The Return of the Explorers Club

Explorers Club playing at the EarlWinter’s waning, but Jason Brewer of the Explorers Club has a bad cold. His voice is shot, and on the second leg of this two-show tour of the Southeast, he’ll need an interpreter.

The interpreter is Wyatt Funderburk, one of the newest members of a revamped Explorers Club that has changed with each album. The band has almost completed its third album, slated for release in late summer.

Brewer met Funderburk, who was already an Explorers Club fan, on Facebook, and the two used to trade spins on the now-defunct turntable.fm. When Brewer moved to Nashville, he asked Funderburk to be in the new formation of the band. “I basically moved there because I wanted to be in a city with a lot of studios,” Brewer says in a soft husky voice.

The band made its debut in 2008 with Freedom Wind, which sounded like Pet Sounds 2, the close Beach-Boys harmonies forefront in almost every song.  The band abandoned the Beach Boys sound somewhat with 2012’s Grand Hotel, which was what you’d expect if you took Glen Campbell, Herb Alpert and the Turtles into a recording studio.  Brewer admits that it was a polarizing album, but was “a transitional thing” for the group.

So where have they been since the release of Grand Hotel?

“We had a lot of really great opportunities but we just didn’t work hard enough,” Brewer admits. After the release of Grand Hotel, “half the guys didn’t want to do it anymore, and half the folks did, so we sort of agreed to split up.” Then, according to Brewer, “life happened”– he and his wife had a baby, but he still had the songwriting bug. The family made the move to Nashville, where he started writing new songs and played a few gigs testing the new lineup.

The band just released an EP, All Aboard: Live at Patriots Point, which the band recorded last July 4 on the USS Yorktown in Charleston.

Funderburk says the new album goes back to the Beach Boys sound, but from a different era. “We’re kind of in the 1968-1969 era Beach Boys — Friends, 20/20 — A lot of shorter songs, everybody takes a few lead parts. There’s tighter instrumentation, not as much is orchestrated. Everything’s done live, and it’s recorded in analog.” He adds that it’s not all sunshine pop anymore. “There are some darker songs on there. But it’s definitely the most original record we’ve done.”

The band boasted as many as 10 members during some performances in the past, but Brewer prefers the smaller band of five that is recording the album (although seven graced the tiny stage at the Earl that night).

“Although I have sentimental attachments to all the different versions of this band, this is the best version,” he says.  “We have at least two other great songwriters, and we’ve got four A-list musicians. I’m not including myself in that count. But we’re all good together.”