It's a late Wednesday night at Akron's Lime Spider. Sonic Youth is squealing over the radio and $1.50 PBR drafts are pouring off the bar to regulars. Joey Beltram, singer-songwriter for local indie rocker Goodmorning Valentine, sits at a table for four, rolling a cigarette and eyeing his two bandmates -- bassist Elizabeth Allen and keyboardist Jacob Trombetta. Beltram's discussing the group's latest album, 2005's Steady Your Hands, and its 12 finely mastered pop tunes. "To me, I did a $100,000 record on a $5,000 budget," he says, licking the ends of his fresh smoke. "I knew I wanted to do a big sound. There's 30 tracks on every song. [Lead guitarist Matt Haas] plays three or four different guitar parts on every song. We fucked with the tone. We messed with everything. We're somewhat perfectionists -- we're not like Brian Wilson, but once the record started rolling, I started seeing more and more the vision of it."
The band definitely has an insight into indie-pop aesthetics -- it's all over Steady Your Hands. It's a syrupy mix of '60s-era folk rock ("Tiger and the Leper"), Belle & Sebastian-style bubblegum pop ("Last Year"), and edgy alt-country ("Invitation") that showcases Beltram's songwriting skills and his impressive airy vocals. The album took more than a year to record and was supposed to be even bigger.
"It was originally supposed to be a double disc," says Allen, the band's bespectacled bassist, who also plays cello, violin, flute, and piano on the record. "But the first album took 14 months."
Four months into recording, Beltram accidentally erased their work. "I fucked myself," he grins. No matter. The album is a lush piece of production -- a significant evolution from the band's sparse and moody first disc, Easter Park, released in October 2003. In fact, the record almost landed a deal with Seattle's Suicide Squeeze Records.
"They said go ahead and announce it. It's for sure. They gave us like $400 to remaster the album," says Allen. But the deal fell through at the last minute. "They're still going to help us do other things," says Beltram.
Since last year's release of Steady Your Hands, the band's sound has wafted around the Beachland, Northside, the Grog Shop, and the Lime Spider. Founded in 2003 by Beltram, Goodmorning Valentine is a five-piece today (with core members Haas and Allen), but over its short life the group has seen 15 different members. "But what we have now is going to be around for a long while," Beltram says. "Everybody is into it."
And when everyone's into it, the members can capture the splendor of their studio work in a live performance -- as when they opened up for electronic rocker Metric in late April. It's the kind of energy the ambitious group hopes to channel into two new albums in progress now.
"The next record we'll put out will be an extension, but bigger and better than Steady Your Hands," Beltram says. "There will be a lot of strings -- a lot of horns. And the fourth record is the total opposite. It's just a folk record. No drums, really -- a lot of alternative tunings. It's just pretty and quiet."