CJ Commerford & The Supertones Deliver Nostalgia With A Twist

19 July 2022 | 11:42 am | Emma Whines

"We're definitely trying to pay homage to that original soul sound.”

More CJ Commerford & The Supertones More CJ Commerford & The Supertones

CJ Commerford & The Supertones, formerly known as the Chris Commerford Band, have embarked on a new blues and soul journey with the release of their new album Sugar. Ditching their previous ‘70s rock sound, the new eight-track album lulls the listener into a blissful fantasy of nostalgia with their unique vintage soul sound. The new direction, led by CJ Commerford himself, seemed on the cards after some self-reflection throughout the pandemic.  

“I was trying to utilise too many of my skills at once, and it's one of those things that when you’re a part of the puzzle, it’s kind of hard to see the whole thing,” Commerford explains. “So now we're just trying to zone in on a particular sound and travel in a singular direction,”

While the new sound is definitely working for them, it wasn’t always Commerford’s dream to travel down the soul and blues path.

“I didn’t start appreciating soul and blues straight away, even though it made up the bulk of my parents’ record collection throughout my childhood. It took me a while to truly love it and see it for what it was. Of course, now we're definitely trying to pay homage to that original soul sound.”

Songs like Burning and Remedy really do tip their hat in the direction of old bluesy crooners and slow jam singers that would grace an underground speakeasy. However, the variety on the album is palpable when switching to songs like Bad Juju or No Holding Us Back, where the rhythm and jive would make any party nay-sayer jump up and dance. Their songs definitely reflect their ultimate goal of creating a time capsule with a modern twist.

“We're trying to capture that analog sound, but obviously, we don’t want to try and do what's already been done. I guess what we're really trying to do, is pioneer a modern-vintage sound – actually maybe not pioneer, someone’s totally already done that,” he laughs.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Commerford laughed, but he’s definitely right. The attempted replications of that ‘60s and ‘70s soul sound are a dime a dozen. Often described as the golden era of music, it’s hard for a band to set their sights on creating music that is half as good as some of the bands that made that era so notable. Still, CJ Commerford & The Supertones have sidestepped that doomed path and offer something unique and fresh.

“We want people to feel nostalgic, and if we were trying to sell anything, it would be that.”

The band does exactly that, and both their album and live shows take you on a tour through the highlights of music in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s in their own creative way. Their first single release under their new name and new direction, No Holding Me Back, boasts full horns, funky guitar riffs and a distinct classic sound that ebbs and flows effortlessly between The Eagles and Tom Zé & Valdez. Commerford's voice acts as a beacon to draw you back to the 21st century.

Each song on the album offers something different that separates itself from the previous. It’s an artful and gruelling task to create an album that has such a distinct sound that doesn't double back and contradict itself. Commerford describes the creation of the album as a collaborative process but admits that often the songs do start with him.

“My process when writing music – if you compared it to creating a statue – is to come in one day, then chisel off one tiny bit and then come back do a bit more and then gradually, slowly chip away,” he explains.

“If covid hadn't happened, then I probably would have released the new album two years ago, but because of the pandemic, it gave me time to really look at it and question whether it was really complete.

“Every time you complete a process, you learn from it and the next time you do it better, so, over these four years, we’ve had like four different cycles where we were going to release the album but stopped ourselves and decided that it could be better. Which is not always better.”

When asked where he draws the line for a finished product, it was a bit harder to answer.

“I think the most important thing is knowing how to draw a line rather than where to draw it. You could arguably keep moving the line forever, but it takes a lot of courage to stop and say, ‘Ok, that’s the line’. And a lot of that comes from preparation, having a clear vision, and knowing what you want.”

You can catch CJ Commerford & The Supertones at their upcoming show on July 23 at Memo Music Hall, St Kilda. Tickets and more details here.