Summer Babes: Shiny Happy People

At least one Seattle ensemble doesn't consider "pop" a four-letter word.

Despite the legacy of Pacific Northwest acts like the Posies and Young Fresh Fellows, and more recent pop-leaning success stories like The Head and the Heart, Seattle remains a city full of people who enjoy pop music but love to pretend they don't. Summer Babes, on the other hand, is a band unapologetic about its tendencies.

"It seems like pop is a dirty word in Seattle's music scene," said guitar-and-vocals frontman Jeff Albertson over tall Pabsts in the living room of his picturesque, picket-fenced Fremont home, which doubles as the band's recording studio. "No one wants to admit they're in a pop band. It gets to be like 'We're too cool to do that, we don't want to write simple three-chord songs.' But there's something to be said for celebrating something so simple and pure as pop."

Though the local five-piece is excited, even proud, to adopt the label "pop," this is no gloss-and-glitter affair. Instead, what makes Summer Babes attractive is its knack for crafting simultaneously garage-gritty and helplessly catchy tunes. Last year's 10-track debut EP Babe Summer is full of pleasantly fuzzy cuts graced with a tinge of surf rock, concluding with a rendition of "Sunshine/Pretty Girls" by hometown spiritual brothers Unnatural Helpers.

With all-white attire and an occasional propensity to unleash hundreds of balloons on its audience, Summer Babes are undeniably dedicated to being entertainers. And while each band member has a history with less-than-upbeat projects, they relish the chance to, as keyboardist Jessica Parsons puts it, "be able to dance around and smile and see people in the crowd doing the same thing."

"From a musicality standpoint, people think it's easy to be in a pop band and just play four chords," said guitarist Matt Stegner, "but the reality is it's difficult to do that. I have a lot of fun playing this happy music—it's been one of the most fun musical things I've done in a long time."

In a city notorious for cloudy skies, making songs fundamentally rooted in beachfront sunshine and backyard barbecues might seem challenging. But for Summer Babes, nothing could be further from the truth. "Sure, it's gray and ugly in Seattle for most of the year, but that little sliver of amazing summer we get—there's nothing else like it," said Albertson. "You've got to milk it for all it's worth."

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