Over the past six years songwriter Ian McCarthy has transformed his Conservative Man project from the solo stylings of a music-school dropout to a full-fledged band that radiates warmth, energy and a heavy dose of imagination.
With lively, upbeat tunes that draw easy comparisons to bands like Depeche Mode and Duran Duran, Conservative Man’s dance-oriented synth-rock jams belie McCarthy’s more serious lyrics. “It’s a lot about personal hardships and the human condition—loneliness and alienation and a lot of imaginative things,” McCarthy explains.
“I think the imagination is a really dangerous thing,” he says as he and drummer Justin Sokol reminisce about their childhoods, which were both defined by parents who encouraged them to entertain themselves. “When you get older, it can be really detrimental to normal living because you just want to stay home all day and picture things,” McCarthy says.
And there is a certain dreamy quality to their music—melodies and lyrics contain hints of melodrama, but also of naïve optimism: an unwavering belief that unhappiness is temporary.
Though Conservative Man have been playing McCarthy’s solo material as a full band for two years now, they’ve only just finished an album. Their self-titled EP, McCarthy explains, will finally bridge the gap between the minimalist solo Conservative Man recordings that had been available and their spirited live shows.
The solo material compared to the full-band material, he says, is “stylistically similar, but doesn’t have the production that we got on the EP. And it doesn’t have the breadth or width of what we’re doing now, or the interaction between musicians. It’s all stuff I was doing with a very narrow vision—there’s only so many things you can do to entertain yourself musically. I tried to make it sound as good as I could doing it by myself, but this sounds much better.”
Sat., Jan. 2, 9pm. $7. With Sky Ship + Eat Your Birthday Cake. World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. 215.222.1400. worldcafelive.com