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INTERVIEW: Capitol Years
Capitol Years Get New Life With Re-Release of Album (Feel Records)

By: Alex Steininger

Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Shai Halperin originally recorded under the moniker The Capitol Years, using the name to release music recorded at home on his 4-track. Releasing The Capitol Years' debut, Meet Yr Acres in the summer of 2001, Halperin was pleasantly surprised at the amount of attention he received from fans and critics alike.

At the urging of friends, Halperin decided to make his lo-fi songs sound bigger, adding a band to compliment them, and transforming into a garage-influenced, 60s pop band.

Shows with Mooney Suzuki, Clem Snide, and The Sadies soon followed, as momentum for the band grew. Soon the band went in to record the Jewelry Store EP, the proper studio introduction of the rock version of The Capitol Years.

Released on Halperin's own Full Frame Records, a label he runs with a friend, the Jewelry Store EP garnered the band more glowing press, including praise from Rolling Stone's senior editor David Fricke, who lauded the band in the pages of the massive Rolling Stone. The Jewelry Store EP was subsequently re-released on NY-based Feel Records on March 25, 2003.

"Full Frame is just me and a friend," comments Halperin on the re-release of The Jewelry Store EP. "Brady Brock [fellow musician and co-owner of Feel Records] came to us, because he was a fan, and really wanted to help us. He was very supportive and his hook up with a distributor was a big selling point. Before we just used independent distributors Revolver and Carrot Top, and we thought the re-release would give us another shot at getting the record out there, making it more available, especially in places like the chains and everything."

With garage rock all the fade these days, bands like The Capitol Years have seen even more praise and attention geared towards them, however Halperin is quick to denounce themselves as a garage back.

"We've always just had these rock 'n' roll songs, but we're also into the Beatles," Halperin says of the band's sound. "Instead of just doing one thing like garage rock or blues rock, we mix it up with pop, harmonies, and everything. We might have one blues-y song on the record, but I don't want twelve of them on the record.

"But, no, we don't consider ourselves a garage rock band. But garage rock bands these days are just rock bands anyway."

When discussing the differences between their debut and the Jewelry Store EP, Halperin is hesitant to say the latter is more fleshed out than its predecessor, preferring to explain the difference in terms of one having a backing band and the other being home, 4-track recordings.

"Jewelry Store isn't so much fleshed out, it's just more of a band recording than our debut. It's a totally different experience from the 4-track thing. Just a quick thing we did," he explains.

"I think we've grown and changed," he continues, "and it's been awhile since we made [Jewelry Store], but we're better now and less restricted than we were when we originally recorded it. We've also gotten a little crazier."

The band is currently preparing for their second U.S. tour, and first in support of Jewelry Store, and getting ready to cross the ocean to do a 2-week stint in Europe, sharing the majority of the dates with Mooney Suzuki.

"In May we're going to the U.K. to do some dates with Mooney Suzuki and a few ourselves. Then we're going to come back in June and do the entire U.S., finally touring in support of the EP," Halperin says with excitement.

Amongst the traveling and touring, the band is working on their sophomore full-length.

"The full-length will be a combination of the first record and Jewelry Store," shares Halperin. "There is old stuff and new stuff to choose from. We haven't put stuff down on paper yet, but there will be stuff we'll write later on this year that will probably make it on to the full-length, and we'll probably use current and old stuff. It will be a mix of all of it."

Near the end of the interview, I ask Halperin if there is anything we forgot to cover. Half-joking, Halperin tells me to remind the readers that "we're the greatest live show on earth." Laughing, he follows that up by telling me, "hopefully if you say that it will get people out to our shows."

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