The Morning Benders Take Their Shiny Pop Across the States -- But Will They Make It in That Crap Van?


So how many bands, pumped over their first trip to South by Southwest, have headed to Austin and gotten in trouble with the law? More than a few, I’ll wager.

Take the Morning Benders. No sooner had this fresh-scrubbed, pop-rock foursome out of the Bay Area driven their van “Darryl” across the border from New Mexico into Texas than they were stopped by a good ol’ boy with a badge. Speeding like bats out of hell? Weaving across the median? Funny aroma wafting out the windows? Broken tail light? Not quite...

“We got pulled over for driving too slow,” said Chris Chu, singer/songwriter/guitarist/creator of the Benders. “They wanted us to speed up or change lanes. Or leave Texas.”

Um, not exactly rock & roll, guys. “I know,” Chris admitted. “It’s sad.”

While not Archuleta-level squeaky-clean, the Morning Benders seem unlikely to be tossing TV sets out of hotel windows anytime soon, as they begin a mostly sold-out trek across the country with their pop rock mates from the UK, the Kooks. So what’s the British connection for these Cali kids…?

(The answer to that question, and a live performance clip, after the jump.)

The pairing of the boys from Berkeley (Chu, Julian Harmon, Tim Or, and Joe Ferrell) with Luke Pritchard’s boys from Brighton makes a lot of sense, actually. While there have been plenty of critical comparisons between the Benders’ bright, hummable sound and classic West Coast pop or the 60’s Brill Building school, plenty of tracks on their debut Talking Through Tin Cans sound positively Merseyside English. Beatles, sure -- but even sunnier comparisons like Herman’s Hermits come to mind. And the Benders seem to agree (see Chu talk about the British connection in the clip above).

But don’t pigeonhole the band as retro. “We recorded it to tape, and there’s a lot of stuff that is vintage about it," Chu said. "But at the same time, it doesn’t sound necessarily like 60’s records.”

Point is, from the rambling “Loose Change” to the acoustic jangle of “Cross-eyed” and the instant pop classic “Boarded Doors,” much of the Benders’ sound is perfectly at home alongside the Kooks.

An affable new album, first US tour -- life seems to be good for the Morning Benders.

Less so for their van Darryl. Just weeks ago, Chu told me, “We’re pretty cramped. We don’t have a trailer or anything. So we just have the one bench and two seats up and all our crap piled in. Plus, the mirrors don’t work, so you can’t really see. It’s just a complete 360-blind spot. We need to upgrade, I think.” Good news -- the boys did just that, getting themselves a new van last week, and one that reportedly has “a lot of character.”

Bon voyage, guys.

Below, check out this live performance of “Loose Change” from the Morning Benders’ recent record release party at the Echo in LA.