Coming Into Focus (2018)



Recorded at Recording Arts, Arlington, VA

Produced by Marco Delmar
Mastered by Mark Reiter

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“What this ultimately became, was a record about recognition,” says Round About’s primary singer and songwriter Patrick Garrity, referring to the Washington, DC band’s third album, Coming Into Focus. “We didn’t intentionally plan it that way, but the most common theme in these songs was the idea that all you can do in life is try and learn from the past, aim to be better moving forward, and most importantly, live in and acknowledge what is.”

Approaching almost a decade together as a band, Round About continues honing its tradition of featuring a variety of musical styles under their pop/rock umbrella on Coming Into Focus. Garrity says “It’s the most current snapshot of what we’ve always been: an amalgam of all our influences and styles thrown together.” Which isn’t to say the band is standing still. “Our last record (2015’s The Best Laid Plans) definitely sits more on the pop side of things; this one clearly has a lot more rock to it,” says Garrity. “And because this batch of tunes felt a little edgier, we expanded the sounds as well. We used a wider variety of guitars, more diverse tones and effects, some different drum and bass sounds…we basically tried out a whole different recording process.”


Among the highlights are Garrity’s explosive, power-pop opener Chasing Sublime and indie-rock nod You’re My Favorite, his usual tongue-in-cheek character sketches (the waltz-ish Timing and light twang of I’m Smitten), the bluesy Last One Standing, and the Latin-tinged Perfect for the Part. Bassist Dave Mehring contributes some heavy groove in Bad Man, as well as an upbeat commentary on the fits of modern life in Little Things, while lead guitarist Aaron Lowenberger walks the fine line of wistful yet appreciative in the poppy Summer Dreaming. Holding it all together is drummer Paul Nicholas*, whose driving performance helps make Coming Into Focus the most lively and robust entry in Round About’s catalog. Not to mention the other constant (present on all of their recordings), guest keyboardist and friend Mark Bower, who this time adds organ and electric piano to three tracks. 

 

So the more things change the more they stay the same for Round About, it seems. Garrity says, “The theme of recognition extends from this album to the band as well. After this long playing together, we know who we are, think we’ve identified what we do pretty well, and try to improve and expand on that…we think this is great next step forward for us; hopefully that’s apparent to anyone who gives this album a listen.” 

(*Our first drummer Paul left the band in mid-2018 to explore some other musical opportunities; we're grateful these albums document his substantial contributions).

The Best Laid Plans (2015)

 
Recorded in The Red Room at 
Cue Recording Studios, Falls Church, VA
Engineered and Mixed by Blaine Misner
Mastered by TJ Lipple

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Round About's second album The Best Laid Plans celebrates five years since the band's 2010 formation, highlighting what they do best. "This record is a bit poppier overall than our first one; I feel like these songs might have simpler foundations, but we've tried to dress them up a little more this time out," says primary singer and songwriter Patrick Garrity.

 

While the band's debut Hanging By A Thread (2012) showed the group forming their identity: part rock, part groove and lots of energy, Round About has always tried to fit as much variety as possible under their melodic pop umbrella, a trend which continues on The Best Laid Plans. Says Garrity, "This record very intentionally opens with some of the most upbeat stuff we've ever come up with," (referring to the pop pair Chasing You and Something's Missing). Also featured are some (typical for Garrity) tongue-in-cheek character sketches like My Grand Designs and So Much More, a hint of twang in the rock shuffle Mystery, and a memorable acoustic farewell in Forget Me Not. The album's title speaks to the central lyrical theme which runs throughout, particularly in heavier fare such as the bittersweet Hit or Miss and the powerful melancholy of Allow Yourself To Fall. To Garrity, "it just became clear these tunes all had a sense of 'almost, might have been, and just missed' to them."

