The Classic Crime isn't limited to scenes, trends or even genres -- at least not to anything more specifically than "rock" (like say U2 or the Foo Fighters). They may hail from the rich music scene of Seattle, but they aren't hipsters and they don't play grunge. With giant infectious melodies and occasional dalliances with prog-math and a newfound sense of whimsy, The Classic Crime is for everybody.
The band's debut, Albatross, boasted the biggest first week sales for a new band in Tooth & Nail's history. They've done the Warped Tour (twice) and hit the road with Owl City, Relient K, MxPx, Anberlin and Emery, but it is with their third album, Vagabonds, where they have truly hit their stride and kicked things into gear like never before.
With this new album, The Classic Crime pared down their songs to their most basic elements with electrifying results. The last song on their sophomore record, 2008's The Silver Cord, was called "The Beginning." It's a three-chord song. The first song on Vagabonds, "A Perfect Voice"? Two chords. "I'm obsessed with simple songs," explains vocalist and songwriter Matt MacDonald. "Songs that don't change a lot musically but you can feel the dynamics in the melody and rhythm when you listen."
"Solar Powered Life" is dramatically different than anything else they've released. Clocking in at just two minutes, the garage-rock style rocker is blatantly fun. "It's very tongue-in-cheek, sarcastically explaining seasonal affective disorder," says MacDonald with a grin. Meanwhile, "My Name" resurrects several elements from previous records, building to an epic climax. It's rich with metaphors with an intro reminiscent to Seattle locals Death Cab For Cutie, but wrapping up with huge fireworks.
The appropriately named "The Count" explores three different time signatures. The track mixes complex changes with a very simple three note melody vocal -- think Third Eye Blind wrestling with Thrice. "Four Chords" sums up the band's ethos (also expressed with the album title): it's not about needing money or material things to be happy, it's about playing music. "That's what we were put here to do," MacDonald says matter-of-factly.
MacDonald met guitarist Justin DuQue, drummer Paul "Skip" Erickson (who were in bands in high school together) and bassist Alan Clark in 2003 after the trio placed an ad in the Seattle weekly paper, The Stranger which said, "Rock Vocalist Wanted" and listed influences like Jimmy Eat World and Blindside. Guitarist Robbie Negrin originally tried out to be the vocalist as well, but MacDonald landed the job after an audition where they played each other some of their songs. Ditching the high school band name DuQue and Erickson had carried around, they looked for a combination of inquisitive words that wouldn't pigeon-hole the band genre-wise: thus, The Classic Crime.
Great bands were happening in Seattle at the time, from Blood Brothers to Gatsby's American Dream, but the group The Classic Crime probably had the most in common with was probably Acceptance. "We never played a show with them, we weren't really on the same level back then," MacDonald points out. "We were sort of outcasts, but I think now it's kind of changed. There are a lot of bands coming out citing us as an influence, which is really weird and humbling."
With three full length albums and thousands of miles of touring under their belts, these Vagabonds sincerely hope the ride never ends. "I would like people to remember our band as an honest band, having integrity musically, who didn't follow whatever was hot in the moment but wrote the music we liked," MacDonald says.
"We don't follow whatever trend is going on because we know that those fade quickly. We have a dedicated fanbase who enjoy what we put out. We appreciate them and we try to give them substance. As cliche as it sounds, we want to be remembered as a band that was concerned about the right things and tried to make the world a better place."