Make no mistake, says guitarist Derrek Hawkins, the rock quartet Closer is red-white-and-blue American.
Closer’s debut Revolution Records album, “Don’t Walk” (out Sept. 23), may sound straight out of Manchester, England, but Hawkins and singer Harley DiNardo, bassist Dave Cartategui and drummer Jonathan Nanberg have papers to prove they are from White Plains, N.Y.
Still, Hawkins freely admits that Closer, with its lively brand of psychedelic pop, has an affinity for British bands.
“We love The Verve, Radiohead, Suede, those on down to Bowie and T. Rex. That’s our diet, so it’s going to come out in our music,” he said. “We gravitated toward the British groups because we like the way they write songs. They’re great songwriters, like John Squire from the Stone Roses.”
Closer’s sound, smartly shaped over the past eight years, wasn’t calculated, Hawkins said.
“For instance, I got into Suede when they first came out, but Harley, the singer, didn’t know who they were,” he said. “We lived together and he walked by my room and said, ‘What the hell is that?’ I said, ‘You have to check out this song,’ so we both ended up listening to it. And then we realized we both had a lot of British bands in our CD collections.”
Through a mutual friend, Hawkins was looking for a singer for his new band and DiNardo’s name came up. They met in 1989 and began writing songs together, then hooked up with Cartategui in 1994 and later Nanberg. The band is based in White Plains, but they rehearse and perform in New York City.
An independent single, released under the band’s original name, Velour, caught the ear of Revolution last year. They changed their name to Closer, after the classic Joy Division album, and went into the studio with producer Ed Buller (Suede, Pulp), a former member of Psychedelic Furs.
“He pretty much became a fifth band member. I know that sounds like a cliche, people say that about most producers,” Hawkins said, “but he really did, to the point where we were sitting in the studio and we were totally tearing apart a song with him.
“Harley and I went into it thinking, ‘We’re the songwriters.’ Ed was like, ‘Well, you know what? This is not working. I know you guys think it’s really good, and it is good, but it’s not working and we’re going to try it this way.’ We’d give him the ho-hum, but he would take it apart and make it friggin’ great, doing things that we never would’ve thought of, like using sythnesizers and stuff. He just kept the mood really up in the studio. He’s a really funny guy, no attitude at all. And he looks better than all of us.”
Hawkins is knocking on wood, hoping that the first single, “Let Her Go,” will open some doors. He sees nothing but good karma ahead.
“I think, honestly, we’re going to be huge,” he said. “I really do. I really don’t want to sound like an egomaniac or anything, but I really have a good, positive feeling about it. People reach for the top of the building or the stars; we’re going for the bigger one.”