They’re not sitting around a campfire, but they might as well be, the way they sing together, all five of them, their voices rising in the chilly night air right alongside the smoke ascending from the flames before them.
The members of Vegas indie pop pacesetters The Big Friendly Corporation are engaging in a bit of impromptu vocal practice around a fire pit in the backyard of keyboardist Melissa Marth’s house on a recent Wednesday evening, preparing for a Saturday night gig at the Artifice that will double as the CD release show for their career-best new disc, “Nocturne.”
As bassist Timothy Styles plucks an acoustic guitar, they sing together sweetly, their voices interlocked in candied melodies that register as a series of a blown kisses to the Beatles, the Beach Boys, maybe the Mamas and Papas.
In a way, the moment encapsulates a large part of the appeal of “Nocturne”: dreamy, homespun, four- and five-part harmonies and revolving lead vocal turns from almost everyone in the band.
“For the first time, we had five singer-songwriters,” Styles notes.
“It’s way different,” Marth adds.
The group has long been one of Vegas’ finest acts, their songs equally posited on experimentation and immediacy, but “Nocturne” is another step forward for Big Friendly, an album of changeling sounds that samples cello flecked chamber pop (“Weight of the World”), tongue-wagging, sci-fi guitar rock bombast (“Outerspace”), acoustic bear hugs (“He Needs Me”), turbulent social commentary (“The Summer of Our Ignorance”) and plenty more.
“I think there’s a healthy appreciation in all five of us for anything that’s good,” says guitarist Jeff Ford. “Genres are genres. If it’s good, it’s going to float.”
As such, there’s both a fresh and familiar feel to “Nocturne.”
“I think the entire progression of the album was pretty natural,” says drummer Mike McDonald. “It’s a fine line, because you want to sound like yourself, you want to sound like your previous albums, but on the other hand, it’s like, ‘Well, it’s art, I can put out whatever I want and it sounds like me because I made it.’ ”
Over the years, the band has evolved from being the main provenance of guitarist Ryan Marth to a more open-ended collective with everyone earning songwriting credits.
Together, they’re a loose, fun bunch, with a playful, chops-busting rapport.
“We first bonded together socially,” Ryan Marth says, and you can hear it in the way their songs come together: disparate sounds may clash, but not egos.
“Everybody has such wildly different styles, but in the end, things generally come together,” Styles says. “We’re all really close friends who just happen to make music together.”
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at email@example.com or 702-383-0476.