When POP ETC, formerly “the morning benders”, announced a name change, they paired it with a complete overhaul of their sound, alluding to a philosophy of organic development as both people and musicians. Fans of the morning benders were inevitably polarized, many welcoming the band’s new sound and image with arms outstretched. While others clamored in disbelief, accusing the band of “selling out” and becoming just another carbon copy of existing bands marked by an electro-pop sound, the use of synths, and rhythms best attributed to the ’80s. But despite the backlash they encountered, POP ETC did nothing to compromise their new image; there were no apologies, no catering to nay-sayers, nothing that showed any sign of wanting to take two steps back to make everyone happy. For a lot of people, the love affair they’d had with the morning benders was over. But the beauty about not being able to please every single person is that no matter where you end up or who you become, someone’s going to share your happiness anyway, and those people become your champions, the ones who don’t yank you backward through the threshold but who nudge you forward in the direction of where you want to go next. True love is a lot like that, from start to infinity.
Falling in love with a band is just like entering into the formation stages of a romantic relationship. The novelty grips you, you fill your waking hours with revolution upon revolution of your favorite record, waiting for the needle to drop, signaling another chapter of your love affair. In almost no time at all, you’re joined at the hip – just you and this record and every song whose melody lulls you to sleep or invokes a sentimentality you’re too smitten to shake. Every lyric is a reassurance, every crescendo becomes carnal, and every fadeout another promise. Whether or not you recognize it, this record, this snapshot of where this band is at this point in time, has already marked you, and you ease into the comfort of believing in something long lasting, if not eternal. And in a lot of ways, what you have with this music is permanent, because what is true love anyway if not timeless and steady?
This summer I woke up one morning and listened to POP ETC’s Yours Truly Session in which they presented a very stripped rendition of “Keep It For Your Own”, only to affirm the notion that less can really be more if you know which parts are worth keeping and which are better left out. In prefacing this performance and expounding on the band’s transition from the grittiness of the morning benders to the electronic vibrancy of POP ETC, front man Chris Chu declares with a soft-spoken earnestness that being able to make this kind of music is the only way he can be honest. He looks to the success of 2010’s Big Echo, in particular to the immortality of the song “Excuses”, and embraces everything it’s brought him and the band. But he’s quick to remind us that though such a remarkably lush track enabled listeners to identify so strongly with the morning benders’ music, it was never the be-all and end-all of their career or of their self-fulfillment. It comes down to change – the need for change and the need to recognize that even if you’ve found a really good thing and it works for you, there’s no reason to stop growing or to throw in the towel and say, “Alright, let’s call it a day.”
So when things start veering off in another direction, it’s not necessarily a cause for alarm. This band made this record for you as much as they made it for themselves. They offered up a piece of themselves so someone like you could learn to love what they’ve created, but when you fall in love (and maybe this is it), whatever it was you fell in love with in the first place is no guarantee of what’s to come in the future. With music, as with love, you have to accept that everyone has their time to change, and ultimately, to grow. We’re all just trying to do the best we can with what we have in a valiant effort to become more ourselves, to be as honest as we can possibly be to the kind of person we are, the kind of person we want to be. If we can give ourselves that, the kind of happiness we’re looking for won’t have to come in the form of validation from someone else, be it a stranger or someone more; it comes from within, and when shared, it comes back twofold.
It’s useless and tiresome to try to cling too tightly to something, denying its propensity to change, because you gain more from loving openly and unconditionally than from being restrictive. The transformation POP ETC have undergone has shown me how to love someone better, be it a band or a relative or even a soul mate, and how to stop being so resistant to the kind of change the person we love needs. If anything, that person will have you to thank, will think of you in the brightest light, and will keep you even closer. It’s worth the risk, the push out the door and in the right direction, because for every person who walks out after you refuse to apologize for what makes you happy, there’s someone trailing close behind who applauds what you do and who loves you all the better for wanting to be someone better.