If you go
What: Never Shout Never, in concert.
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 24.
Where: The Wonder Ballroom, 128 N.E. Russell St., Portland.
Cost: $23.95-$25.95 through Ticketfly, 877-435-9849 or http://ticketfly....>
Information: 503-284-8686 or wonder ballroom.
Fans of Never Shout Never and its frontman, Christofer Drew, should not come to new shows expecting to hear the band’s classic, sensitive acoustic-centered pop.
“We’ve been playing … really just raw kind of rock-and-roll versions of all of the acoustic songs and some of the new ones, too,” Drew said in a mid-September phone interview. “They’ve actually gone over pretty well.”
If Drew makes good on his intentions, fans might want to be prepared for more musical surprises to come.
A couple of years ago, Drew seemed content with the acoustic foundation of his sound. He told “Alternative Press” magazine that he expected acoustic guitar, piano and ukulele to remain the foundation of his music.
But when he went into the making of his new EP, “Time Travel,” he had a new set of musicians making up what has become a full-fledged band called Never Shout Never and a new philosophy to share with his new bandmates, whom he’s actually known since he was 13 and living in Joplin, Mo.
“I had a talk with them (about how) there are no limits on where we’re going to go,” Drew said. “Let’s take full advantage of every type of music.”
Fans of the 20-year-old Drew may be startled by just how big a step he’s taken with his new band. That gently-strummed acoustic guitar? It’s in the songs, but it’s overtaken by electric power chords — and the occasional prominent synthesizer or organ line — that on songs like “Complex Heart,” “Lost At Sea” and “Silver Ecstasy” reach arena-filling size. That light falsetto vocal of Drew? It’s been replaced for the most part by a more assertive and lower register tone. Those sugar-sweet pop hooks? They’re still there, but they’ve been supersized into spacious anthems that are often powered by big drums and layers of instrumentation.
“It’s kind of psychedelic, which I thought was pretty neat,” Drew said of the sound of “Time Travel.” “It took us a while to define the sound for this record. We recorded about five or six kinds of folk-rock songs before we kind of found the sound we wanted to go with on this record. It would have been nice to do the folk-rock thing, but I just think as a band right now, we’re going through a transitional period, and we feel like we needed a record that would do the exact same thing for us, show people that we’re a band of many faces.”
The move in a different musical direction is a gamble for Drew and Never Shout Never. The acoustic pop sound had served him well in his brief career.
Drew self-released a debut EP, “The Yipee EP,” in 2008 and began building an audience through MySpace.
Another pair of EPs, “The Summer EP” and “Me & My Uke,” followed, as Drew became one of the most popular acts on MySpace, amassing more than 77 million total plays.
That online popularity earned Drew a record deal with Warner Bros. to make his next EP “What Is Love?” with acclaimed producer Butch Walker. He followed that with another EP, “Harmony,” which was produced by Butch Vig, famous for producing Nirvana’s “Nevermind.”
Drew now says he was uncomfortable with his quick rise to prominence.
“It was just a weird time,” he said. “I just had no idea where things were going. I had no idea where, I just had no idea who I was yet. I think that was the biggest issue.”
Now he feels more secure about his fame.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last year and really just leveled my head out,” Drew said. “For a while, it wasn’t that it was going to my head — it was getting to my head, like in a sense that I was losing it. Not in a sense of like ‘I’m a cocky rock star,’ just a sense of ... ‘I’m losing my mind.’ But I kind of grew out of that phase. Now I just feel relaxed and fully at peace with what’s going on, which is really nice.”
With “Time Travel” hitting stores, Drew and his new band are set to tour to help spread the word about the new EP.
“Our set is going to be split up into three acts,” Drew said. “The first one is going to be the ‘Time Travel’ record from front to back. That’s going to be about 45 minutes. Then I’m going to do a 25-minute acoustic set, just like harmonica and maybe have some guys come out and sing harmonies. And then we’re going to do like a 45-minute set of completely old songs. We’re looking at an hour and a half to an hour and 45-minute set, which is probably about an hour longer than any set we’ve ever felt like doing.”