Knoxville band People Places Things releases debut album

‘No Cause for Alarm’ available in physical, digital editions

photo by Matt Higginbotham

Fuzzy guitars cascade and crash against thunderous drum fills and ASMR-inducing, high-neck bassline runs. Tempos and volume dynamics constantly swell, cut out and build back up to crescendo. Lyrics shift in topic from universal themes about growing up to extremely specific stories, situations and feelings. It’s power-pop/indie rock at its finest, reminiscent of the band’s cited influences like The Pixies, Modest Mouse, Blur and the Smiths with touches of “Pinkerton-”era Weezer.

The band is People Places Things, and this is the sound of its exciting, full-length debut record, “No Cause for Alarm.”

“It’s just a great feeling to make it through,” says frontman and primary songwriter Jim Kolpack. The band worked in patches over the last two years to self-produce the album, and there was a bit of an animus for Kolpack to pick a deadline for the project: Because his new baby was about to be born, he needed to finish some of the loud guitars and focus on volume settings beforehand. “To get some of the feedback sounds I was wanting, I had to turn it up, so I had to get that done before he was born,” he says, laughing.

Despite the rise of singles and playlists and the corresponding decline of physical products and places in which they are sold, the members of People Places Things were adamant that they wanted to create a cohesive, full-album listening experience. They’d always dreamed of making a complete work that could sit on shelves alongside their favorite records or that could live on a fan’s list of favorite albums.

“That’s been the saddest of part of this whole process,” Kolpack says. “Making an ‘album’ like it’s this golden almighty accomplishment … you’ve crossed the threshold, and now you’re in the club with your heroes and it turns out the time of that format of music release is in its death throes.”

But People Places Things is not just the sum of its influences. Perhaps the most engaging thing about the group is that its players intentionally stray from a signature current/classic sound/genre template and instead blend genres to create a timeless, idiosyncratic sound. Everyone in the band is a grown-up 30-something, but the songs smack of gleeful experimentation and possess the same kind of energy one might expect from a teenage garage band.

Kolpack says that “Brainwash,” a standout song with great lap-steel work by Randy Brown, is about how a “trusted personality you thought you used to know … pushing boundaries all the time” can mutate and change with age or success. He says it specifically relates to his unique and perhaps unpopular take on Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips.

Kolpack describes being disturbed at the performer’s evolution to carnival barker, confetti-cannon launcher, hamster-ball walker and theatrical bon vivant on stage. He seems to prefer an earlier incarnation of the band – one that was leaner, sparser and more authentically psychedelic – that he believes was more innovative when it wasn’t just about the spectacle.

The sonic ethos running throughout “No Cause for Alarm” follows with this taste for natural conclusion. The music is interesting rock made on standard rock instruments; there’s no special effects or computer generated frills – just some dudes rocking out their songs.

It may not come as a surprise that songwriters often struggle with mental-health issues and use music to maintain their mental-health hygiene. Describing his lyrical process, Kolpack says, “It’s things that bounce around in my head … the facts of mental illness.”

“Lost Track” describes maturing and overcoming regrets or self-doubt. According to Kolpack, it’s about “getting your act together … finding the old cassette with the songs you’d thrown away earlier.”

Another potential single in this mental/emotional vein is “Piece of Mind,” which the band’s press release for the album says “frames a panic attack as an instructional exercise, a chance to directly connect with that anxious part of your soul and ‘make peace’ with it.”

Drummer Matt Higginbotham has his own photography business, took the shots for the album art and collaborated with Kolpack on the graphic design. People Places Things played at Pilot Light last year to test some of the group’s material, and it will return to the venue on May 25 to play an album-release show.

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