The Legal Matters are much more than simply a band of musicians. They are like a meeting of the minds between three notable figures on the Midwest Power Pop scene sharing similar sensibilities and consist of Andy Reed, Keith Klingensmith, and Chris Richards - three songwriters possessing unique talents who have created an exceptional new album to showcase those talents in the 12-song collection that comprises their third studio release titled Chapter Three.
Filled with sparkling melodies and lyrics reflecting the times we live in, on this third release The Legal Matters continue to grow and mature while retaining their enthusiasm for beautiful harmonic pop songs.
Also featuring the drumming of Verve Pipe co-founder Donny Brown, the 12 fresh tracks on Chapter Three cover all variety of topics ranging from the Pandemic, Trump, honesty, affliction and affections while framing these topics within a musical cushion capable of catapulting one’s consciousness into that rarified air of heavenly bliss.
Released on Futureman Records, the group’s two successful prior releases (their self-titled debut and 2016’s ‘Conrad’) both garnered high praised for the band’s vocal harmonies and catchy melodies) and after listening to Chapter Three if I were to give it a one-word review the best word that comes to mind is simply, ‘WOW!’
Never in my lifetime did I think I would hear a band that could channel all the things I love about groups like The Beatles, the Beach Boys, The Everly Brothers, Weezer, Fountains of Wayne, and even CSNY in their purest and most unpolluted form, as reflected on such tracks like Passing Chord, and manage to distill all these influences in a manner that is still original and distinct - possessing a collective sound that is anything but derivative; and therefore forging new creative ground in the process. On Chapter Three one can safely say The Legal Matters have definitely accomplished that amazing feat.
On the song Please Make a Sound, which would make an excellent single release, and with each of the tracks on Chapter Three, the songwriting is superb and stylistically very divergent; yet nothing sounds out of place or forced. After all the loneliness imposed upon us over the past year, this one cuts it all loose and is fueled with uplift and energy.
“We’ve been making music together for 7 years now and from the first time we went to B-Dubs and drank too much and said we should make a record together, I realized how much I enjoyed collaborating with these guys,” explains Andy. “I’ve made a ton of solo records, but this band has become my ‘A Project’ if you will. It’s the project I like to bring my best material to and focus on the quality of the recordings as much as I can.”
“Chris & Keith knew one another long before meeting me, and now they’re two of my best friends,” continues Reed. “We like to stretch out and try stuff we’re not normally comfortable doing in our usual projects and that’s the best part of it. First and foremost we’re all music heads and feel we’re just scratching the surface of diving into the styles that we love collectively.”
“Now that we’ve made a couple records, going into our third we all know our harmony formula and patterns,’ reflects Andy. “If Chris brings a new song we kind of instinctively know if a 3-piece stacked harmony belongs there or not, and can build the rest of the song around it. Collectively, vocals are almost our primary instrument, so once we get the groundwork laid we can go into the rest of production and think what would be good for that particular tune.”
“Every time we go into the studio we try different things,” notes Andy. “This new release has a little more keyboard action on it, whereas the first album was more guitar driven and the second was a hodgepodge of both. We’ve evolved and musically this extension comes from the fact we like to stretch ourselves into different sounds; but maintaining that strong vocal core is the thing that makes us The Legal Matters.”
“As we approached this record, as a general rule we’ll do demos of our songs on an I-Phone with no .preconceived tempos or extra parts and let the song basically take us where it wants to go,” states Keith. “The songs have led us to this natural evolution of what ended up being the material of Chapter Three.”
Given their amazing vocal harmonies and sensibilities, does the group spend much time working on their incredible harmonies? “Strangely, that’s one of the easiest things we do,” reflects Chris. “Each record we make differently. The last release we did two songs a weekend over a six month period, but this one was more laid back. When we started this in late 2018 I’d just come off making a Subtractions record and was hesitant about writing six songs for this project that would be any good because I’d just written 10 songs for that record, and I’m not a hit machine, that’s for sure.”
“We make the musical bed live with the lead vocal and then go and do what we need, whether its triple-stacking the vocals like CSNY or doing a Beatles or Beach Boys type of thing. The best thing about Legal Matters recordings to me is that we do what we’re supposed to and then someone comes with a new part and we get stupid giggly, which makes it so exciting and for me that’s the magic.”
