Solo records from guys in bands happen for all kinds of reasons. For Steve Soboslai, who has fronted pop-punk band Punchline for 15 years and six albums, it wasn't just about the usual creative differences.
"Within a two-week span," he says, "I lost my girl, my house, my job and had finally finished college.
"All of this happened," he adds, "around the time I was separated from Punchline on a trip to Japan."
What happened was, at the last minute, the normally fastidious singer could not find his passport, So the band got on a plane without him. He had to scramble for a quick passport and fly out of Chicago the next day. After a flight to Tokyo and a three-hour train to Nagoya, he walked into the club just in time for the set.
When he got back his girlfriend broke up with him and they lost the lease on his place. So he moved in with his brother and stayed up until 5 a.m. each day, playing guitar quietly in a living room recliner.
The overall feeling, he says, was that "I was alone, and making this record on my own felt like something that needed to be done."
That's the perfect setup for a brooding, pity-party album from Mr. Soboslai, but that's not the way this melodic pop craftsman operates. Working under the banner of Blue of Colors, he sets a buoyant (and conflicted) tone on "Small Little Pieces" with the driving, even happy rocker, "Watch Your Mouth," on which he sings, "I don't know how I didn't see that we were sinking/I hate you when you're drunk/and you hate me when you're drinking/we weren't never meant to be/but sometimes it's all right."
Blue of Colors allows the singer to write more personally, experiment more with melody and texture, and unleash the full range of his sweet vocals. Elegantly produced by Harrison Wargo (ex-The Morning Light), it veers into Death Cab for Cutie's sonic territory, and on the chamber-pop excursion "Coordinates" they even use Death Cab tourmates The Magik• Magik Orchestra.
Blue of Colors certainly has its share of blue moments, but even some of the downer songs, like "Goodbye Stranger," open up with catchy hooks and choruses.
"There's no filter with Blue of Colors," he says. "I made the album I wanted to make. It's taken longer having to make songwriting decisions by myself, but it couldn't be any more personal."
Mr. Soboslai will play the songs in a release show Friday at Altar Bar with members of Badboxes and is planning to put a band together to tour the record. Punchline, he says, is "on the back burner until new songs, new perspective materialize."
Sharing the party
The Altar Bar is a dual release show with Pittsburgh pop-punkers The Composure, who just issued "Singled Out: A '90s Covers Collection," an EP featuring songs from Semisonic, Fastball, Harvey Danger, Sublime, Blind Melon and the Goo Goo Dolls.
The band recorded them while in the studio with Jim Wirt (Jack's Mannequin, Incubus) working the follow-up to last spring's EP "Stay the Course." To coincide with the release, The Composure is going to hit the road for an East Coast/Midwest tour.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576.