Does anyone remember the 1986 Jermaine Stewart R&B song “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off.” It went a little like this, at least, as far as a I can remember: ‘We don’t have to take our clothes off/to have a good time/oh no. We could dance and party all night/and drink some cherry wine/uh huh.’ At the time of its release, I was 12 years old, pushing a Variflex down the street and fairly oblivious to what the song even denoted. I mean, to a degree, I could imagine, but I didn’t care at the time and didn’t like R&B to begin with. I filed the song away in my pre-teen pop culture lexicon before it was displaced by Vision Street Wear everything a year later.
Twenty years later, after only hearing Mo Rocca discuss “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off” from time to time on VH1’s vast storage of pop culture programming, I’m again reminded of the 80s dance hit by a fledgling group from Santa Rosa, CA. The band, dubbed The New Trust, pulls the lyric verbatim from the Stewart original before adding their own twist. On track two of their new album, The New Trust lead vocalist/bassist Josh Staples falsettos Stewart’s anti-AIDS battle cry, stating “We don’t have to take our clothes off/to have a good time/but it sure helps.” And thankfully, I’m no longer oblivious to the meaning of the phrase. (In fact, I champion it. The altered New Trust version, that is..)
But this isn’t about me, or the fact that Jermaine Stewart’s cries for abstinence fell on a different generation of AIDS-weary teen-agers. It’s about The New Trust, and to simply cull one pop culture reference from the band and craft it into a 500 word synopsis would be a huge injustice to the band. For one, they’re really good. Two, they pose with machetes on their album art. And three, there are much greater forces at play here. In fact, there’s a 10-year plan with seven years left on the clock.
The New Trust began in 2003 by vocalist/bassist Josh Staples, of the more well known Santa Rosa act The Velvet Teen. Rounded out by Matthew Izen (guitar), Julia Lancer (drums/percussion) and Staples’ wife Sara Sanger (guitar,vocals), The New Trust was formed under a promise from Staples to himself and his band mates. This wasn’t going to be a fly-by-night, last one summer kinda band. This was it: the long haul, the New Trust.
Three years deep, The New Trust finally arrive with their first full-length album, ‘Dark is the Path Which Lies Before Us.’ The album is vexing, combining elements of DC’s past (Staples’ voice is eerily similar to Shudder to Think era Craig Wedren) over mathy, layered compositions, fueled by the urgency and energy of a time when music wasn’t created to be marketed or bastardized. If you’re looking for direct comparisons, I’d point a finger at New York’s Pilot To Gunner, but I’d turn the lights off to add a healthy dose of darkness, and I’d make a point to say that the lyrical content is much more cryptic and haunting. It’s a rhythmic venture of renegade spiritualism, entangled against nature, mortality and love.
Rounding out the self-produced album are portraits of the band and friends within a haunted mansion, and tongue-in-cheek song names like ‘You’ve Got To Be Fu*king Shitting Me.’ Oh yeah, there’s a late 80s R&B reference to abstinence thrown in for good measure, but we’ve already covered that. And if all of this seems moot, then at least pick up the record so you can see how much The New Trust’s Josh Staples looks like Foundation’s Gareth Stehr…
www.myspace.com/thenewtrust for more.