The Key Studio Sessions: Those People - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

The best pop is, of course, subversive pop. So while you can easily appreciate Philly modern rock five-piece Those People for their hooks, sharp playing and tight arrangements; their music that balances early aughties riff rawk with a showtunes-y sense of catchiness; you can hear some pretty remarkable stuff going on below the surface as well.

When the band recorded its Key Studio Session last week, it opened with “Who’s Watching You” – a song built around bright guitars and bop-bob harmonies that’s actually a frank reflection on power and an indictment of those who abuse it. Take these lyrics, belted with passion and conviction by frontman Assad Khafre: “Light me up for disobeying you / all that power must make you feel good / tie my arms behind my back and knock me on my face / blue blood on the streets, they keep me in my place.”

On a day like today, with outrage pouring in from around the country following the shooting death of Alton Sterling by police in Baton Rouge, those words become ever more resonant, the biting emotion behind them palpable. Khafre paraphrases the famous DC Comics quote, “who watches the Watchmen,” and that’s a question that’s once again on the mind of many.

Later in the set, he sings of “One world, two Americas” in the song “Black Swan” – a roaring meditation on the divide between the privliged few, the struggles of the many and the chasm of no compassion that divides them.

While Khafre is lyrically fired up, and his bandmates – Seth Carter on guitar and piano, Daniel DiFranco on guitar, Jason Gooch on drums, Ryan McMurray on bass and vocals, Rebecca Miller on keyboard and vocals – match him in energy and passion, Those People’s output doesn’t start and end with the sociopolitical screeds of a poppy Rage Against The Machine. (Though, truthfully, those are awesome.)

The band says that its latest EP, Human Robot, was born of late night bouts of restlessness and the thoughts fired off in those times. Some are rooted in anger; some are rooted in uncertainty about the modern world. (“Half Full,” which you can watch the band perform in our studio below.)

Human Robot was recorded at MilkBoy Studios last fall and released via iTunes last month; you can get your copy on, which you should also keep tabs on for updates on their next move. They’ve taken the summer off from shows to write and demo, meaning we can expect to see some more catchy pop with heavy substance come fall.

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