This week I braved the cold and germ-ridden subway for an eight o’ clock show at Mercury Lounge. I was there to see the up-and-coming band Saint Rich, and by the time I arrived, they had already started their set. The venue was intimate and hosted more tall, long-haired men than a metal show–and probably a higher standard of hygiene. Although the band hails from New Jersey, it was obvious that they have managed to garner a significant following of devotees here in New York City.
Top Emerging Artists – Saint Rich
Saint Rich has five members: Christian Peslak on vocals, Steve Marion and Marshal Garvus on guitar, Mike Duncan on drums, and Shane O’Conell on bass. While this band is only a couple of years in the making, all members are indie music veterans. O’Conell and Garvus played with the now defunct Brooklyn-based band Strange Shapes, and the remaining members all currently play in guitar-driven indie sensation, Delicate Steve.
I had heard that Saint Rich began as a side project and indeed it was supposedly a happy accident. Delicate Steve was scheduled to practice at the rural home of namesake Steve Marion when a storm kept some band members from attending, but ended up allowing for a fortuitous collaboration between Peslak and Marion and ultimately the creation of an entirely new band. The two of them wrote the debut album, Beyond the Drone, in only one weekend and released it on Merge Records last year.
Saint Rich could be broadly defined as indie folk, but Beyond the Drone is testament to the band’s versatility. While the music is covered in Marion’s fretted fingerprints, it is led by Peslak’s powerful lyrics and distinctive vocals. Nearly every track on the album brings to mind a different genre and style, making it impossible to define Saint Rich’s sound by just one song. “Crying From the Home” is a quintessential, feel-good folk song–if feel-good folk songs exist–while “Young Vultures” pays homage to The Strokes. “Officer,” inspired by a policeman from Peslak’s past, is the group’s most popular track and showcases the lyrical strength and intricate guitar-work that make up Saint Rich’s bedrock. Most recently the band released an ecstatic single called “New Sensation” which feels like the celebration of their newfound momentum.
The album is a good introduction to their style, but seeing them live is especially satisfying. Saint Rich has a collaborative stage presence devoid of shallow theatrics. Like many young bands, they would rather engage with the audience than stand separate, which makes for an invigorating live show. Nymph-like Peslak pours his heart out into the microphone and Marion waits on the side like a caged animal–waiting to savagely maul his guitar. This music is meant to be seen and experienced in person.
Luckily they will be playing up and down the US for the next few months. Saint Rich is young but sophisticated and after this year’s national tour, sure to be even more worldly. Don’t miss your opportunity to check them out live.