Dreamy vocals welcome listeners on the latest single by local folk rock act The Solars, “Old K.B.,” a song that sounds as if it was dipped in hazy psych-rock sound of the past, or played back on a cassette in an old Sony boombox.
“Old K.B.” has a simplicity and spirit somewhat reminiscent of The Beatles—or perhaps, it’s The Beach Boys vibes, one of the artists The Solars were listening to during the recording of the upcoming EP, Retitled Remastered. If the title of the EP sounds familiar, it’s because it’s close to Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered., one of The Solars’ major influences. (Note: the band insisted on clarifying “we see Kendrick as royalty, not competition,” and that the name is a nod to Kendrick Lamar, one of their their “patron saints.”)
Similar to untitled unmastered., the title of Retitled Remastered is actually a description of the songwriting and production process. The Solars held onto “Old K.B.” for two years in semi-finished form before returning to it to strip it down, refurbish it, and re-mix it. Below, we premiere the track, and get a glimpse of the evolution of “Old K.B.” and The Solars songwriting process.
Originally, The Solars were a duo: childhood friends Miles Hewitt and Quetzel Herzig. But when the two moved to Boston to pursue education at Harvard and Berklee, they met Cody Carson, Jason Lilly, and John Miller, who now join The Solars in their live performances.
Hewitt described the band’s sound as “two-headed in that it is backward and forward facing.” In a way, this is reflected in “Old K.B.”—the contradiction between the optimism of the music and lyrics like “now I know there’s nothing left at the beach” both look forward and back to the past.
“We liked the idea of making something deceptively up-tempo, [something] that’s afraid to admit how sad it is,” Hewitt explained.
The Solars shared with us some of the demos from their songwriting process, and it’s clear that the additional instrumentation (which includes a piano with paperclips spread over the strings and recordings played backwards) and the production plays a big role in creating the contrast between sound and lyrical content.
Below, listen to a demo Hewitt shared with Herizig—a more downcast version with just piano, vocals and a bit of bass:
The song takes a different turn when the piano is left out, and instead replaced with acoustic guitar and drums, becoming less mournful ballad and more matter-of-fact storytelling:
In the final version of “Old K.B.” the elements come together: the piano drives the song forward, the trumpet comes in for moments of hazy nostalgia, an electric guitar solo introduces a building crescendo of vocal layering. In the end, all instrumentation drops out, save for vocals and piano, a call back to the original demo and the protagonist is left to ponder their dream.