Dancing through the darkness

The Covid shutdown unglued Scott Ayers. The bar he was running, the Rockridge Improvement Club in Oakland, closed. He’d also planned to get together with the people from his last band, the Lovemakers, for a few reunion shows. Social distancing made that impossible.

“We’d been talking about playing again for a while, but it never happened,” Ayers said. “With the current situation, doing an album wasn’t possible. I had no solo album plans. I never imagined it. I like being in bands and usually write songs for the bands to play. Since that wasn’t possible, I started writing for myself. As soon as I had a bunch of songs done it was, like, this is awesome. The writing was a lot of fun, even more so lyrically.”

As the songs assembled themselves, Ayers set a goal for himself—to record three records in three years, with 10 songs per record. The first album in the series, Yachtclub101, was just released to all streaming services. It’s an uplifting jolt of joyful energy.

The album kicks off with the smooth funk of “Give It To Me,” an invitation to spend the night in pleasant debauchery. Distorted guitars, driving synthesizer textures and Ayers’ frisky, multi-tracked harmonies build up the track’s erotic message. “When I was writing, I wrote WWPD—what would Prince do—on top of every lyric sheet,” Ayers said. “If I ever felt I was saying something too overtly sexual, I’d think about him and go, ‘Yeah, it’s not that bad.’”

“Nothin’ They Say” is pure electronic dance music heaven. An invitation to jam the dance floor with a rolling bass line, rousing percussion supplied by jubilant, Gospel-flavored hand clapping and a vocal from Ayers that brings to mind the soul hits of the ’70s. “You Pick the Spot” is a party anthem with a massive funk/rock beat, icy keyboards and chattering James Brown-style rhythm guitars. It celebrates summertime, all-night parties and dancing till you drop from exhaustion. Every tune on the record grooves along with an impressive array of guitars, drum loops, dynamic synthesizer work and a cheerful chorus of multi-tracked voices. It’s a perfect combination of ’70s funk, ’80s New Wave backbeats and progressive rock, given a modern sheen. Ayers said he made most of the album in his bedroom with his iPad.

“I just shut out the world and went for it,” Ayers said. “I kept my girlfriend out of the bedroom and worked. She’s a teacher and was teaching online in her room, so I was able to do a lot of crazy stuff in my room. I made demos first, then recorded on an iPad, using the Garageband app. It took a while, because it was a new format for me, but it’s incredible what you can do right now. I plugged guitars, keyboards and loops right into the iPad. I even did the multi-layered vocals without a mic. I just sang them into the iPad.

“When I was in high school, I used to write songs working with a 4-track cassette player. When I think about that, the comparison is crazy. Everything’s so easy now. It’s very futuristic. When I was done with a track, I sent it to my friend, Reto Peter, for his input. He became the co-producer and played live drums on the songs. I can play drums, but he’s a phenomenal drummer, world-class producer, engineer and a great person. He also mixed and mastered it. There were a few times he suggested shortening an intro, or making a few small arrangement changes, maybe adding a little sound here and there. That was it.

“The whole thing was written, recorded, mixed and mastered in about four weeks. The bar was closed and I knew I wasn’t going to be working for a while, so I thought, ‘Let’s see how many records I can make in three years.’ I just put out Yachtclub101 and I’m pretty much done with the second one. I discovered that doing it by myself was easier than being in a band. There weren’t any politics involved, no input from anyone but myself. It speeds up the artistic process. Starting on March 12, I’ll be releasing a new single every three weeks for the next year and a half.

“I stayed in the moment as I was writing these songs,” Ayers said. “I feel like I accomplished my lifelong quest for composing perfect pop songs, with a dance beat. As I was working, I was always thinking about how we’ll perform these songs live—when we can—to make sure the audience will lose themselves in some form of euphoric fun.”

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