Photo by Daniel D’Ottavio
10 Things… is a recurring New Music feature in which an artist goes H.A.M. on a particular topic.
Those who have watched Saturday Night Live over the last decade have seen plenty of Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson, and Jared Scharff. True, that last name might not stick out to you, but the guitar licks he plays as part of the Saturday Night Live Band most certainly do. If not there, than perhaps you’ve caught Scharff performing with Sting and Trudie Styler’s Rainforest Benefit Band or backing artists like Justin Timberlake and Jim James. Surely you’ve heard his recorded work with the likes of Bruno Mars and Sarah Bareilles?
One way or another, you’ve likely encountered Scharff’s music before — but never like this. With his solo project Pearl Lion, Scharff is using his guitar as a loom to reproduce the modern textures of pop textiles as pure instrumentals. The songs on his new double EP, Light and Dark, are rich with emotion and melody even as they lack the typical accoutrements of radio-ready songs. Each “side” of the EP explores a different energy, with Dark filled with “crushing riffs and modern beats a la Justice Rattatat and Jack White” and Light built more on “atmosphere in the spirit of Bon Iver, Explosions In the Sky, Sigur Ros.”
Pearl Lion’s new single, “Sunshower”, exemplifies the lighter half. Gentle, uplifting chords slide together on the opening before being elevated by a steady drum beat. The notes build brighter and brighter, like streams of sun as they cut through the clouds, until Scharff is practically praising the rays with a soaring solo. Check it out below.
In addition to sharing his new track with Consequence of Sound, Pearl Lion has revealed some of his favorite musical guest moments from his years on SNL, and a few more he’d like to see. Below, read 10 Things Pearl Lion loves about SNL guest performances.
SNL Acts that Blew Pearl Lion Away
It was a comic genius speaking to a nation at an incredibly tumultuous time. I remember sitting there during Dave Chappelle’s live monologue and you could feel the magic in the air. Not just in the room, but going out to the entire country. I never experienced anything that felt “historical,” but that moment felt like one for the books.
I had never heard of T-Pain and then he performed “Chopped N Skrewed”. It was so unique, brilliant and his auto-tune thing/dancing captivated me. Was a complete surprise and that song is still one of my favorites to this day.
I happened to be there in 2000 when Radiohead performed songs from Kid A. This was way before working at SNL was even a glimmer of possibility for me. I was in the height of my Radiohead obsession and their performance was almost alien. Between their entire brass section soloing at the same time for the chaotic end of “National Anthem” or the drum machine/effects going on during “Idioteque” I never seen anything quite as unique and so good.
This was a case of my usual “I don’t fuck with super-hyped bands.” I had heard of Bon Iver, knew everyone freaked for them but that whole thing turned me off. So I never checked them out until they played SNL. After I saw them perform the first song that night I was like, “Ohhhhhhhhhhhh”. Justin [Vernon]’s chords and melodies were breathe-taking, the multi-layered band thing (coming from a jam band and creative background I’d always loved that), the delicate and emotional songs and arrangements, etc. I downloaded the album (Bon Iver, Bon Iver) that week and it’s been my favorite album ever since. And probably forever.
This is a selfish pick. I went to French Woods (performing arts camp) when I was a kid and met Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael there. They had a huge impact on my musical journey. I played drums in a bunch of bands with Adam and his enthusiasm and passion for music really resonated with me and was prob the first time I felt like I met someone who was like me. And with Jesse, we played in a band together, both on guitar, and made original music. That was the first time I had ever tried that and Jesse had made it such a creative and comfortable experience. Fast forward so many years later, friendships, and many gigs later (opened for them a bit around 2002ish, and also am the only guitarist to ever sub for James!) it was surreal to have Maroon 5 come to SNL when I was working there. One of my favorite moments was during the closing theme/credits Adam stayed on stage last, looks at me and mouths, “How did we get here?” I just looked at him, smiled and mouthed back, “I don’t know!” A really beautiful moment to share with and old friend.
Acts that Pearl Lion Wants to See on SNL
I think Sigur Ros are the most magical band in the world. Somehow they tap into emotion like nobody else has ever done. IMO. “Untitled 4” off of ( ) is angelic and another one of my absolute favorite songs ever.
Guns N’ Roses:
How sick would that be, to have Guns N’ Roses perform? ALL original members. That means Izzy Stradlin AND Steve Adler too. I’m talking “Paradise City” vid style.
Nine Inch Nails:
The more I delve into instrumental and rock world you can’t help but see how genius Nine Inch Nails is. The production, songs, everything is meticulously crafted. I’ve never seen them live and their stage show from what I’ve seen on vids looks insane. Can you imagine them rocking people’s faces off in that studio?
Francis and the Lights:
Francis and the Lights’ latest record is brilliant and he does some great dance choreography!
Fitz and the Tantrums:
Hands down the most fun live show I have ever seen. I’ve seen Fitz and the Tantrums so many times and it’s always a dance party, interactive, and just fun. Remember fun?
(Honorable Mention: Julia Michaels. Her lyrics are so refreshing and she’s got no filter in the best way.)