High energy and infectious from the first verse, Griff’s Room Band’s debut album, Heartbreak / Desire, lands the unsigned, Richmond-based four-piece on a list of fledgling bands to watch. The members — David Adley, Liam Anastasia-Murphy, Michael Cammarata and Clayton Perry — met as students at William & Mary and got their start busking in Virginia’s tourism epicenter, Colonial Williamsburg. Griff’s Room Band took their act to Richmond and recorded their debut in none other than Dave Matthews’s private studio, ominously dubbed Haunted Hollow. The resulting sound is anything but haunted and draws inspiration from the studio’s prolific owner.
As the title suggests, the songs cycle between various stages of love, loss and remembrance — not always in that order. Heartache doesn’t have to be all gloom and minor chords, however, as GRB prove with a chipper fiddle coursing through nearly ever track. “Part of Me,” a song about the indelible mark a relationship can leave, is catchy and incongruously upbeat. “She Gone” begins solemnly as the narrator tries to accept the departure of a lover, but an electric guitar comes crashing in over the line “you’ll find somebody new.” The album is an ode to post break-up hope, but also a celebration of love regardless of its demise.
Heartbreak / Desire runs the gamut from surf rock to Americana to several vibrant shades in between. “Honey” and “She Gone” employ vocal harmonies reminiscent of a 1950s barbershop quartet, while the former shows off Cammarata’s range as he hits both high notes and raspy wails. “Reputation” is a song that would fit uncannily well on Dave Matthews Band’s Under the Table and Dreaming. “Stranger” wraps up the album with a bluesy vibe, fuzzed-out, lo-fi crooning and a satisfying crescendo of layered vocals and dueling strings.
People are already saying that Griff’s Room Band are a jam band for the modern day, but they seem more like a jam band transplanted here from America’s doo-wop era. Heartbreak / Desire answers the age-old question, “Is it better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all?” — and the answer is a resounding yes, if the byproduct is an album like this.