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Chad Sipes hopes new record more than equal to the task

| Friday, July 29, 2011

Chad Sipes isn't sure how to describe his band, the Chad Sipes Stereo. It's not a pop group, but Sipes writes songs with gorgeous hooks. It's not typical rock 'n' roll, but guitarists Erik Cirelli and Jon Miller can unleash some blazing licks when called upon.

"We'd probably fit in with The Clarks or Bill Deasy," says Sipes, who will release his new CD, "Less Than or Equal To," Friday at the Thunderbird Cafe in Lawrenceville. "We're more accessible than people think."

But Sipes and his band (which also includes drummer Paul Smith) are often considered to be an indie band with an edge.

"I think we're somewhere in between," says Sipes, who lives in Lawrenceville.

No matter the description, "Less Than or Equal To" is an album that deserves an audience. Perhaps the best way to describe the music is a cross between OK Go and the Foo Fighters. Sipes, whose last release was four years ago, uses melody as his baseline when he's writing songs.

"I'm not a great guitarist," he says. "I'm adequate, I can strum a few chords. I'm a good bass player, but my strength is singing and songwriting. Because I can't come up a good lick and write from that, I have to write by starting with melody."

That methodology works well on "Less Than or Equal To," which also features contributions from vocalist Emily Rodgers, keyboard player David Bernabo and Josh Antonuccio, who played theremin and keyboards and produced the album. Antonuccio, a Pittsburgh native, teaches audio production at Ohio University in Athens, where he owns 3 Elliott Studio. For Sipes' project, he brought a mobile studio to the band's rehearsal space in Lawrenceville.

"We were really able to polish the music," Sipes says. "We'd been kicking around the songs for so long, Finally we just said, 'OK, let's do this.' "

One of the standout tracks on "Less Than or Equal To" is "Sleep When I'm Dead." A tribute to Satchel Paige, the legendary Negro League pitcher who debuted in the major leagues at the age of 42. Sipes mistakenly thought one of Paige's trademark catchphrases was "I'll sleep when I'm dead." As he did more research, Sipes was inspired to write what he calls a "fairy tale" about the pitcher "how there was this really hot summer, he prayed for rain, then it rained for 40 straight days and he takes responsibility for that."

Sipes' previous CD, "The Soft Center of the City," was released in 2007. Since then, he's become a father twice and he works full time in his family's contracting business. Thus, his songwriting is occasional; he'll write five or six songs in a two-month period, then not write again for a half year. Because his time is so limited, Sipes tends to write all the parts out instead of going into the studio to flesh out the music.

"I come in with the demos and what I think the songs should sound like," he says. "But they do sound different (on the records) because of what my guys do with it."

Sipes already has a new batch of songs ready to record, and promises it won't be four years until they see the light of day. Right now he wants to see if "Less Than or Equal To" finds an audience.

"This record really has a vibe to it," he says. "I'm really proud of it from start to finish because it's such a cohesive album."

Additional Information:

Chad Sipes Stereo CD-release party

With: The Triggers

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Admission: $10

Where: Thunderbird Cafe, Lawrenceville

Details: 412-682-0177 or website

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