Instrumental rock is a style reserved for the brave. Not too many listeners gravitate towards music with no words or vocals. Think of the Billboard pop, r&b, and rock charts over the years, and count how many instrumental tracks were in the Top 10 or even Top 20! Aside from a brief period in the late 1970s when long-playing disco mixes were heard regularly on FM radio, most of the songs that have charted were led by a vocal melody. The surf-rock craze of the 1950s would be another exception to the rule, but aside from “Miserlou” and maybe a couple of other Dick Dale tunes, the style didn’t develop far beyond a limited fanbase.
Of course, there were also the easy-listening records of instrumentalists such as Herb Alpert and Tijuana Brass back in the 60s and 70s with their versions of hit Bacharach tunes and the like. Even then, while Alpert and his line-up were certainly selling in the high numbers, Greek singer Nana Mouskouri, who was active around the same time and singing songs from the same style, reached a wider international audience. Generally, instrumentals just never had the same widespread mass appeal as vocal tunes.
That’s why we need to give extra props to our boy Sam Loan, his magnanimous instructor/producer Evan, and his friend, saxophonist Fil (not Phil!) for taking on such a genre, even after their project faced utter disaster: “at one point, the drive that the sessions were on caught fire and even the recovery company we hired could not salvage it. Our only backups contained only the drum and bass tracks which we were planning on redoing anyway. So we pretty much had to start from square one.” Surely, an event that anyone in this line of work has had nightmares about. Well, they say it’s not about how little you get knocked down, but how often you get back up, and the guys obviously did not let this disappointment bring down their spirits for too long: ‘at that point we were like “Let’s go ham on this and be done with it,” and we spent the whole summer and a lot of my senior school year building it back up even better than before.’ That’s the spirit, old boy! Fate favours the bold. Onwards and upwards!
When you consider that Sam and his sax buddy Fil were high school seniors when they took on the 4-song EP which yielded “Endless Fondling,” you can’t help but be impressed with the level of playing heard on the track. Loan’s bass is well in the pocket, and the riffs that he’s written out, while incredibly varied, have smooth transitions between each other, making them easy to follow along with. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Evan is solid on the drums, switching around between different beats/patterns seamlessly.
The recording and mix are also strong points here, with a clean professional sound coming through and a good balance between the different elements. The drum sound is very lively, and we like the touch of tremolo guitar, making a brief appearance hard-panned to the right speaker. The guitar could have maybe used a bit more effects, but it does have a good, basic sound. Fil’s sax was a little low in the mix for our liking, but the playing that we can hear is well-suited to what Loan and Evan have laid out.
The single comes off as a good showcase track, highlighting the musical skills of the performers, and it would be great to see this life. While he may not necessarily continue developing the instrumental-rock genre, this kid definitely has a bright future in performance, playing along with other established groups or even as a session player. So, even if viewed as a sort of demo/showcase of Loan’s obvious musical talent and determination, “Endless Fondling” might just be what the doctor ordered. Listen after the jump!