Savannah band Triathalon is making waves.
That makes sense for a band that spends a lot of time in the surf rock world. Their sound is what some would call lo-fi, which might suggest a wilful carelessness to recording. That’s not what Triathalon brings. Instead, they dial back the buttons and knobs in search of what feels like a warm wave of sound.
Triathalon recently stopped in Macon to wrap their sound around a track from deep inside the Little Richard catalog for the Georgia Public Broadcasting video series Songs on Site.
The track in question is “Without Love.” By the time Little Richard took a stab at the tune penned by Danny Small, it was already about 10 years old. Clyde McPhatter first recorded it in 1957. Elvis Presley and Ray Charles followed sometime after, and the song was most successful for Welsh crooner Tom Jones. The song is a slow, soulful lament with a soaring chorus that begs for a set of Jonesian pipes. It’s a showcase for a singular voice.
Little Richard recorded his version in 1965, after his hiatus from secular music that followed his legendary 1950s recordings. The single, with the B-side “Dance What You Wanna,” did not chart. It is an easy song to miss when you are taking the tour of Little Richard’s work.
Still, when Triathalon was asked to pick a Little Richard tune for Songs on Site, they landed squarely on “Without Love.”
One listen to the group’s newly released full length album (“Lo-Tide,” available on Bandcamp) helps it make sense. When the band isn’t moving along at a steady garage rock pace, they let guitars ooze and sway. Think slow dancing with an effects pedal. Plus, they have an undeniable R&B romantic streak.
Unlike the versions of “Without Love” that preceded it, the Triathalon version de-emphasizes the human voice. In fact, the band asked to push the vocals even lower than originally mixed after hearing the first rough version. The emphasis on overall blend makes their version more mood than statement, a velvet vibe rather than a soulful cry.
Triathalon is about to leave for a mostly Southeastern tour. You can catch them tonight at the Mammal Gallery in Atlanta. You can watch and hear Triathalon perform “Without Love” on the GPB Music Songs on Site Tumblr page.
-- Grant Blankenship, Georgia Public Broadcasting