“We’ll do our thing and then set aside time to add production and sit with that for a while and sometimes find more spots to enhance with vocal parts. That’ doesn’t happen all the time, but we stress the harmonies as the primary instrument in our band - it’s the only musical element that we consider a primary thing.”
“We didn’t run into too many stumbling blocks,” interjects Chris, “and I love it when people pick-up on our influences, because we never take a song and think, ‘Let’s go make this a Zombie or a Weezer song’. Whatever overtones or influences people sense all come naturally.”
With songwriting that is so accomplished and fresh yet still echoes with accessible familiarity, do The Legal Matters write their material the way Lennon & McCartney did in the early days, eyeball-to-eyeball? “Chris and Andy did most of these songs and then we worked them up together,” explains Keith. “The three of us are open-minded and want the other two’s opinion.”
The group says they started working on Chapter Three two-and-a-half years ago. “We started on it back in 2018 with our first aborted tries and it was slow going due to the pandemic, notes Chris. “Everything took steam in the winter of 2019,” adds Andy. “We hit some strides before Christmas and had a couple songs we knew were good to keep, but then the Pandemic hit and things slowed down. We chipped away at it and really had no end game or illusion of what the deadline would be. We just kind of did it and put faith the process. Now that we’ve worked together so much we knew things would be okay and just focused on getting the work done.”
Despite the up-tempo musical exuberance that colors Chapter Three, causing one to marvel that much of this material was written in the midst of such a disruptive Pandemic that touched everybody’s lives, was the band consciously trying to give people a sense of optimism in the midst of all the darkness?
“Music is a main outlet for us and one of the favorite things we love to do,” reflects Andy, “and the three of us realize we’re just happy to be around each other making music together because its who we are. That positivity that comes through is the sound of 3 friends making a record together. We’re doing it for ourselves and this band - especially with Donny involved and playing drums on everything - is a great way to create and get ourselves out there.
“I think that positivity that you hear coming out is three friends who over a 2-year period only had time to see each other when we were working. Normally, without the Pandemic, we would also be hanging out, or going to Detroit for something and grabbing a drink; so just being around each other and doing something together was a treat.”
“I would like to add that a lot of those happy songs also have some not so happy lyrics,” interjects Keith. “They may sound uplifting, but there’s darker stuff tucked in there.
As for the talents and input of The Legal Matter’s unofficial 4th member, Donny Brown, the group is on solid agreement that he brings much to the table. “He played on most of our last record, Conrad, and he told us that he wanted to play drums on everything with this latest outing,” confesses Andy. “He loves all three of us as people and loves the music we’re making and wants to be part of it and we want him. He brings so much energy to these tracks. He’s very close to being an official member.”
“He’s an Illegal Matter on probation,” jokes Chris.
Chapter Three will be released on April 30th and available on Spotify and all digital music providers, with physical copies of CD’s and Vinyl available through Bandcamp and LegalMatters.com. “Lots of bundles are available for the new record and CD along with our previous two albums, so people have lots of options,” notes Andy. “The CD and Vinyl copies will also be available at Electric Kitsch and Dearborn Music; plus we’ll be offering a version with an Alternative cover that the band is going to sign and slip in front of the poly-sleeve.”
As an award-winning recording engineer, Andy is especially excited about the vinyl version of this new release. “We received the test pressing a few weeks ago an it sounds incredible,” he enthuses. “Kim Rosen mastered the record and its one of the best cut records I’ve ever been involved with. I’m excited about people listening to the vinyl version because it sounds amazing. To do that a lot of things fall into place. You can’t just rip the digital file and expect the LP to sound good, so we had a specific master for the vinyl version and it translates really well in that format.”
Look for the Deluxe Bundle which includes 12” LP (140gm black), CD, Hi-Res Download of Chapter Three as well as instrumental only mixes (not available commercially going forward), 12x12 Chapter Three art print (signed by the band) and a super set of Legal Matters buttons.
Chapter Three contains some of the best Pop/Rock writing and performing I've heard in a long time. If this release doesn’t gain national traction, there is most definitely something severely wrong with the world.
If you want to make your heart skip a beat listening to new music again, be sure to procure a copy of Chapter Three. You can check out videos and order it by following these links:
pre-order on bandcamp: https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/chapter-three
pre-order on our band website: https://thelegalmattersband.com/store
video for "Light Up the Sky" • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMSVEhiHKUE
and "The World is Mine" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zr0WsSwpMF0
9th February, 2024