“Coco Chanel said that when she leaves the house in the morning, she looks at herself and says, ‘take one thing off,’” Todd Henkin, lead singer of local quartet the Great Unknown says. “I loved that. That was sort of our philosophy on this album. Strip it away and see how it looks with less.”
For the past year, the Great Unknown have been working on their debut long-player, a follow-up to an EP they recorded in January 2007. “When we first started out, we were really folky. We’ve gotten a little less straight folk and country, and we’ve started to find our own thing that’s not traditional and that’s not modern rock. We’re coming into ourselves with this album,” Henkin says.
The band’s new release Tonight, Let’s Pretend retains the structured songwriting, melancholic melodies and twangy harmonies of folk and country music, but with noticeable singer-songwriter and indie rock elements. Songs are melancholic but lively, rowdy but cohesive, and a bit confessional at times—like Conor Oberst without the outright despair. But also very fun. Few bands, after all, would compare their songwriting process to the life cycle of baby sea turtles.
Over the three years the quartet has been together, they’ve worked hard at making sure their affinity toward merriment doesn’t detract from their performances. “We used to just have fun, freak out on stage and have a great time, We would sometimes get this comment—which is my least favorite comment—‘You guys looked like you were having a really good time up there,’” Henkin says with a laugh. “I think we’ve now learned how to have a good time, but really concentrate.” ■
Fri., Oct. 23, 8pm. $12. With Jack Ohly + the Spinning Leaves. Studio 34, 4522 Baltimore Ave. 215.387.3434. studio34yoga.com