The band's continued evolution is also apparent in other members' contributions. Bassist Dave Mehring (My Stubborn Pride) and lead guitarist Aaron Lowenberger (Odds and Ends) have each penned (and sing) a track on the band's sophomore effort. Garrity says, "I love that our band has multiple songwriters; that Aaron and Dave put songs in the pot only widens the musical template of what we're able to do, both on this album and at our shows." Which is to say nothing of the perpetual energy drummer Paul Nicholas provides the material, making sure the feel of live performances was captured on record. "Paul is the drive, unquestionably. Like he just had a few Red Bulls," jokes Garrity.

Given the great experience making their first album, the band recruited much of the same personnel to help create this one. "Producing another record with Blaine (Misner, once again at Northern Virginia's Cue Studios) was an easy choice because he's a known commodity to us. I was pretty happy with our first album's production, and this one sounds even better thanks to his great ear, regularly useful suggestions and an abundance of patience." A return appearance by longtime pal Mark Bower lending some organ and piano is supplemented by guest harmonies from former Round About-er Anand Vaghese, as well as some guitar courtesy of another favorite musical peer, Arch Alcantara. Garrity says "they allowed us to aim even higher for the tunes they performed on; we're grateful they gave their time and couldn't be happier to share their considerable talents."  

As for what's next for Round About, Garrity keeps it simple: "We write the best songs we can, we play live the best we can, and when we have a batch of tunes we're all excited about, we make a record...we all have enough happening in our lives that rock stardom was never the goal of this band; the payoff for us is the camaraderie of bringing to life the music we believe in, playing it for DC-area audiences and enjoying the hell out of those shared experiences."

Hanging By A Thread (2012)


Recorded in The Red Room at
Cue Recording Studios, Falls Church, VA
Engineered and Mixed by Blaine Misner
Mastered by Bill Wolf
Featuring: Mark Bower (Organ and Piano)

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Review courtesy of Anthony Marcavage:

"Hanging By A Thread, the debut album of beltway band Round About, is a sonic journey along the murky boundaries of pop, rock, and alt-country. What strikes the listener first is the variation. The record opens with Partners in Crime, a driving rocker, followed by the Spanish-tinged I’ll Be Gone and a couple of poppy numbers, and then reaches its alt-country core with The Bed’s Getting Colder and The Letter. This cycle then loosely repeats itself until the record ends with another surprise – the acoustic break-up song February. All of this is pleasing to the ear, but the listener might ask what exactly this band wants to be. 

Further listens begin to answer this question, however, as the themes that bind this musical buffet emerge. The most important trend is the signature style of frontman Patrick Garrity, whose deft writing delicately presents the longings and tensions of his characters, a motley group of guys and gals who are indeed hanging by a thread. With the exception of February, Garrity’s writing is not sad, but it is often melancholy, as in the title track, where the narrator describes his designs and intentions, yet the chorus reminds us that gravity has got it in for us all. Likewise in the anthem Price of Admission, where the female hero, reflecting on the choices that have marked her life, ponders the big question – “What if she was wrong?” Garrity reminds us of the human condition’s daily battle between loneliness and solitude, and though his characters often come up short, they appear stronger for the fight. Also worthy of mention are the two tracks written by bassist Dave Mehring – I’ll Be Gone and Close to Home –  which represent a nice change of pace but not of attitude. Mehring adds his own melodic touch, but stays within the lines drawn by Garrity. 

Another unifying theme is the playing of lead guitarist Will Potts*. Potts is the sunshine to Garrity’s storm, and reminds listeners that it’s only music after all, and music is fun. Potts' playing is worthy of your attention throughout, but he shines on Grateful For a Glance with a soaring pop-rock solo begging for a stadium PA and Price of Admission, where he offers a quintessential modern blues-rock solo. His rollicking switch to perfectly toned honky tonk on Last Call is also noteworthy. Besides the obvious technical proficiency, Potts excels at realizing Garrity and Mehring’s musical visions for each song.

Hanging By A Thread is an ambitious, slick record accessible to anyone who likes a good groove. For the fan who likes to really listen to music, however, the album presents more. Much more." 


(*Our buddy and first lead guitarist Will left the band in mid-2012 to go to business school; we're thrilled this album documents his substantial contributions).

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