It’s not unusual for an artist interview of mine to be interrupted, especially a hasty one-conducted pre-show at The Mint Los Angeles just an hour before the New York based quartet, Quarters Of Change, is set to go onstage amidst the pending release of their new album, Into The Rift. What's unusual, and quite frankly — unreal — is that the interview is interrupted by none other than Chad Smith, drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ava Maybee. He and Ava make their way to each band member (Ben Roter, the fearless frontman, Attila Anrather on the drums, and Jasper Harris and Ben Acker on strings) to shake hands.
Chad is in his backwards-turned baby blue Lakers hat and Jordan 1’s that he’s frequently photographed in, displaying evidence of my favorite music industry phenomenon of musicians and managers dressing agelessly and youthfully in comparison to the rest of the entertainment world. Ava Maybee is dressed boldly, wearing a floor-length red dress and a yellow beret, contrasting sharply with the Quarters casual plaids and white undershirts. After they say hello they pass on to conduct a sound check for Ava in the room over. As soon as they’re out of earshot the band members express the full extent of their excitement. “Did you get that?” Atilla asks a beaming videographer standing just behind the band.
The appearance of the Chili Pepper drummer was not a totally random co-sign, however. Ava Maybee, singer and American Idol Top 14 finalist, is opening for the quartet tonight, and she also happens to be Chad Smith’s daughter. As a group that got their start as a cover band modeling themselves after The Strokes, this pairing is about as serendipitous and on-the-nose for them as it can be. Joined with support from the likes of Joe Jonas, Fred Durst, and Lewis Capaldi, it’s fair to say that Quarters Of Change has mastered the New York Rock resurgence in a way that is resonating with even the best of the best.
After 8 minutes of questions, with the bandmates chittering among themselves and telling each other to speak up, the manager steps in to move the rockers towards showtime. At this point I can’t document who is saying what, it’s loud and the band is still excited about Chad Smith. No matter what I ask, the conversation turns cheeky. The good-natured bandmates, still college-aged, keep feeding me quirky lyrics from a quippy parody of a song they said they’ll never release. I decide to scrap the whole interaction and focus on what the band does best — live music.
I grab a beer and secure myself to a table just behind the crowd. The Mint is a quaint yet historical bar, with vinyl records plastering the ceiling, dark wood walls and string lights, and worn cheetah-printed carpeting on the floor. There’s a full bar at the back of the venue, and they advertise wings and events on a tv mounted on the wall. By the time my beer is empty, Ava Maybee takes the stage, supported by her many eclectic friends giggling and catching up with each other. Chad Smith is in full dad mode, taking iPhone videos as the unsuspecting girls behind him complain that he’s blocking their view (he might even blend into the crowd if he didn’t tower over everyone). Ava sings a few original songs before breaking out into a gorgeous rendition of “Roxanne” by The Police, the song that she says got her voted off of American Idol.
Another long pause ensues before Quarters Of Change finally take the stage. The scene that unfolds in the forty some minutes afterwards is absolutely worth the wait. The sold out tour is filled with die-hard fans, the venue hardly containing a mass of young people jumping and writhing to the music. I suspect a mosh pit would break out if there were any more space to do so.
The band delivers their classic songs with as just much enthusiasm as the crowd. The standout voice of charismatic frontman Ben Acker is truly something to behold. His familiar crooning sounds similar to the high notes and edge of a young Brandon Flowers with the electricity and softness of Adam Levine. Backed by his powerhouse of a band, his vocals are amplified and elevated into the chaotic noise that is hard rock. Ben throws himself into every lyric and it’s quite clear that the stage is too small for his bout of theatrics. There are a few times where he nearly butts heads or collides with his band mates as he throws himself around in still-juvenile but intentional movements. He’s in love with the microphone, he’s drunk on a rhythm, he’s sweating so much that the bottom layer of his thick curly hair is slicked to the sides of his head. There’s something irresistible and compelling about it all, and it’s clear that the band has a sense of humor about what they’re doing and is aware of their affect on the crowd. As they play through their new songs vigorously the crowd screams with adulation, they’ll know all the words to these songs in no time. After the final song, the audience demands an encore, to which a flustered stage manager must make a loud statement over rambunctious and buzzed audience that there will be no more music. What a night.
I suspect that the accolades that come next for a band as adored as this will launch them into the stratosphere with the likes of Turnstile and Mäneskin, charging forward with the new wave of alternative rock. Quarters Of Change has struck a fragile balance between Boomer and Gen Z audiences, creating a universal, timeless sound that quite literally caters to everyone. To listen to Quarters Of Change and be indifferent is the same as saying The Red Hot Chili Peppers are just okay — the court of public opinion will tell you that you’re wrong.
“T Love” has got to be the point of conception of buzz that Quarters Of Change song that will undeniably experience and is experiencing now. It’s got a heavy classic rock sound with the type of sonic ambiguity that could blend into an oldies playlist as easily as it could be played at Emo Night. “T Love” has a friendly and familiar guitar progressions that are simple and formulaic enough to be replayed by cover artists, and lyrics that are effortlessly catchy- the recipe of an instant classic. Ben Acker’s complete mastery of his vocals are convincing, alluring and committed to every note. Truly, the song never gets old, it can’t be understated how much magic is packed into the seams of this one.
“I’m sorry I lied when I told you that I wrote you that song, but you’re still beautiful beautiful beautiful”
“We’re playing it last, so you have to stay until the end if you want to see it” one of the guitarists chimed when I brought up their 5 minute guitar-laden masterpiece. I did stay until the end, and it was incredible. The guitar is the forefront of this track, and the vocals fall second to the beautiful chord progressions and drumming.
“Lot to carry much inside my bag / Except my heart, except my aid, page, mints, and paper / That was due last week, now it's overdue”
“Ms. Dramatic” feels like the ultimate nostalgic hit, seeming to harken back to something similar to The Killers 2004 album Sam’s Town, but freshened and remixed. I imagine the new generation will seamlessly assimilate this song into their playlists with the same open arms that they take in each of Kanye and J Cole’s sample-heavy rap remixes that bring old music back into the spotlight.
“Oh, Ms. Dramatic's walking with her mother / Oh no, that’s Mrs. Pre-Madonna / You know she's doing alright, you know she's doing alright / You know she’s doing alright”
Another favorite of mine, “Jaded” is an irresistibly catchy song where every single word, every crashing cymbal and every pluck of the guitar seems to fall perfectly into line. The anthem starts slowly, gently easing us toward a well-anticipated chorus full of beautiful chaos.
“Well, I should have guessed / That you’d be no different from the rest / Well, that’s on me / I should have know that I couldn’t change history”
“Chloe” is the catchiest song off the album, although I had to look at the lyrics to read it and sign along to it. The song starts with a hawk screech guitar and happily bounces along, belying the lyrics about a tortured lover.
“Call me don’t text me, no / Call me don’t text me, no / Chloe Chloe Chloe you were a lie”
There’a a sad drawl to “Healthy” that slows and paces the rumbling of the album. When they performed it live the rambunctious crowd slowed to a sway as Ben Acker languished and lamented behind the microphone, giving us all the drama.
Into The Rift is out now on all streaming platforms.