Online Exclusive: Young men tear down empty house at Ella Street

Ella Street Social Club was sparsely populated by the bouncer’s standards last Wednesday night, but the almost empty floor didn’t faze new band Your Rival.

Ella Street Social Club was sparsely populated by the bouncer’s standards last Wednesday night, but the almost empty floor didn’t faze new band Your Rival. Lead singer and guitarist Morgan Troper sang until the veins stood out in his neck, and guitarist Jarret Doman was smiling throughout the performance in what he later admitted was a mask to hide his nerves. Nate Sonenfeld was equally enthusiastic on drums, and Parker Johnson played bass. “Some performers get hyped on the audience participation; they had the stance [that] they were into it regardless,” said Matt Jablecki, one of the men working the door.

Your Rival released an EP in September, and their work is exciting. Domen is the oldest member of the band at nineteen. Troper writes songs for the band. His pitch is perfect, and although nobody in the audience could hear his vocals on Wednesday, that was due to the poor acoustics of Ella Street, as the band following Your Rival, the Rainy States, attested. “Their sound was full and lush…this venue can’t handle their sound,” said Betsy Johnson, lead singer of the Rainy States.

On their self-titled EP, Troper’s vocals are layered and harmonized, and the melodies are tightly constructed and diverse, ranging from a tribute to the early Beatles—”I Would Dance With You (If I Knew How To)”—to the raucous, exuberant “You Can’t Fool Me,” which is punk rock in the sweet tradition of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” The purity of Troper’s voice recalls Michael Jackson’s early days, his soaring notes and earnest love. “All For You,” the final song on the EP, features Troper and a guitar; his voice, clear as a bell but with a deep range, sounds like Jackson in “I Wanna Be Where You Are.” This is not surprising, as Troper grew up watching the Jackson 5 cartoons.

But Troper is determined not to be the sole instrument in the band. He classifies Your Rival in the category of “Power Pop” and strives for a full sound. “I don’t want to sacrifice the volume of the band for crisp vocals; the energy of the band is more important as far as selling the music,” he said. He and the band don’t see a place for themselves in the Top 40, but signing with a major indie label is a goal.

The band lists the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Harry Nilsson as major influences. Lyrically, the songs on the Your Rival EP are reminiscent of Nilsson’s work; his penchant for writing about ordinary objects that stand for larger concepts. “Good Old Desk” is about God, not a piece of furniture and is saluted in the lyrics of Your Rival. “Watatsumi,” the first song on the EP, seems to be about a Japanese God, but in fact it’s a love song, according to Troper.

Your Rival plans to release a 7″ at the beginning of 2011, and a split-tape single with River Banks around the same time. The melodies of River Banks are irregular, while Your Rival favors more “hummable” tunes, so it will be interesting to see what the collaboration produces, whether one style wins out. Bryan Weller of River Banks wrote two songs for Your Rival, and Mo Troper returned the gesture with two songs for River Banks.

Troper is already working on new songs for the 7″. “Watatsumi” is the only song he plans on re-recording.