The Grand Candy will be celebrating the release of its debut album NSFW with a show Feb. 27 at the Iota Club and Café. It’s a first-time milestone for a musical project that’s been three years in the making, but in some ways The Grand Candy has been in the works for more than a decade.
The blues-rock group is the brainchild of singer/songwriter Dan “Pluto” Cohn. He’s currently a Falls Church resident and guitar teacher locally – “I teach rock music to defense contractors and lawyers,” he says – but in 2000 he was a touring musician. There he had a front-row seat to watch a rising shift in the music industry. He can remember, as he was touring to promote his solo album Par Avion, people showing him the peer-to-peer file sharing program Napster – technology that would prove a watershed moment in the way music was distributed.
“I started to question what the music business was going to be, as everyone was doing at the time I think” Cohn says.
It was a time of personal change, as well. A member of his band Grits, Mark Eaton, passed away. He moved from Boston, where his band had established itself, to the Washington, D.C. area.
The changes caused a shift in his musical life. He wasn’t going to tour. He focused on teaching locally, but he hadn’t discounted the idea of being a recording musician once more.
“I was still writing music, but I was sort of sitting on the sidelines of making music or performing a lot because I wasn’t quite sure,” Cohn says. “I started to wonder when I was on tour when I was younger, where is this going to go if people are giving away their music now?”
He’s still not completely sure, but he seized an opportunity to make music again. The chance presented itself when Cohn met up with drummer Jon Babu in the D.C. area in 2008. Babu was an old schoolmate from Boston’s New England Conservatory.They began playing together in 2010. Bassist Jacob Chmara signed on in 2011, just as The Grand Candy was heading into the studio to record its debut album.
“Bands are about camaraderie, musically and socially. Much in the same way a conversation can inspire new lines of thinking, playing in a band inspires new avenues for creativity,” Cohn says. “I found some musicians with whom I shared that camaraderie, and the conversations, musical and extra-musical, have been outstanding.”
The group recorded the basic tracks in Arlington’s Inner Ear Studios with NSFW’s producer Don Zientara. The tracks were later overdubbed in Cohn’s home studio – a move to Falls Church and setting up the studio slowed production – and then finished at Inner Ear.
The album takes its name from “not safe for work,” a popular internet acronym that warns of risqué content. The album is a collection of dark songs, Cohn says. It just worked out that way; that common mood tied those songs together from the several pieces Cohn had prepared. It’s an album full of dubious characters and macabre tales. Not quite befitting its release in month that offers us Valentine’s Day, the album ends with the track “Pride in Hand” delivered by a narrator who compulsively steals trinkets and sends them to his love interest.
But brighter tunes are on the horizon, Cohn says. A follow-up to NSFW is half finished, and he hopes to release a single this summer, a song about empathy – “in some ways you can consider it a reaction to the current record,” he says. And the local singer-songwriter is anticipating what further opportunities a new album in a changed music industry might afford.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what the landscape offers nowadays,” Cohn says.
• For more information about The Grand Candy, visit thegrandcandy.com.