America’s best Electro-Swing band keeps expanding its musical horizons on fourth album, So Pretty
Good Co plays electro-swing, a hybrid of early jazz and electronic dance music.
They kick off their fourth album, So Pretty, with “Come Alive,” a sprightly tune that opens with a cheeky quote from Duke Ellington. A horn fanfare and Joseph Eck’s pounding back beat set up Shannon O’Bent’s vocal as she delivers a familiar invocation – “It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing…”
“I went to school for trumpet performance and I’ve been a huge fan of jazz and electronic music as far as I can remember,” said Carey Rayburn, the Seattle band’s main songwriter and frontperson. “A friend introduced me to the electro-swing coming out of Europe, a style that marries those two things, specifically the early jazz music that was meant for drinking, dancing and having a good time. That style of swing pairs well with today’s electronic dance music. As I was writing ‘Come Alive,’ I tried to imagine what kind of music a band might be playing if you walked into a cool club, or a great party, in the 30s or 40s. The Ellington quote captures that vibe perfectly.”
Rayburn started performing as Good Co in 2012. The electronic elements in the band’s earlier albums were more prominent in the mix. “The first album, Electro Swing for the Masses, was a lark for me,” Rayburn said. “We hadn’t played live yet and I roped in about 20 musicians to perform on it. I almost had a whole damn orchestra there. After we became a six-person band, it was a more collaborative process. More people on board were prolific in arranging and production. Today we have musicians, engineers, marketing people and a video crew. I was a big control freak at first, and there were more electro elements. Each album was an evolutionary step to So Pretty. This time, the production values are higher. You can hear the difference in our musical approach as we go along.
“Our version of electro-swing is more improvisational than the stuff coming out of Europe. We’re slowly getting away from the electronics and sampling, moving into a dance party sound. We still use a few samples, mostly from vintage radio broadcasts, mainly for the little ‘Ohhs’ and ‘Ahhs’ in the background, as well as some accents and hooks here and there.”
Rayburn said they choose “So Pretty” as the title tune because it’s one of the band’s biggest crowd pleasers. It’s a funky mid-tempo rocker, with terrific horn accents, a propulsive kick drum and Jacob Sele’s exuberant vocal playfully celebrating the joys of narcissism. “Jacob wrote most of that one,” Rayburn said. ”I had the skeleton of a song, but Jacob fleshed it out with musical flourishes and great, over-the-top lyrics. As we were working on it, I said, ‘I don’t think I have the personality to put this across. You’ll have to sing it.’
“When we started doing it live, he stepped out from behind the wall of keyboards and really strutted around to put on a show. When we did it on our last Italian tour, people lost their minds seeing him perform. We had to move it to the last song of the night, or the encore. It’s too energetic to put in the middle of set. I thought it was a great example of positive thinking, displaying that much self-confidence and declaring yourself a bad ass. At the end of the tune, he takes a wicked Keytar solo, wailing away like Edgar Winter. On the album, you might think it’s a guitar, but it’s a Keytar and he plays an awesome, distorted solo.”
The band was going to hit the road to promote the album, but the pandemic and Washington’s shelter in place order forced them to change their plans. To combat the boredom, they created a video for a new tune called “Quarantine.” The clip shows the band, and a few guests, playing in living rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms, while Katrina Kope belts out her lead vocal in a clothes closet. The tune has a big, bold sound, with Kope delivering a poignant lyric about yearning for a loved one, while knowing it’s impossible to see them, with a winning combination of longing and heart.
“I was sitting around going a little nuts,” Rayburn said. “I don’t go out much, but not being able to go out does something to your mind. I was watching all those positive Netflix ads about all the good things you can do while quarantined. I wanted to write a song that was more truthful. It’s OK to not know what you should do in this struggle and writing it was cathartic. I was playing uke and put together a few chords. I sent ‘em off to the band to see what they’d suggest and wrote the horn parts around the feedback I got. It was great to use a full horn section. Our sax player, Peter Daniel, doesn’t usually play baritone sax when we tour – it’s so damn big, so it was fun to have him on this.
“I went and tracked our drummer in a rehearsal studio, with a two input Scarlett audio box. The others recorded themselves at home and emailed the files. I mixed it myself then our videographer, Skye Warden at Clockwork productions, took the videos everybody sent of them recording their parts and made it look good.
“We’re all doing a bit of random stuff, but video can’t really capture our live show and we don’t want to put out anything that isn’t exciting or good. We’re thinking about doing a virtual fundraiser with musicians and artists to make some money to donate to the National Foundation for the Arts, but we’re not sure what form that will take. Hopefully, we’ll be on the road again before the winter of 2021.”
VIDEO: Good Co “Quarantine”