Ah, the earnest beginnings of a pop band — a cherished period of discovery, celebration and a few unanticipated elements that literally sail down the pipes as the music finds its artistic grounding.
Take Kopecky, the Nashville-based pop troupe that is building on a solid indie fan base with its sophomore album, Drug for the Modern Age, and a bounty of touring that includes a free downtown performance Friday night as part of WUKY-FM's Phoenix Fridays series.
The band's mounting popularity has already resulted in a 2013 performance on The Tonight Show and slots on numerous high-profile tours and festivals, but some of the most prized memories from the formative years of a still-young band come from Nashville gigs that were underground in every sense of the term.
"It seemed like half our time back then was spent playing the loudest music in a basement for our 30 best friends," says singer, keyboardist and band co-founder Kelsey Kopecky. "I remember one time, there was a septic issue where were in the middle of a set and there was a flood of, like, the grossest things. We were grabbing our guitars and running out of there.
"But those kinds of memories, of making music at all costs for people, are so important. What we do has never been for the business of it, but for the love of the actual music, the collaborations with your friends. There is really nothing like it. We are so thankful that this is where we got our footing, to come from a place where of, 'Hey, we're all hanging out.'"
Kopecky formed the band that bears her name (originally titled the Kopecky Family Band) with singer and vocalist Gabe Simon in 2007. The two remain distinct fronting voices for the group in terms of approach, inspiration and personality.
"It's funny," Kopecky says. "People will go, 'Sometimes I will listen to your album and know exactly which songs are Kelsey songs and which songs are Gabe songs, even though both of us switch off singing lead. That explains how much Gabe and I are polar opposites in a lot of ways. I'm generally more heart. Gabe is heart, too, but he's also moving forward at 100 miles a minute. He's very high-energy. So when we come together, we provide this really unique strength and emotion. It's kind of a tug-of-war.
"I can be exhausting as a creative person. Any time you're working in creative endeavors with another human that's different than you, there's always going to be this push and pull emotionally. But after working with Gabe for so many years, we have really found a good stride of encouraging and respecting each other's ideas and skills."
Drug for the Modern Age is dominated by all-purpose love songs, ranging in temperament from blissful acceptance to dire heartbreak, but its music is set with vital, colorful pop soundscapes.
"This album was the result of us being on the road for a few years, playing shows every night and just learning how to be a band — not only onstage but offstage," Kopecky says. "It's about how we support each other through hard times in our personal lives and just growing up together.
"There is a little more stability and a little more sense of self than on the last album (2012's Kids Raising Kids). We were just kids fresh out of college then, trying to learn how to tour and how to write lyrics, but we were coming from the same place. I just think we really wanted every song we put on the new album to mean something to us, that it would be something we were proud to play every night and tell stories about."