The Bret Tobias Set may be two members shy of a Bigger Lovers reunion, but it’s pretty much business as usual for Tobias, whose power-pop template has only grown more nuanced and patinaed since the dissolution of one of Philly’s more underappreciated quartets almost 20 years ago. Since then, original Bigger Lovers drummer Patrick Berkery has been keeping busy with the likes of Strand Of Oaks, the War On Drugs and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. His precise, hard-driving style was integral to the Lovers’ appeal, and he’s steering the ship (for the most part) with the Set. Tobias fills out his latest project with the Photon Band’s Jeff Tanner on guitar and Tracy Stanton (A.M. Mills) on bass.
Pleaser Vol. 1 (Swedish Taboo Industries), the Bret Tobias Set’s debut EP, is available today digitally and on limited-edition, 12-inch 45-rpm vinyl. It kicks off with the achingly beautiful meditation on imperfect parenting “Good Morning, Sunshine,” keeping the POV mostly personal over its four additional tracks. The sole exception is the jittery, new wavey “It Never Hurts Any Less (But You Get Fast),” which takes as its inspiration Greg LeMond, of all people.
“He was first American cyclist to really dominate the European peloton,” says Tobias. “He was a beast of a rider but also very much a fish out of water as an American competing in a deeply tradition-heavy European sport.”
As a result, LeMond was the target of “unwarranted, over-the-top” abuse. “I find his resilience pretty inspiring,” says Tobias. “The title of the song is a paraphrase of a quote of LeMond’s: ‘It never gets easier—you just get faster.’ I usually write really personal songs about my own crises and foibles, so it was nice to focus on someone else’s for once.”
Tobias offers a frank assessment of the video for “It Never Hurts Any Less.” “It’s nerdy as fuck,” he says. “I’d been working with a friend on another video, but he ran out of steam on the project—which is fair enough, since it’s a pain in the ass. The guy I ended up working with, Bob Sweeney, played up the cycling theme. I live in a rural area, and we shot near my place. He had an absurdist concept for it, which suits me fine as I’m not sure I could’ve stood around pretending to earnestly strum a guitar and sing. I’d rather pretend to ride my bike and let the goats assist me in fixing a flat.”
We’re proud to premiere “It Never Hurts Any Less (But You Get Fast).” The Bret Tobias Set celebrates the release of Pleaser Vol. 1 with a show at Ortleib’s in Philadelphia on November 11.