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Columbus’ Own: The Pleasant Tense seeks no identity

In an attempt to shine light on local music, The Lantern’s “Columbus’ Own” is a weekly series that will profile a new Columbus band/artist each week.

There is an alley off of West Fifth Avenue that is being shadowed by the towering View on Fifth apartment complex. All the way down the alley resides independent recording studio Oranjudio, its door inconspicuously blending into a wall of the same shade of tan.

Keys player Kevin Skubak focuses on providing the melody for a Pleasant Tense song. Zak Kolesar | Lantern Reporter

Keys player Kevin Skubak focuses on providing the melody for a Pleasant Tense song. Zak Kolesar | Lantern Reporter

On this particular Friday evening, The Pleasant Tense, an eclectic mix of varied talents that formed in 2013, is trying to squeeze in some valuable recording time. The first track the band recorded is an up-tempo R&B pop tune, guided by a blissful piano melody.

The unreleased track, “BBT,” represents the band’s assorted catalog, which ranges from blues-inspired tunes to upbeat jams.

I don’t like labels,” keyboardist Kevin Skubak said. “I think it narrows people’s minds in terms of how they view the band they’re about to listen to.”

Skubak, along with vocalist Marnée Richardson, were the initial collaborators before they brought in guitarist Andrew Sais, bassist Raad Shubaily and drummer Seth Daily. Skubak and Richardson wanted to bring their music to life, so they recruited a group with diverse musical backgrounds with the intention to play concerts.

“It was weird at first, but what we came up with, like the mesh of the different things coming together, was something different and it sounded cool,” Richardson said. “We work well together.”

The Pleasant Tense’s most recent release, a four-song EP titled “Easy Art,” showcases the band’s ability to fit into more than one genre.  

“I love to mix it up,” Richardson said. “I don’t want to be just rock; I don’t want to be just pop; I don’t want to be just funk.” 

The opening song, “Magic 137,” is followed by the heavy funk and R&B-infused “Trigger Happy.” Sais provides the first aspect paired with Shubaily’s sleek bass. Most prominently, however, is Richardson’s chameleon-like voice: “I hope I’m never in their way, oh no.”

“She’s really good at adapting her voice to each song,” Skubak said. “She doesn’t have a set voice. She’s able to shapeshift depending on what the song needs.”

At the studio the band’s frontwoman is in high spirits, which puts the rest of the room at ease. There is hardly any disagreement between the five throughout the session, which is also to say that every member’s opinion is equally valued.  

The band’s open-mindedness also eliminates any selfish motives and frequent creative spats. No one member ever commands authority while performing and even while discussing how the recorded version turned out.

Skubak is the most reserved in these situations, despite being a multi-talented musician. When Richardson and Skubak were making music the year before The Pleasant Tense formed, the former OSU student covered every instrument to back Richardson’s vocals.

Now he mostly sticks to the keys, which has increasingly expanded the band’s already-multifarious palate.

“I like the ability that it gives me in terms of writing songs,” Skubak said. “It’s really easy for me to create melodies on the piano in terms of any other instrument.”

How about the prospect of trying to integrate a sixth or even seventh member? Not right now, the band said, but it is definitely a possibility.

Bassist Raad Shubaily and vocalist Marnée Richardson are deep in concentration during valuable recording time. Credit: Zak Kolesar | Lantern Reporter

Bassist Raad Shubaily and vocalist Marnée Richardson are deep in concentration during valuable recording time. Credit: Zak Kolesar | Lantern Reporter

“Adding more people to the mix might complicate things a little, but if we were to add anything else, it would definitely be some horns,” Richardson said.

Although the band embraces melding its many influences, there can be a downside to that. Labels can constrict art, but choosing not to announce an identity makes it difficult for cliquey listeners to embrace.

“I feel like there’s a type of music that gets popular in this town a lot more than other types even though there’s so many different types of music,” Sais said.

Not compromising, however, has benefits that can pay off in the long run.

The Pleasant Tense blends into the Columbus music scene almost as well as the entrance to the studio in which it is creating music. Just like the studio, it is also a tucked-away gem in an industry where conforming can be contagious.

That is of no concern for The Pleasant Tense, who is exposing Columbus to a little bit of everything the city enjoys hearing as one act. Sounds like a gratifying cure for musical boredom.

The Pleasant Tense will be performing at Brothers Drake Meadery on Feb. 19 with Dynamo and Osage. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the cover charge is $5.

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