Line and Circle makes music with the arena-sized vision of the Verve, Oasis, the Smiths and R.E.M. – sweeping orchestral rock drawn with broad melodic strokes and detailed with intricate string and guitar arrangements. It’s an aesthetic that may have sounded cool in 1996, but amid today’s lo-fi hipster flavors of the month, it’s a challenging sell.
“I don’t know that we’ve ever been cool,” frontman Brian Cohen says. “We go for songs that might be a little bit bigger and broader, so maybe the less cool we are the better off we’ll be. We’re just trying to have the courage to do we what we do.”
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This month’s residency at the Silverlake Lounge, which ends tonight, has been a study in that. Cohen and his principal songwriting cohort Brian Egan have been in L.A. almost four years, having had flirtations with big labels and name producers and self-releasing a very good digital album last year.
Those recordings came to the attention of drummer/producer Joey Waronker – whose lengthy resumé includes his current gig as Thom Yorke’s skins man. “Working with him has been the best thing for us,” Cohen says – plus, the latest batch of Line and Circle songs include strings arranged by Foreign Born’s Lewis Pesacov and performed by the Sonos Quartet.
Cohen and Egan are Ohio natives (Cohen grew up across the street from Joseph Arthur in Akron) who met at the University of Michigan whose musical interests – the Velvet Underground, Guided by Voices, the Smiths, the Beach Boys, Adorable – eventually commingled. Cohen leads toward more “brooding, intellectual, if I can not be afraid of that word,” compositions, he says, while “the soundtrack to [Egan’s] life is a lot more sunny.”
Both are evident in the new recordings they’re making with guitarist Christopher Brezina, drummer Steven Nistor (who’s worked with Daniel Lanois and Aaron Embry) and bassist Evan Nistor.
“We’re Midwesterners – all we can do is dream,” Cohen says. “People who are from here grew up jaded. But all we can do is gaze.”