comes with being young and on the cusp of the world. That stir that anything is possible, an indestructibility that life is there for the taking and that love is the only real kryptonite in sight.
“I think we were always, from the beginning, wanting to be as big as possible,” states Alex, a crackle of a laugh ringing through. “If you’re going to do something then you might as well try and be the best at it! At first, it was like – let’s write some great songs, find a way to cheaply record them and then let’s get them on the internet. That’s how it works.
“We had a friend who could get into a studio, like a basement studio, and the only time people weren’t using it was two weekend slots from 9pm-9am, so we tracked everything and got it down in the bitter cold.
“We’d leave at 9am, walking out to this harsh morning light with snow on the ground, light shining up in your face, just looking at each other saying, ‘Are you going to try and get some sleep?’ ’I dunno’. ‘Alright, see you later'”.
For songs and tracks that first came out of the bitter cold, ‘Riverside Dr.’ is a sunshine shot of an EP. Never sitting in one lane, it’s an opening welcome to the world of The Candescents that proves rightfully why thousands are about to flock to the front of their stages. It’s all about being nothing else but yourself, a statement that rings out in a way that’s important now more than ever.
From the slick chimes of ‘Boyfriend’ sounding like an American Pie soundtrack, to the Stone Roses-esque whirlwind of ‘Back Of Your Hand’ that is born for pogoing bodies in fields across the globe, to the ever-roaring build of ‘2am’ – its songs that have come from the past two or three years build on the best of assurances. If it sounds great at a party, then you can guarantee that it’s a bloody good track, especially if you’re a band.
It was the glue that bound The Candescents together, of cup-filled nights and late-morning realisations.
“House shows are such a good time,” remembers Alex, chuckling with the thought of the number of shows that they plugged into during their time, becoming somewhat of a legend amongst the Ohio scene.
“One of the better ones we played was at this place called The Birdhouse, and it was called a GenderFuck party, so everyone was dressed up as the opposite gender they identified with so we were all wearing dresses. We were the first band to play, and we were in this basement, and it was totally packed – people were going a bit too crazy, and someone hits a couple of pipes in the ceiling, and they start coming down.
“So we moved up to the living room, and I was singing in the middle of the crowd, just swallowed up in the middle of the audience, and at one point I look behind me and see the cymbals start to tilt in – there were so many people moving that the floor started to give in.
“We came close to breaking it; I talked to someone a year or two later – apparently one of the beams underneath had broken. We were the first band on, and they had to cut it for the rest of the night. Everyone had an amazing time though!”
That sort of visceral reaction lives through what they do – and it’s something The Candescents are about to see a whole lot more of in the next year or so. After playing shows across the US supporting We Are Scientists, Yungblud and Pale Waves – their next moves involve another stellar run supporting the latter, now with a repertoire in their back pockets and an opening line in the sand to the world set and ready. They’ve had to wait, but The Candescents are ready for their grand reveal.
“There’s not a clear goal apart from being the biggest band in the world,” lays out Alex. He’s not wrong there – The Candescents will be on your phone as the Most Played in a matter of weeks, and that sounds about right to us. College is alright after all.
Taken from the October issue of Dork. The Candescents’ EP ‘Riverside Dr.’ is out now.
Words: Jamie Muir