It’s hard to not feel good while listening to the new Eric Hutchinson record. It is a damn satisfying experience; the joys of melody and counter-melody and a myriad of rhythms from across the globe, as each song manages to reflect a pleasing sense that it is possible to remain transfixed in that nanosecond of pure bliss.

Pure Fiction.

Pure, as in life; living it, seeing it, feeling it and…well, hearing it. “This album in every way was about simplifying,” says Hutchinson. “Stripping away all the layers to figure it out on my own, being in my home studio and asking myself, ‘Can I play this song on the guitar when it’s broken down to its bare basics? Is it a song or not?’”

It starts with the beat, as does all of life; and Pure Fiction is nothing if not a celebration of rhythm – South African, Bossa nova, four-on-the-floor rock and slap-back funk, reminding us we are indeed alive and the thump-thump-thump that keeps it going can and will force us to dance. Just try not to move while listening to “I Got The Feelin Now” or “A Little More” or “I Don’t Love U”.

These are songs wrapped in tempo, tight as the proverbial drum, with vocal lifts and twists that breathe inside percussion. “I tried really hard to not get in the way of these songs,” says Hutchinson. “I usually agonize over a certain chord progression or lyric, but this time I just let it happen. I stopped wondering what it was or where any of it came from.”

Pure Fiction is Hutchinson’s elegy to pop music, a place to fit all those melodies that are so comforting in their immediate hook you could swear you’ve heard them before. Someone must have already raised the gospel pleading of “Forever” or the choral Na-Na’s that herald “Tell The World”, the record’s first single. It is a striking prologue to the album’s underlying theme – holding onto the best moments in life and shamelessly shouting it from a mountain top.

“I live in constant social media, sharing in this world of endless best moments. Nobody, including me, ever seems to post their bad day online. ‘Tell The World’ is kinda a jab at that, but also it’s that celebration we feel when we want to share the best things in life.”

“Forever” is a master’s course in dynamic ranges; from the massaged acoustic open to the lilting lead vocal as prologue to chest-caving bass drum kicks, all of it bedding the wash of harmonies that appear as if a choir. It evokes the best of the British New Romantics period seeped in a New York club scene. “I was trying to get out of my head space, and for me, that meant co-writing with someone else for the very first time,” effuses Hutchinson about his collaboration with The 88’s Keith Slettedahl. “I came to love it more than anything I could come up with on my own.”

Freeing his mind, getting back to basics and collaborating produced an evocative pallet for Hutchinson, borne from his recent travels of leisure, specifically the breathtaking city of Barcelona. Set against experiences from a wave of touring over the years, this global view is made manifest in Pure Fiction. “The more places you go the more you realize the same things matter to everybody,” Hutchinson says, recalling his “inspiration wall”, a shrine to creativity he hung above his humble workspace; photos, paintings, and postcards.

The “inspiration wall” can be heard in the nearest Hutchinson has come to a ballad, “Sun Goes Down”; mixing another mother of a melody with striking lyrical imagery. “I found this old postcard from the 1950’s and hung it on my wall. One day I was looking at it and wondering what the story was behind it. So I wrote one for it.” To Hutchinson, the postcard is a metaphor for the captured moments of Pure Fiction: “On the front a desert sky orange, red and brown/ She wrote will you think of me/When the sun goes down.”

The journey to Hutchinson’s spiritual center is infused in the achingly infectious “Love Like You” with its subtle tensions that draws the listener to the lyric through an almost hypnotic vocal performance. The subtle duplicitous lines like “This is a crash landing, we’re living a dream” hint at Hutchinson’s playful seduction of how much these moments of happiness are the result of blind chance.

Hutchinson used the welcomed crossroads of making his third studio album to absorb more modern sounds into his compositions and expand into unique recording techniques suggested by producers, Jerrod Bettis, (Adele, OneRepublic, Serena Ryder) & Aben Eubanks (Kelly Clarkson) who ably assisted in the musical arrangements while also playing many of the accompanying instruments. Bettis & Eubanks helped Hutchinson imbue the tracks with atmosphere, as if one were listening to a collection of musical vignettes.

Beneath the evolution of Hutchinson as a composer and recording artist is an awareness of his second love beyond creation, performing. That love is the nucleus of Pure Fiction, a celebration of the perfect moment between artist and audience. “When we’re the in the moment, the audience and I, and I’m lost in the song, it’s as good as it was before or will ever be,” he says. “It’s the reason I picked up the guitar in the first place – you play that chord and you sing and it’s harmony in the real sense of the word, like everything makes sense, and nothing else matters. That’s music to me on its gut level; listening to a perfect song or writing a moving lyric or singing a golden melody; time stops, and I’m very lucky I get to do that for a living.”

