Sea Lions formed in 2007 with just Adrian Pillado singing and playing guitar backed by his best friend on drums. Something new was starting to happen in Oxnard's DIY punk scene: a group of young kids had been listening to a lot of K, Postcard, Sarah, Creation and (naturally) Slumberland records. The early days of Sea Lions were a learning curve, the duo crashing and bashing their way through songs, often stumbling upon beauty in the process. Still, something was missing. They were always just teetering on the edge of something great, but then came that greatness came one night at cooler- than-cool LA indie club Part Time Punks. They had recently added a second guitarist and a bass player... and they killed. Pillado had really grown as a songwriter; the songs were still shambolic, but they were also assertive and direct. They thrilled the full-time punks in the crowd with a cover of Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown," and wowed the Northern Soul junkies with a downright saucy take on the Freda Payne classic "Band of Gold." It was the exact point at which one could say, "Ladies and gentlemen, Sea Lions!"
'Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sea Lions, But Were Afraid to Ask' is without question the next giant step forward for the band. The production is shimmering and assured. Something as simple as the backing "oohs" on "Grown Up" become transcendent, and the toy piano at the beginning of the song could be cloying, but instead feels tasteful and necessary. While the group does a wonderful job dabbling in minor keys and retro sounds, standout track "As Times Change" reveals a confident band that knows how to mine their record collections (particularly their 13th Floor Elevators and Love LPs) and turn all of those sounds into something entirely their own. The much-noted Calvin Johnson-like flavor of Pillado's voice is a great contrast to what has become a quite virtuosic band. Second guitarist Matt Urango and drummer Javier Cruz come from the punk scene of Pillado's youth, while bassist Kyle Zufolo is a fervent Brit-pop fan. Bustling with nervous energy and the desire to communicate, Sea Lions share a sense of urgency with great pop forebears like Subway Sect and Television Personalities-earnestness combined with pop knowledge and punk suss. What they capture, where so many young bands try and fail, is not simply the sound of young Oxnard, it's the sound of youth everywhere: bored, underemployed and wishing your life was something else. If there is any justice in this world, it will take them far.
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