Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: The Influence

As the Virginia Beach-based band, The Influence, prepares to ring in the new year, they stand on the precipice of a bold step in their career together — rebooting. presspass

As the Virginia Beach-based band, The Influence, prepares to ring in the new year, they stand on the precipice of a bold step in their career together — rebooting.

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The Influence (Photo: Courtesy Dave Cogan)

After more than four years and two full-length albums together, the band has made a daring decision to double back and attempt a second debut, in the process redoing several previous tracks in an entirely different style.

“To the public that hasn’t heard The Influence, we’re trying to make this our debut album, a label-ready album,” drummer Collin Cogan says, illustrating the first of two main reasons. “We talked to a producer, Ted Comerford, and he always told us he felt our other recordings didn’t really show what we sound like. He took a lot of songs from our first records and really showed us how they could be better songs.”

The second reason relates to a prolonged and drastic evolution of the band’s sound. When Cogan and bassist Tully joined up with guitarists Will Clarke and John Zontini and vocalist Matthew Stephenson, the band sported a pair of acoustic guitars and a singer-songwriter writing style. Throughout their early career they garnered comparisons to Dave Matthews and other acoustic jam bands. While Matthews and his cohorts in that genre often enjoyed plenty of success, that wasn’t really the path The Influence wanted to follow.

“Those comparisons were just kind of surprising to us. I look back now and it probably shouldn’t have come as any shock. That’s what we sounded like,” Cogan says. “I think we kind of had a backlash where we were writing some heavier songs.”

To compensate, the band added electric guitars to their second LP release, Pig Radio, a transition that Cogan now recalls as their “awkward phase.” But now the group is putting its growing pains behind them and focusing on the future — a future in which they embrace a more complete rock-and-roll outlook.

“It was a gradual transition. The core of both albums were acoustic, but there were a lot of overdubs on Pig Radio with electric guitars that really became more than overdubs, became foundations. We realized we have more possibilities with electric guitars as well. We sort of sounded like Days of the New, but Days of the New only went so far. So we decided we’re not an acoustic rock band, we’re a rock band. And that’s allowed us to move on with no boundaries,” Cogan says. “About a year ago we figured out what kind of band we are. On the new album, we’re trying to show that the evolution makes sense.”

Instilling that organizing principle is producer Comerford, functioning as what Cogan calls a “sixth set of ears” and controlling the detrimental tendencies the band sometimes falls into.

“We’re chaotic by nature and sometimes we let things get out of hand,” Cogan says. “But on the album, I think that’s why we hadn’t captured everything in the right way yet.”

Cogan and his mates are hoping to nail it this time with the born-again sound of their new LP, slated for an early 2010 release. While they wait for the finished mixes, fans in the D.C. area can catch the quintet at IOTA Club and Café Jan. 2. They’ll likely strut some of their new songs on stage (look out for “Falling Out,” a Cogan fave) but also give a glimpse of remodeled “oldies” like “Windows,” a track that now bares a forboding feeling (think A Perfect Circle) to match its dark lyrical matter.

“We’re still trying to find a way to describe ourselves, but now we have a swagger about ourselves and when we go on stage we really know what we’re trying to accomplish,” Cogan says.

• For more on The Influence, visit www.theinfluence.com.