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Photo by Asyia Marotta.

The Curious Case of The Candescents

Just after popping on the Columbus music scene as fresh-faced kids—they disappeared.  Now, they’re ready for their closeup.

It’s quite understandable if you’ve never heard of The Candescents, even if they’re one of the most exciting young groups to emerge from Columbus in the last decade.

Their backstory is brief and baffling. The Candescents’ debut, an undeniable five-song EP called Bedheads, was as promising as they come. It was jangly pop, reminiscent of the Strokes and the Smiths, held together with the gooey elasticity of bubblegum and the gritty coarseness of grip tape. There was little press, few shows, but those who heard those songs back in 2015 were instantly convinced of their talent. Back then I wanted to know more, hear more, but my requests for interviews and features were thwarted. The elusiveness of the band was astounding. All the sudden they disappeared. The EP gone from the Internet.

Eventually I gave up. The Candescents would forever be a blip on the Columbus radar—too good to be true.

That is until late 2017, when their name appeared as support for Pale Waves. It had been so long, I had to do research to verify that it was even the same band. Their Facebook page came back to life. Promises of new music were posted, cryptic allusions to trips to L.A. and beyond, pictures, all the markings of a media blitz and resurrection of an entirely new band. A do-over? That could be the case. As of now, the Bedheads EP has been acid-washed from the Internet, and there is little mention that it was even made. Or that the Candescents were even a band three years ago.

In (finally) speaking with head Candescent Alex Harris he doesn’t see the absence as much of a big deal. It’s almost as if they were ashamed of trying to live up to that lightning-in-a-bottle moment, or just weren’t ready.

“We went away to hone our craft,” says Harris. “We’ve just been writing a lot, practicing every day and just becoming a really good band. There was never a time when we weren’t constantly working to become as good as we could be. Now we are definitely ready, and ready to break out.”

When I went about searching for news about the band’s resurrection, I knew that “break-out” was upon us because I was playing phone-tag with a guy in London and one on the West Coast, just to get a 15-minute interview with a local band. Frustrating for sure, but there was a method to the madness.

Those last three years have been put to good use. The band spent that long pause holed up in their “clubhouse” in bucolic Fort Jennings, Ohio, the hometown of brothers Alex and Cody von Lehmden, and during that time, unbeknownst to music fans in Columbus, the Candescents were traveling across the country, recording in Los Angeles with producer John Gilmore, and signing with the famed British label Dirty Hit—home to the 1975, Wolf Alice, and Pale Waves among others. A plan was in place.

June arrived and the world was reintroduced to the Candescents with the single “Boyfriend.” The generic designation from the band, that the music is “hip-shaking, sun-baking, heart-breaking, rock and roll,” doesn’t do the first new track much justice. Sure, it’s light and breezy, the carefree nonchalance of summer wrapped in a three-minute pop song, but it’s also filled with razor-sharp hooks and a sheen that practically begs for radio play between The Cars and The Strokes. Harris contends the subsequent first and second EPs, which have been recorded for over a year, and are to be released song-by-song throughout the rest of 2018, will be much of the same balance of pop sensibility and “loud emotive rock.” Theirs is an ultra-polished sound that leapfrogs the trenches of dive bars and home-recorded missteps. But there seems to be no regret in playing to industry whims and manufacturing their own style in a very calculated first jump. Even when three years ago there was a hungry Columbus public wanting to crown the 20-something coeds as new pop saviors, there were no qualms about simply walking away until the time was right.

“It is strange to be a band from Columbus, but not being locally involved,” says Harris. “But I think that absence has really helped us set our sights on being known nationally or internationally. We have lofty ambitions.”

The Candescents will spend the summer as support for We Are Scientists. Search out their Facebook page for tour dates and new music.

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