This was my first introduction to The SBF as a band. I have been close friends with keyboard wizard Luke Swift for over a decade. Luke is, in essence, Essex’s answer to Jordan Rudess, and when he asked me to review this EP, I knew I was in for a treat.
The EP starts with a track called “We Are”. It begins with a faint, haunting ring of a guitar followed by the drums. The track is upbeat and a good introduction to the band’s sound. The unbelievably tuneful bass joins at the same time as the keyboard playing a riff that’s both relaxed but precise.
The vocals are wonderful. Rich in both tone and melody. The vocal reminds me a bit of a London based band (who I am obsessed with) called Haken. At 50 seconds the record picks up momentum. It’s fast paced, yet doesn’t feel rushed, and the little runs on the keyboard are lovely too. The chorus follows which is immediately memorable.
I think this record is a fantastic nod to classic / 70’s prog rock, with a charming, modern and relaxed approach. The musicianship of The SBF is demonstrated in this first track leaving us wanting more.
The mid-8 is probably the most progressive part of the track. There is a LOT going on which leads nicely in to the rest of the instruments stopping and the vocal taking centre stage (accompanied by some beautiful harmonies). The rest of the guys drop back in shortly after playing a chorus which leads is repeated. The song ends with a slightly gothic (and very Dream Theater inspired) piano run.
Track two is “None of your Business”. No.. I don’t mean it’s none of your business.. I mean.. the title is “none of your business”. Oh just forget it..
The track’s opening 90 seconds is primarily acoustic. For me, this was a really well placed song. The opening record is so fierce, an audible break was needed – shouts to which ever band member decided this. However, after the SBF lead us in to a false sense of security by letting us relax with, what we think is going to be a super chilled record, the drums, distorted guitar, keyboards, synths and pretty much every instrument you can think of joins. In fact, talking of synths at 4 minutes 2 seconds, the pad voice that is used is stunning. Its both grand, yet not overpowering.
I really like the way The SBF have composed this track. I like the panning across the earphones, the glitchy sound effects, the gated and distorted drums leading the outro. It all works well .
Track three on this EP is called “Beautiful Creation”. It starts with what can only be described as a broken film-like pad with vocals very distant in the background switching between the right and left ear. This is then preceded by an acoustic guitar which plays a riff and is quickly followed by the rest of the band joining. When I was listening to this record, I felt like the best reference bands would be The Neal Morse Band, Transatlantic and Blackfield.
After the band has played the main riff, they stop leaving just an acoustic guitar. Again, a well thought out composition by the SBF. The chorus begins after this point in the song which has some interesting and unanticipated switches between 4/4 and 7/8, and as a prog head, this was a lot of fun to listen to. At 3 minutes 14 the mid-8 is introduced. This is pleasant, but short lived (most prog bands would rather a mid 678 than a mid 8 , right?) After the pace slows down with the mid 8, a guitar solo begins which is just perfect. The tone of the guitar could not have been better.
The record ends with the chorus being repeated and what I like best is the drummer’s approach. He takes the double kick pedal to new places, and I feel like this is the first time the drummer has truly let himself go and have some fun with the track. He’s obviously a well accomplished player, and with the music being as complicated as it is, I guess it can be difficult to find moments to let go.
The penultimate record is called “Heist”. It’s the only song on the EP with its own graphic on Spotify. Whilst I know that this is a music review, music is very much 360 (music, socials and live) so it was nice to see the guys on stage having a good time.
The song itself is another upbeat, easy to listen to effort from the SBF. I’d say that this track is probably the most “poppy” track of the EP. That’s not to say I’m comparing them to bands like One Direction, but if I were to sell the SBF to someone, this would be the song I’d choose.
Ultimately, to appeal to their target audience, I’d say the fast tempo, the chorus being as catchy as it is, the fact it’s probably the least experimental track, (meaning it would likely increase the universal likability of the song), the musicianship and the fact it really is just a brilliantly executed punchy record are all ingredients as to why I would use this track to sell The SBF.
The last song is called “Worry”. The slightly distorted guitar introduction leads to the bass, drums and keys coming through. The opening, whilst instrumental, is thought provoking. The drums concentrate on just the toms, the keyboard voice is futuristic in sound, but not so unfamiliar you’d wonder what was going on.
The vocal comes in around 20 seconds in. The band continues to play and the first snare hits at 35 seconds which tells me that things are going to pick up. To my surprise, the song actually relaxes into a very comfortable few moments where the drums are played delicately and the vocal is accompanied by a piano. This is quickly over when the guitars turn up once again and collectively, the band picks up the pace. Also, it is worth mentioning that the guys take on an array of time signatures including 4/4, 5/4 and 6/8 and 6/4. Again, nothing too unordinary for a prog rock band, but it was cool to hear them challenging themselves at this point.
“Worry” is probably the most experimental track on the album. The guys made the right decision in ending the EP with this. I think by this point I had sussed the signature sound of the SBF and thought it would only be a matter of time before I’d hear them in this direction.
The song is 5:38 in length and I think, musically, it offers the most light and shade. It isn’t as necessarily catchy as the other tracks, but for me, it was the track I felt most naturally captured by. I would say this song is for the real prog rockers out there.
The entire EP ends with the prettiest piano section that I’ve had on repeat a couple of times since listening. It’s chord progression reminded me a bit of Mr Blue Sky. It was needed and perfect.
The SBF offers a cocktail of well-considered compositions that, whilst at times would challenge some musicians, do not phase them. This four piece clearly take their nods from bands like Dream Theater, Rush, Yes and all of those guys, but they have not replicated those exact sounds (which is hugely important to being successful). They have cleverly created something that is interesting to listen to, and would comfortably corner the pop, rock, prog and metal market. I think this is a fantastic effort from four hugely talented and disciplined musicians.