Which brings us back to living, as in living in the moment – pure, as in joy; the essence of Pure Fiction; an honest expression of an artist, free and at the top of his game.

james campion
Contributing Editor Aquarian Weekly
Entertainment blogger, Huffington Post

Saints of Valory are the type of band that swing for the bleachers, crafting dramatic, sweeping, arena-ready rock filled with elegant pop hooks, shimmering guitars, and emotionally genuine lyrics. Songs like the rhythmically charged "Kids," "Long Time Coming," and "Neon Eyes" (all of which appear on the band's current EP Possibilities) are widescreen in scope, announcing the considerable ambition of these self-assured newcomers as they gear up for the release of Into The Deep, their debut album for F Stop/Atlantic Records.

The album's title, taken from a phrase in "Neon Eyes," is symbolic of Saints of Valory's imminent takeoff. "It's about us launching ourselves into the future and everything that's in store for us," says guitarist Godfrey Thomson. "Like, 'here we go, into the deep.' And for the listener, they're being launched into the depth of the album, into the journey of the songs."

Saints of Valory's journey to this moment has been one of numerous twists and turns, with the four band members hailing from three different continents — South America, Europe, and the U.S. — though they now call Austin, Texas, their home. Their origins are rooted in a childhood friendship between lead vocalist/bassist Gavin Jasper and Thomson, who met in Jasper's native Rio de Janeiro while their parents were working abroad. Both boys received guitars at a young age and bonded over learning to play. "I definitely remember drawing a stage setup on a piece of paper when we were really young," says Thomson, who moved to Brazil when he was a year old, while Jasper grew up in Rio. "We talked about who was going to play what instrument and what we were going to do —just two young kids dreaming about making a band."

As the story goes, the boys stayed in touch after their families went their separate ways. Jasper learned to play bass and joined a country-rock band, while Thomson launched his own band. In 2008, many years after their childhood friendship began, Jasper and Thomson reunited in Brazil, with Thomson bringing along his friend Gerard Labou, a young drummer from France. Calling
themselves Saints of Valory (an inspired reference to Labou's mother Valerie), the trio decided to form a band and took to MySpace to post their own tracks, which attracted initial interest from independent labels. Needing a space to rehearse for a showcase, they contacted their friend Stephen Buckle, who had a
small studio in his ranch-style home in Boerne, TX. Buckle was born in Greece to an American mother and Canadian father and spent most of his childhood in Thailand and Southeast Asia, but befriended Jasper during a four-year stint in Brazil. In April 2010, he joined the band full-time as a keyboardist.

"When we all got together, that's when I first felt this could work," Jasper says. "We played 'Providence' and there was this feeling in the room. It was the same feeling I had when I first heard 'Where The Streets Have No Name,' where things just click chemistry-wise and it lifts you up. You feel happier. And I thought, 'If I can feel this in this room, then we can actually offer this to people and they will feel it, too.'"

In November, Saints of Valory self-released their first EP The Bright Lights, featuring an early version of "Providence," which entered the Top 50 at Triple A radio, making them the only unsigned band in the upper reaches of the chart. In March 2012, they were chosen as one of Billboard's top six unsigned bands
nationwide. In May, they self-released their second EP, Kids, which broke into iTunes' Top Rock Albums chart, selling 1,700 copies its first week. It changed everything for them.

"We had toured for a year and half behind Bright Lights and hadn't paid back the cost to record it," Jasper explains. "We were still in the hole. We were just making enough on the road to pay the bills as far as staying on the road, but not to make a new record. But we knew we had to put out new material, so it was a leap of faith to make Kids. We went back into the studio, spent a bunch more money that we didn't have, and the instant we put it out the reactions began rolling in from the industry. It all kind of snowballed from that point on."

"Kids" is now one of the highlights of Into The Deep, which features new and improved versions of previously released tracks, as well as a handful of new songs, including "Long Time Coming" and "Back Up" (which are also on the new EP Possibilities). The album was produced by Grammy Award winner Joe Chiccarelli (Jason Mraz, The White Stripes), whom the band praises as an amazing engineer. "That's where he really shines," Jasper says. "The sound he got for the record is tremendous."

Thomson describes Saints of Valory's sound as music that makes listeners feel uplifted. "We like the idea of making older people feel young again and making young people feel like they're really living," he says. Adds Buckle: "We just want
to take people somewhere and make them feel an emotion. We want them to feel something when they hear the music. If we've managed that on this album, we've done our job."

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Eric Hutchinson with Saints of Valory

Sunday, May 11 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at Varsity Theater

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