I normally never have a problem with labels. Despite a lot of varying factors, most things can be argued simply into one box, no matter the flourishes or copious amounts of influences shackled together. That was, however, until I came across Rifle Men. Described by their label Cantora Records as “lush bedroom pop”, the music of former Hostra University housemates Daniel Gdula and Anthony Gerbino is anything but the simple, DIY lo-fi of most bedroom productions. Instead, their creations pour out the speakers as an amalgamation of sounds forged with the higher truth of insightful lyricism and luxurious production. It must have been one hell of a bedroom is all I’m saying.
Theres this idea that bedroom-based productions cant be complicated, that each cut made from your moms attic in Cleveland, OH has to be some sparse and haphazardly created wave of noise and junk sounds. True, some acts have made sweet, almost somber melodies from their little tape decks, but nothing is as powerful and diverse as the six offerings on this EP.
Opening track His and Hers is the very definition of the duos sound. Gentle, poppy guitars became a forest of jangly rhythm that carries within it some of the more varied vocal work youll find in the genre, with Gdula and Gerbino splitting duties to create a sound that is grating and in-your-face and yet so full of bright and shiny appeal its hard not to get caught up in the saccharine drive of the track. The band are also masters at crafting truly layered songs. Lights and Mirror is an intimate number, with a slight ambiance to it that the two musicians drafted by layering synth noises and subtle drumming and low-key guitar work to build a soundscape with the same bedroom ethos that still brilliantly displays their skills as production whizzes.
While theyre clearly talented musicians and not ones to shy away from more complicated song structures (especially ones that are actually exhilarating and not rubbish because they shot at being too complicated), the group are more than that. In a way to get back to a simpler kind of song, Caroline is a much less involved number, focused only on the slightest of touches musically and pushed forward by a simple synth line. Its that simplicity, though, that makes the Killers-esque, faux 80s vocals pop. And the lyrical content (my favorite line being I have no lover, but Ive got a bed to defend) gives us a picture of a band with a lot to say in a truly entertaining fashion. Berlin also shows a side of that band that features alternate female vocals with a slight world music-tinge that makes the whole ordeal feel like a dramatic construct that shows a level of showmanship akin to more 80s pop music.
Its still safe to call these guys bedroom pop; theres an intimacy to this EP that fits the genre and its definitely one made with the tastes and sensibilities of two dudes. However, its sonically above and beyond a lot of its competitors thanks to its open embrace of the familiar sounds from the 1980s along with an affinity for experimentation and a firm grasp of advanced production skills.