Remo Drive announce their rockist intentions with “Two Bux,” the opening track off the Minnesota band’s brand new full-length Natural, Everyday Degradation, out now on Epitaph. The song kicks off with a couple crunchy power chords before singer Erik Paulson gives that rock star “hiya” that would sound ridiculous in everyday life, and is usually accompanied onstage with a high-leg kick.
With the right rocker, like Paulson, it sounds cooler than cool, and this time around, it launches an album that rushes by you with lightheaded exuberance, full of post-emo guitar rock and vertiginous falsetto, harmony and vibrato. We’re talking power pop bedroom missives with melodies dipped in honey and midwestern sincerity.
Performing as a four-piece, the band includes Paulson’s brother, Stephen, on bass. The siblings had music in their life from a very young age, Erik says, and their entrée into rock music is a very millennial story.
“Around the time that Guitar Hero came out,” he tells me over the phone, referring to the popular video game that allows players to mime along to rock hits of the past with a guitar-shaped joystick, “we got interested in rock music. I fell in love with the sound of guitar, distortion and loud drums.”
The brothers started writing songs of their own in middle school. “We were playing in a band that had a radio rock sound. We did a lot of covers, played county fairs,” he says. Eventually, the Paulson brothers formed Remo Drive, releasing their first collection of songs, Demos 2014, on Bandcamp.
From the beginning, Remo Drive songs mixed the Paulson brothers’ interest in rock traditionalism with 2000s-era emo rock and indie, an influence that can still be heard in the jagged and pummeling Degradation track “Halos,” Erik carrying a melody that’s more like Jimmy Eat World or Weezer than anything screamo.
When they were young, Erik and his brother listened to bands such as Title Fight and Deftones, but also metal bands like Megadeth, and indie rock titans like Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. With Title Fight in particular, the brothers heard a lineage stretching back to the ’80s. “I was attracted to it,” Erik says.
Sitting down to write their latest record, Erik, who is behind most of the band’s songwriting, wanted to pay more attention to the lyrics. “Lyrics were an afterthought on the first record,” he says. “I had more serious things that I wanted to express this time around, but I didn’t have the vocabulary.”
To educate himself on lyric writing, he turned to his parents’ record collection. “Stuff that my parents had that I’d never really touched,” he says, like Bruce Springsteen, but also The Killers, a later band that’s still very indebted to the ’80s. “I had a taste for things that had more depth and subtext.”
As primary songwriter in the band, Erik’s creative process is a little bit different every time. “A lot of the songwriting starts with me,” he says. “So far, I’ve contributed all the lyrics. That doesn’t mean that it will be that way forever. I’ve got to change up my ways so it doesn’t run dry, everything will turn out the same. I like to mix it up.”
Remo Drive plays with Portland’s Summer Cannibals 8 pm Friday, Nov. 1, at Sessions Music Hall; $14 advance, $17 door, all-ages.