Trio’s harmony spans high school to studio

There is no truth to the rumor that Heather Robb, James Cleare and James Smith – collectively the indie-pop band The Spring Standards – got into the music business for the food.

This is not really a rumor, just something The Beat came up with in the wake of Robb’s quote that “Eating often rivals shows as what we look forward to when touring.” (FYI – Robb confessed to being “super-stoked” at the prospect of revisiting the veggie burger at Northstar Cafe and getting Jeni’s Ice Cream when the band hits Columbus Friday night for a show at the Rumba Cafe.)

It’s fair, in the end, we suppose, when you consider they’ve been eating longer than they’ve been making music. But not that much longer. The trio started making music together while they were in high school. Robb joined the James duo, bringing “lots of experience with piano lessons but never having written anything.” It was just three friends playing music together, Robb said, every so often playing for friends and/or at local functions.

“We loved doing harmonies. It was really organic. We were the kind of kids who would sit in the back seat of your car and sing harmonies to songs that didn’t have any. We never had any real ambition beyond just playing around.”

After going their separate ways following high school, the trio reconnected in Brooklyn, and soon fell back into familiar music-making ways.

“It was as natural as breathing,” Robb said.

This time, the trio took things a little more seriously, ultimately releasing a debut EP in 2008. The band’s first full-length, Would Things be Different, was released in 2010, and a double EP, yellow//gold, in 2012.

The band hangs its hat on throwback harmonies, the result of music “inherited from our parents,” including Peter, Paul and Mary, the Mamas and the Papas, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

“Singing harmonies for us was always totally organic, from the beginning. We’ve never written anything down, but we always go by sound and feel.”

The group is also big on egalitarianism – each member is likely to have their instrument provide the basis for a song, and the voice parts are traded and shared throughout.

“It would be unnatural” for the band to have a “front” person, Robb said.

And each member has proven willing and adept at expanding his or her tonal palette as well. As a trio, it was necessary in order to make the kinds of sounds with which they wanted their songs to be built. Each handles a variety of percussion as well as various takes on guitar or keyboard, allowing for everything from a full-band rock sound to a bare-bones three-part harmony song with minimal accompaniment.

“We are a remarkably open-minded group of music -makers and music-listeners,” Robb said.

“The playlist for the (tour) van runs the gamut, and that attitude comes through in our songs and in the sounds.”

Unlike previous recordings, yellow//gold was primarily written in the studio, meaning the band has had to allow the songs to evolve for a concert setting.

“We had to work a little to discover what the songs were in a live setting, to sort of think backwards from the recording. I’m really happy with the way the material has grown.”

The Spring Standards, along with You Won’t and Dolfish, will play the Rumba Cafe Friday, Nov. 15. Tickets are $9.99. Visit columbusrumbacafe.com.

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