Perhaps this is why Evans took a solitary approach to record making after the dissolution of his Phoenix, AZ based indie rock group Asleep In The Sea in 2007, by starting the project ROAR. The fear of breaking up, and losing the work one puts into songwriting may also have been the inspiration for the cover art of ROAR’s debut release from 2010. I Can’t Handle Change’s front and back cover are graced simply with the black and white portraits of Phil and Ronnie Spector, respectively. This dichotomy epitomizes the dangers of relying on collaboration, and the potential damages of that split. Perhaps it is also the reason that it’s taken him more than a year to write, arrange and produce the ROAR’s newest four-song release I’m Not Here to Make Friends.
But to the listener, Evans’ creative output seems anything but limited. On top of writing and arranging the songs, he also plays almost all of the instruments on the recording. In fact, the full, buzzing, soaring arrangements and song structures on ROAR’s records could lead one to describe his approach as frenetic, obsessed, out of control, and border line ADD.
The lyrics touch on struggles such as cancer, alcoholism, dead parents, Freudian hang- ups, romantic inadequacies, LOL-speak, and cats. Evans describes I’m Not Here to Make Friends as an “incredibly selfish” record, but wouldn’t that description apply to any honest expression?
There’s definitely a Brian Wilson meets Harry Nilsson sensibility for melody, with harmonies carried by broken-sounding keyboards, fuzzed out bass and electric guitars, and effective multi-tracking of Evans’ voice. The lead off track “Chinese Tattoo” feels as if Rivers Cuomo were writing with the stream of consciousness of an Irish novelist, no part or line repeating, and with an intentional disregard for structure. “Flightless Bird” is like some bizarre and drunken “Hey Jude,” with its om-like repetition of the lyric ”You tell yourself that this is for the best” as Side A fades away. “Poor Grammar” has that Spector wall of sound, with a melodic approach similar to that of The Unicorns, and finally “Laugh Track” acts as an anti-coda, introducing a new theme in the final act, fading into open-endedness, and leaving you wishing there were more songs on this record.
It seems that with ROAR’s nearly obsessed ear for writing and arranging, as well as for production and performance, Owen Evans has a bit of both Ronnie and Phil in him. Let’s hope the two don’t break up anytime soon.