Port Angeles, Wash., is 80 miles from downtown Seattle. But given the winding shore of the Puget Sound, a drive can take two and a half hours.
It’s a place seems more remote than the map might indicate — it’s out of town, not a suburb. And Mark Fredson likes it that way.
Fredson and his band, The Lonely H, just graduated high school there. Their new album, “Hair,” comes out July 24. The influences seem to be Badfinger, Sweet, Queen, Bad Company and a whole lot of other ’70s album rock.
“We just started thumbing through our parents’ vinyl collections, and we just stumbled upon better music,” Fredson says of the writing that led up to “Hair.” “It just really connected with us. I think rock really identifies with a small-town lifestyle rather than indie. Small town life is a lot more natural, or real. And the indie music or screamo or emo music is just lacking that realness. We think classic rock of the ’70s and late ’60s really stood for something that was right. Not superficial.”
The band formed when the members were in eighth grade. Winning a local battle of the bands make them the fifth best band in Port Angeles.
“We played a lot of Nirvana covers,” Fredson says sheepishly.
Growing up together as a band was easy.
“We’re best friends. We’ve gotten to the point where we are more than friends. It’s in the brotherhood stage. Next year, four of us are living together. We’ll see how that turns out,” he says.
Freshman year they’d advance to a second place finish at another contest sponsored by Seattle’s rock museum the Experience Music Project. The finish “gave us a lot of confidence” Fredson says, but perhaps more importantly, got them free studio time and, ultimately a manager.
They released “The Kick Upstairs” album in 2006 — sunshiney, Brian Wilson-influenced pop.
“Then we moved back in time to the more classic rock. A little more polished,” Fredson says before stopping himself. “Not polished, that’s not the right word. A more real kind of music.”
The album opens with the power balladish “Just Don’t Know,” which with its achingly epic vocal and lead piano belongs in a stadium full of bell bottoms and lighters raised heavenward. “The Meal” pickpockets the hook from Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Night” (and there could be worse ways of getting famous then by getting sued by Gene Simmons and company).
Elsewhere there is the Neil Youngish “Rollin’,” whose southern roots show, though as Fredson observes after bringing the song up “makes no sense since we’re in one of the most northern points in the country.”
There’s also the opening to “Say Your Prayers” that could be the missing riff from Yes’ “Roundabout” before it devolves into Thin Lizzy. Or the title track, which is driven by a riff that, to describe in language the muscle-car-and-Pabst-set uses, is just nasty.
“It’s just kind of a raw sound. We did it all on analog tape so we were going for that vintage sound,” Fredson says. “It was a trying record, but fun.”
There is even the in-over-their-heads “The Drought,” which Fredson admits was a hard, complex song to wrestle to the ground. “We started out, it was 12 minutes long,” Fredson says, before calling the song “my baby.”
Which is not to say the songs are derivative. Though the band obviously respect their many influences, the songs are thoughtfully written, with tight arrangements and playing that belies the age of the players. Not that Fredson sees age as an issue.
“We don’t really see ourselves as (musical) outcasts. I mean most people are older, but we try to see ourselves as equal. We see a lot of rock and a lot of music ahead of us and we see a lot of room to grow,” he says.
Shortly after the release of “Hair,” the band will set off on its first coast-to-coast tour. Previous gigs had to be close to home.
“We haven’t really toured. We’ve been kind of isolated in P.A. We’d play shows on the weekend because we were still in school. Sometimes we’d skip the last two periods on a Friday, head over to Seattle to play a couple of shows.”
“As long as we rock the crowd as hard as we can, then I’m not nervous about anything. We think we can win over whoever is willing,” he says.
For more about The Lonely H go to http://www.thelonelyh.com/.