Take a trip back to 1985, when boom boxes, big hair, Walkmen and windbreakers reigned supreme. With blockbuster hits like The Breakfast Club and Back to the Future, this year also marked the releases of the iconic Nintendo Entertainment System and the first-ever Windows operating system. And with chart-topping albums from Phil Collins, Tears for Fears and Prince, the synth-tastic '80s grooves were in full swing too.
Leap ahead exactly 30 years in Dr. Emmett Brown's DeLorean time machine and you'll find Indianapolis' Party Lines filing into a SoBro basement for band practice. Channeling many of the classic sounds of the '80s, this five-piece band wastes little time before hammering through one song after the next with a lively horn section by their side.
At first listen, the group's sleek pop sound certainly resembles that of several other acts today that draw influence from the '80s. According to guitarist and keyboardist Aaron Hogan though, there's much more to it than meets the ears.
"I think it's got that organic warmth to it, rather than the sterileness of a lot of synth-pop stuff," Hogan says, who, along with drummer Adam Mattox has been in the group since it first began. "It is a challenge in a way to not be pegged as Chromeo or something like that, but we break that stigma when you hear us."
The band began searching for its identity, exploring a myriad of rock 'n' roll sounds. After writing the '80s-inspired gem "Hot to the Touch" though, their path was seemingly chosen for them. Hogan recalls, "We decided, 'Hey. There might be something here, so let's see if we can replicate that sound.' We did, and it came a lot more naturally than we thought it would."
Landing here was somewhat of "a happy accident" for the band, considering the various musical upbringings of each member. All in all, Hogan believes this fact ultimately sets the band apart from their synth-y contemporaries.
"We all came from punk bands and rock bands and stuff," Hogan says. "I think that's what makes us original in a way because we didn't really set out to do this. It just sort of happened."
Excited about how things were transpiring, Hogan sent friend Jay-P Gold a taste of what the band had been up to in those early days, merely seeking an opinion. The Rad Summer label manager had bigger plans for the project, however.
"He immediately shot me back a message and was like, 'We gotta get this on Rad Summer. I want to release this now. Let's get this done. I got you on a show. Let's do this,'" Hogan remembers.
With this push, Party Lines got right to work, eventually putting out their debut self-titled EP via Rad Summer. After that snappy start however, the group quieted down, playing shows here and there while also going through some lineup changes. The most obvious of these was the addition of Ed Lanier as the group's effervescent vocalist, taking the place of original front man Jerred Lowe. During this time as well, the group also found a manager in Richard "Sleepy" Floyd. A very active musician in his own right (currently a member of the hip-hop group Native Sun), Floyd was initially drawn to the band's distinct take on '80s music.
"I knew right away no one around here had that sound," Floyd said.The music veteran's insights as manager have since paid off, especially considering that he connected both Lanier and current lead guitarist Graham Case with the band.
"Being in Party Lines has fulfilled the void in my life of being on the stage and playing music consistently," Lanier says. "Since I was a little boy, I always told my mom I wanted to be a famous singer and sing songs for the masses. Being in this band has definitely got me on the right track to be able to actually live out those dreams."
Now back at it again in full force, Party Lines will make their triumphant return this Friday when they celebrate the release of their latest Fool for Losin' You EP at The White Rabbit Cabaret. Set for an official release on Feb. 23, the cohesive collection of shimmering, love-infused tracks marks the band's first studio effort since their 2012 debut. In that time, though, Hogan explains that they've been able to hone in on their identity, which is clearly communicated through this EP.
"I think that it's our most articulate stuff to date," he reflects. "We're still having fun and we're still experimenting, but this is a very deliberate record for us—we set out to do something and we did it."