Put down your coffee, cronut, or knife. Go onto YouTube and watch Junior Prom's cover of Hall & Oates' “I Can't Go for That." Trust me.
It's merely a fraction of what's unique about the Brooklyn-based duo of Mark Solomich and Erik Ratensperger, but it introduces everything that makes the Elektra Records duo great. There's the sky-scraping vocal range, playful humor, and the crisp musical interplay.
The songs on their self-titled debut (EP) bring that same sense of joy and levitation. They're whip-smart pop that you can dance to. If you like Phoenix, Cut Copy, or even New Order, odds are Junior Prom will be one of your new favorite bands. Regardless, their sound defies verbs, adjectives, and arbitrary genre divides. It needs to be heard.
“It's about striking the balance between writing a great pop song that everyone can sing along to, but finding an artful angle that makes it unpredictable," says Ratensperger.
“We want to make music that appeals to all different types of people but don't want to be cookie-cutter. It's boring to write lyrics that everyone else has written," adds Solomich.
After all, they recorded and scrapped an entire album before releasing a single song. In an age where groups attempt to discover their sound as they progress, it highlights an unusual sonic maturity—or at least a preternaturally locked-in musical connection.
Bonding over everyone from The Clash, to Earth Wind and Fire, to Bruno Mars, Ratensperger and Solomich navigate the terrain between indie rock, punk, and dance-pop.
“I usually tell people it's like punk soul dub dance music," Solomich says. “At least, that's how we hear it."
The goal is something fresh but always fun. Where you expect them to go right, they dart left. The arrangements always twist at a slightly different angle. But everyone is invited to the party. Pop music isn't necessarily Britney Spears or Katy Perry. Pop is universal. Junior Prom is pop, but they're also much more.
The pair don't take themselves all that seriously—only the music. Their bonafides are legitimate, shored up over innumerable short-lived punk bands and indie rock outfits during their teen years and early 20s. Randomly enough, Solomich caught a show from Ratensperger's first band when they played a Pittsburgh basement show.
But when Junior Prom came together, part of their mission was to break away from the screw-face pretensions that dog many contemporary scenes. It's body music first, but there's a restless intelligence that pierces through when you stop moving. The lyrics riff on everything from economic inequality to comic tales of violent ex-girlfriends. Junior Prom is the sort of band that makes your realize it's always summer in some hemisphere.
“It's really about making music that hopefully encourages people to engage, whether they throw down on the dance floor, or roll down their windows, blast our music and sing along," Ratensperger says. “No matter what song you put on, we want people to feel something."