When Toronto-based indie rock group Small Sins hits Chicago on Wednesday to kick off their latest tour, it’ll mark the beginning of a new incarnation of the band. And for anyone looking to coast until Reading Week, Wednesday’s show at Schuba’s is a cheap escape from anything that resembles that term paper.
Pot Calls Kettle Black, the band’s third and latest release, came out in September 2010. But unlike the last two, which were recorded entirely by frontman Thomas D’Arcy, this will be the first record featuring all of the members of the touring band. It’s also the first time the band has performed in the U.S. in three years.
D’Arcy’s desire for a solo project was born out of the frustrations he encountered while writing and recording with his various bands.
“I hated when other people slowed me down,” he says by phone from Toronto. “I always wanted just to record the thing, or do the show and not have to call three other guys and ask them if it was OK.”
So he became his own band, writing, playing and recording all the parts. He had other musicians fill in the gaps in his musical abilities, but the product was solely his. The decision resulted in the most successful records of his career, but after years of recording alone, D’Arcy was ready to try something different.
“It was very much an insular experience, a very lonely experience,” he says. “This record is the first time where I’ve kind of got that out of my system. I wanted to go back exactly the opposite way and work with four other guys, and be chained down to other people.”
Though he grew up listening to oldies Top 40 music, like Chubby Checker, D’Arcy says he doesn’t really have influences. It’s just as hard for him to pin down the sound of the new album.
“I’m not really sure,” he says. “It’s like the old album, but with real drums. I don’t really feel they’re echoes of other people’s music at all. They come from me.”
He does admit, though, that the pop sensibility of the music he grew up listening to has had an impact on the way he approaches songwriting.
“Nothing needs to be complex,” he says. “You should find your complexity within something pretty simple. Songs should just be verse-chorus verse-chorus, but for some reason you find that kind of intangible quality of something that takes it to the next level.”
Even if he can’t describe it, D’Arcy seems to have captured that intangible allure on Pot Calls Kettle Black. Though the arrangements aren’t complicated, the album is catchy in all of its forms: electronic and danceable, slow and pensive, soulful and sultry. It’s a charming, earnest album that combines the fun of pop music with more serious rock instrumentation, and it’s plenty easy to sing along to.
The band recently premiered their video for “Why Don’t You Believe Me,” a bouncy, synth-infused romp featuring what appears to be a single seamless shot moving through multiple images of each band member, stopping, starting and rewinding through the motion.
“It’s very eye candy,” D’Arcy says. “What the kids like.”
Small Sins will play Schuba’s Tavern on March 2 with Color Radio and Bastardgeist. Tickets for the 18+ show are available for $8 here.