Robbers On High Street


Many people might take a look at Robbers On High Street‘s promo shot and assume that their experience is somewhat limited. I mean, from the picture above, the three members look straight out of high school. Well, this is another example to not judge a book by it’s cover. Robbers On High Street have been through a series of lineup changes, so I’m not even sure if the picture above is retroactive to their current lineup of Steve Mercado, Morgan King, and Ben Trokan. Previous members have included Jeremy Phillips and Tomer Danan, along with the occasional help of Matt Trowbridge. The band’s history has dated all the way back to the 80s, with Trokan and Mercado growing up together in Poughkeepsie, New York, playing in bands together throughout their preteens and latter childhood. After Trokan moved to NYC after high school, he met Tomer Danan, a musician whose aspirations appeared similar. While still in Poughkeepsie at the time, Mercado began playing with his old high school friend, Jeremy Phillips. Eventually, all four came together and formed the beginnings of Robbers On High Street. They became a fixture in the New York City music scene after releasing their debut EP, Fine Lines, in 2004 under New Line Records. The EP showcased six very tight songs, with a tight rhythm section and catchy quick riffs, bringing comparisons to Spoon and local contemporaries The Strokes The band then headed to the studio to produce their debut full-length, Tree City. Before the release, Phillips left the band and was replaced by Morgan King, who is capable of playing several brass instruments (as fans who attend their shows know), even though he is the band’s bassist. The release had a very nice reception throughout the city, with the rest of the country taking note as well. In addition, on Tree City, the band wrote quite a bit about the New York subway. “Hudson Tubes” described the mating rituals of subway passengers and “Spanish Teeth” chronicles an embarrassing incident during subway rush hour. Though they had difficulty avoiding the label of “Spoon’s little brother”, the band carried on in an effort to perfect their original sound. They issued another EP, The Fatalist and Friends, last year as a teaser for their sophomore full-length, Grand Animals. The EP contained two tracks, “The Fatalist” and “Married Young”, which both later appeared on Grand Animals. The other two songs were from the Tree City sessions, including a cover of Paul McCartney’s “Monkberry Moon Delight”.


The band describes Grand Animals as “less rough”, which could be in credit to new producer Daniele Luppi. The album will be released later this Spring on Scratchie/New Line and during the recording of it, the band documented the process using a recently acquired video camera. “We wanted to capture the stupid moments,” Trokan told SPIN in January. Though Trokan used the words “more complex” to describe the band’s new sound under Luppi’s influence, he also notes that the result sounds significantly more enjoyable. Even though I’ve only heard a few tracks off of Grand Animals, I tend to agree. Whereas Tree City brought us thirteen energetic and fast-paced songs, Grand Animals stresses the band’s new maturity and experience, credited to their confidence and reputational growth. The two tracks on The Fatalist and Friends that are included on Grand Animals are “The Fatalist” and “Married Young”, two tracks that are very similar in approach but manage to craft a sense of great enjoyment. I’m sure you can easily hear why this band is constantly compared to Spoon, with the quick riffs and vocals that can be easily likened to Britt Daniel. Their formula in both songs is quite similar, even if it still showcases enough energy to fill the void of diversity. With an initial rush of guitar swipes over a steady bass line, a drum fill signals the jump to a very likable chorus, where the aforementioned chords are now pushed forward into a new light over a more rapid bass line. “Major Minor” is a very commendable b-side, displaying a new approach on guitar. The solos are something that were not found very often on Tree City, though it works very well here. The vocal melodies are also very refreshing, as the twang of a guitar is reflected in the vocals as much as it is in the instrumentation. The maturity shown in Grand Animals reminds me of how The Rakes improved with Ten New Messages, presenting a series of songs that emphasize discovered maturity, yet still manage to maintain the same amount of excitement and youth that was so acclaimed in their debut.


Robbers On High Street – The Fatalist



Robbers On High Street – Married Young



Robbers On High Street – Major Minor



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Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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