If you don’t find Josh Kimbrough crafting delicious coffee concoctions at Carrboro’s famous Open Eye Cafe, you’ll likely find him playing music. A Carrboro native and long-time musician, Josh is no stranger to North Carolina’s music scene. For the last 10 years, he’s put out records and played shows with Chapel Hill’s Trekky Records collective, and Teardrop Canyon, his new band, recently played a set of music from their forthcoming album at The Station in Carrboro. We checked in with him this week to learn more about the synth pop music of Teardrop Canyon and the forthcoming debut album produced by Lost in the Trees’ Ari Picker.
What’s the origin story for the name Teardrop Canyon?
I was dead set on naming the band "Josh Garbage,” but then all my friends cringed when I said that name. My favorite shirt at the time was a Grand Canyon topographical shirt. “Teardrop Canyon” is kind of an emo nod to that shirt.
Describe your sound and how it came together.
We've been compared to The Cars, The Cure, The War on Drugs, and Destroyer. When I was writing these songs I was listening to The Colour of Spring by Talk Talk, Tusk by Fleetwood Mac, The Ramones, The Replacements, King Tuff, Blondie, and Haim. The mission statement for this batch of songs was to be direct, use fast tempos, emphasize lead parts, and serve the big choruses. We have a synth pop thing going on, we also have a Thin Lizzy guitar harmony thing going on at times. I brought the songs to producer Ari Picker, and he helped me push them to the limit with cool synth sounds, gritty guitar tones, and the sexiest vocal takes I could muster.
Over the last five years you’ve played in multiple North Carolina bands. Who in your music circle inspires you most?
When I was writing the album, I was hugely inspired by my house and housemates. That house is known as the Trekky House, home of the Huse Boys, a nickname for whoever lives or has lived there (including in recent years Nick Sanborn and Amelia Meath from Sylvan Esso, Kyle Keegan from Hiss Golden Messenger, Will Hackney from Loamlands, and Yan Westerlund from Bowerbirds). It's the home base and party central for my best friends and all the bands I've been involved with. The bohemian dream is alive in the Trekky House. Impractical and surreal things happen there. You have the freedom to drift and let your subconscious come to the surface when you live there.
The band I've been most active with in the past couple of years is Humanize (formerly The Human Eyes). I play keys in that band. Thomas Costello writes the songs. The songs are poignant, honest, and visceral — I feel lucky to be in my favorite band. The way Thomas connects to music as a fan and creator is inspiring to me. I’m really proud of the new Humanize record, “Sadlands.”
I really feel like cruising — windows down, speakers blaring — on a hot summer evening when I listen to your latest single Defeat. How did it come together?
The original demo was fragile with a lilting rhythm and minimal instrumentation. I trusted Ari when he said we needed to put the song on steroids and make it sound more like a Hall & Oates song. We brought in Jacob Rodriguez, Michael Buble's touring sax player. He came up with the soaring sax hook. Another decision that felt like a studio risk was using a vocoder on the backing vocals. It was fun trying to make “Defeat” as over-the-top as possible while retaining the integrity of the song and lead vocal.
How does the area’s storied music scene nurture your work?
The Carrboro/Chapel Hill music scene has always informed my music and my ethos as a musician — I grew up attending shows at Cat's Cradle and Go! Studios. There are some amazing venues and promoters in this town. Of course there are legendary bands who I look up to and make me proud to be from this area. Polvo, Sorry About Dresden, Archers of Loaf, and Superchunk are examples of excellent bands who always seemed to play music for the joy of making noise and hanging with their friends. Those bands also take their craft very seriously. So that mix of fun/professionalism is something I strive for. It's always nice to dream big, but my standard for success is getting a bit of positive feedback from any of the countless musical heroes I have in this town.
What are you listening to on high rotation at the moment?
I can't stop listening to this one Frankie Cosmos song "Is It Possible / Sleep Song" off her new album. I’ve been listening to that and the new Porches record mostly. Boulevards' debut record is on my turntable. I love the new records from The Dead Tongues, Skylar Gudasz, and Jphono1. This band called the Serfs from Charlotte has a new record I like a lot, too.
Teardrop Canyon performing “Defeat,” the second single off their upcoming album, at The Station in Carrboro.