The Turnball ACs released their self-titled debut in 2006, a collection of catchy, garage-y rock songs tinged with folk, with a couple of wrenching ballads featuring keening guitars. Dan Mecher’s vocal flexibility between voice-cracking wails and happy-go-lucky buoyancy is reminiscent of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst.
“It’s not something I try for, but [Conor] has been such an influence,” Mecher said. “Bright Eyes was the first band to show me that it didn’t have to be all about the guitar riffs, and to focus more on the lyrics, how to pack so much imagery in one line.”
Indeed, Mecher’s approach on that first record is as much literary as musical. Each song tells a story, and the inspirations vary, from favorite movies to personal observations of the people around him. For instance, the macabre imagery of “Red in the Fountain” derives from Mecher’s enjoyment of Hitchcock, while “Disco Bomber” is such an agonized plea for love and life that it’s surprising to know that it isn’t autobiographical.
“My girlfriend was living in this real depressing neighborhood,” he said. “Every house had too many kids to feed, and the parents all had these defeated looks on their faces. I knew they had to have had some aspirations at some time, but now they’re gone. So I wrote that song trying to see from their perspective.”
The Turnbull ACs are midway through recording their second album, which promises to be rock-based as well, only with a much more profound folk influence as a result of Mecher’s discovery of Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. The band recently acquired a new drummer, Brian Penic, who happens to have a more polished knack for arranging gigs.
In the meantime, Mecher will continue to work his day job as a Web designer for Toyota.
“I’m not the most socially outgoing person,” Mecher said. “But it’s fun [at Toyota] being the weird rock kid with a bunch of older people. They actually came to see us at a gig in Lexington and helped us load our gear. That was kind of odd.”