Warning: There’s naughty language in the above music video.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a local album released so far this year that’s more fun than “Volunteer,” the second LP from KGFREEZE, a.k.a. Kyle Gervais, a Fort Kent native and Portland musician. And not just because the slow-jam single “Better Falsetto” features Gervais’ falsetto that, yes, is better than most.
Gervais — known in Maine for his two previous projects, Cosades and Grand Hotel — plays with pop elements through all ten songs, riffling through hip hop, synth-washed indie rock, new wave and 90s alternative. “Volunteer,” out this week at Bull Moose Music, was made with a rotating cast of Gervais’ musical friends, all of whom contribute something different.
“I hate playing in a band that’s expected to sound a certain way,” said Gervais, 28. “I think we’ve built a record that comes from a bunch of different places but is also very much a KGFREEZE album. And that’s how I’d like to keep things: the door is always open and nothing is certain except for the fact that I’m there.”
Where “Sociopath,” Gervais’ first KGFREEZE album that came out in spring 2013, had a certain lo-fi appeal and was almost entirely performed by Gervais himself, “Volunteer” is more expansively produced, more confident, and more stylistically diverse. Gervais wrote most of the songs with his collaborators, guitarists TJ Metcalfe and Miek Rodrigue and drummer Derek Gierhan, from the Elvis Costello-meets-Guided by Voices anthem “Power + Status,” to the antsy, soulful “Talk About Love.”
Other collaborators include keys player Dan Harris and bassist Ian Riley, vocalist Sara Hallie Richardson, rapper Jared Burst, multi-instrumentalist Sean Morin, and producer and songwriter Jakob Battick, who contributes to a warped hip hop take on Harry Nilsson, with “Good Times Roll.”
Though Gervais’ pop core remains firmly intact, he leaves plenty of room for many different musical voices through the album.
“In collaborating, I’ve noticed that different people have different goals, and I just try my best to either stay out of the way or steer things in some sort of direction depending on the vibe,” he said.
Lyrically, Gervais explores the politics of love, friendship and the social scene, in a direct, candid, unsentimental way. Metaphors and poetic language are not something Gervais is particularly interested in; unvarnished attitude, humor and opinion is more his style.
“I think my lyrics are very me, even though I think there’s a whole lot more id involved in my songwriting than who I am as a human being,” said Gervais. “It’s not necessarily an outlet to say what I’m really thinking, as it is an opportunity to get the listener into an uncomfortable place, where what I’m saying could very much be what I’m thinking, or could just be me messing with them.”
Gervais grew up in a family that encouraged his creativity; his father was a musician in the Fort Kent area, and music was always in the house. In fifth and sixth grade Gervais played in a band with some fellow pre-teen musicians, two of whom later went on to form the Lucid with fellow St. John Valley-now-Portland musician Dominic Lavoie — someone who Gervais counts today as a friend and major collaborator.
In 1998, his family moved to the Saco area, and soon after, Gervais started a band with Miek Rodrigue, who he plays with again today. After more than 15 years of being in a band, Gervais has picked up a lot of tips and tricks and lessons from everyone he’s worked with.
“There’s a lot of regrets and mistakes made in the 15 years or so that I’ve been playing, but it’s all contributed to who I am now, what I absolutely will not do, and what I will do,” he said.
“Volunteer” is currently available at all Bull Moose Music locations; KGFREEZE will play an album release party with Sara Hallie Richardson and Afraid, starting at 8 p.m. Friday, March 21 at Port City Music Hall in Portland; admission is $8. The album will go up on Bandcamp the next day.