Suburban HiFi brings an infectious, timeless nostalgia to late ‘70s-tinged rock, pop and disco.
The Whitmore Lake power-pop singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist eloquently fuses vintage Britpop instrumentation with earworm melodies and introspective lyrics on his latest propulsive album, Superimposition, via Futureman Records.
“At first, when I was thinking about doing it, I thought it would be autobiographical, and I’d do these songs that were about some point in my history. Songs like ‘Vinyl on the Radio’ were things like that, and then I realized it would only mean something to me,” said Greg Addington, aka Suburban HiFi.
“It’s kind of boring from that perspective to say I’m going to do these 11 autobiographical songs. It turned into something different, but there are hints of that on here. It started as a nostalgia trip down amnesia lane.”
At first listen, Suburban HiFi’s Superimposition seamlessly shifts to a memorable mood-lifter that instantly elevates the mind, body and soul. Each irresistible track grooves, sways and lingers alongside relatable tales that explore life choices, changes and aspirations.
“I didn’t want it be … ‘Oh, let’s make this sound like a song from 1978.’ It was more like, ‘Let’s put it in a modern setting.’ If ‘The Space Between Us’ hints at the disco-rock thing that was done around that time, then that’s fine, but let’s try to modernize it,” said Addington, who’s also vocalist-guitarist with The Hangabouts.
“And the song, ‘Here Comes the Blood,’ could have been a Hangabouts song, but the way I chose to do it was to dance it up a little bit. ‘In Her Reverie’ is pretty much all guitar-based pop with a riff that drove the song.”
Anxious acoustic guitar, radiant electric guitar, determined bass and steady drums sound the internal alarm as Addington sings, “Her raincoat moves like a cape as she runs/Late for the bus, a heroine in a storm/The world makes through to her ears/But the words keep calling her back/From dreams she would like to form.”
“We all get to that point in our lives where we’re trying to reassess everything. It’s like, ‘What was our dream? Do I even know what my dream was anymore?’ It’s different when you get to a certain age than when it was when you were a kid,” he said.
“You get to a point where it’s like, ‘I thought that was what I wanted to do with my life, and maybe now I’m not so sure.’ I think that’s The Great Resignation.”
Outside of everyday working life, Suburban HiFi ventures to the outermost edges of the Superimposition galaxy on the disco-rock banger, “The Space Between Us.” Pulsating cymbals, steady drums, fervent keys, soulful bass and peppy electric guitar cosmically connect two fated lovers in another electrifying universe.
Addington sings, “I know we talk when we should be dancing/Behind a sonic boom/Gravitational pull of your eyes/Everything’s consumed/But inside our little universe/Atoms are ready to burst.”
“John Lowry and I both write songs that are sometimes for The Hangabouts and other times a song will come to us. And that’s what happened with ‘The Space Between Us’ … we started writing the song, and at a certain point thought, ‘Well, there’s no way we can do this song. It’s like a dance song. We’ll have to get somebody else to record it,” he said.
“I always liked it and thought there was a way to make it be a rock song with touches of disco in it, à la The Rolling Stones’ ‘Miss You.’ I don’t have a chance of pulling off The Rolling Stones, but that’s what happens when you try to make a song sound like something else … you end up with something else entirely.”
After recharging on “‘The Space Between Us,” Suburban HiFi encounters another welcoming round of rejuvenation on the zippy, go-getter anthem, “Here Comes the Blood.” Weary electric guitar, tranquil acoustic guitar, optimistic drums, ecstatic cymbals, bustling bass and hopeful keys inject long-awaited renewal after bouts of prolonged complacency.
Addington sings, “Racing into my arms/While you’re resisting my charms/Needles and pins, dear/Rolling over in the wrong sack/Here comes the blood, dear/Now the feeling’s coming back.”
“The blood’s flowing again, and that’s literally what it’s about. When you’re sleeping, and you’re lying on your arm and it goes to sleep, and then you wake up in the night shaking your arm, and it’s like, ‘Oh, here comes the blood.’ Whatever feeling that you’ve lost, you’re getting it back,” said Addington, who co-wrote the track with Lowry and Chip Saam of The Hangabouts.
“It’s a straightforward song, but I like how it came in with this more upbeat, dancy thing. We had played it a couple of times live with The Hangabouts, and it was more of a loud rock thing, which was fine. To me, I always wanted it to be a little bit more upbeat and clean-sounding.”
For Superimposition, Addington created a clean, layered sound sprinkled with dashes of British Invasion, disco, new wave and power pop at Earth Studio B, aka his home studio.
He added vocals, guitars, keys, bass and drum programming across 10 of the album’s 11 tracks while longtime friend and collaborator Tom Curless played drums on “The Year in Pictures.” Meanwhile, wife Sara Addington co-wrote the Suburban HiFi orbital ode to interstellar love, “Beamed In.”
“When I started working on the record, I didn’t know it was gonna be Suburban HiFi or something I was doing on my own. I came into my little Pro Tools studio down here, turned everything on and started recording. The first song I recorded was ‘Potemkin Honey,’ and I had gotten this vintage synth,” Addington said.
“I was playing around with it and coming up with sounds on it. ‘Potemkin Honey’ just came out of that, and it had already been written. But when I had written it, it initially sounded like a Freedy Johnston song. It doesn’t sound anything like that now. ”
The Origin of Suburban HiFi
Addington started honing his multi-genre sound while growing up in Belleville. At age 10, he received a toy acoustic guitar and jammed with his older sister on her air organ.
“It came with a music book, and we would try to pick out songs from it,” said Addington, who’s inspired by Elvis Costello, Prince, Joe Jackson and The Beatles.
“By the time I got my first real instrument, a Les Paul copy guitar, I was about 14. I went to the music store with my mom and picked it out. That’s when I was really interested in guitar and tried to learn how to play.”
After learning three or four chords, Addington joined a cover band in high school with his cousins. They played high school talent shows and earned an annual slot at Belleville’s famous Strawberry Festival.
“We did a lot of garage jamming and sounded awful to hopefully become good one day,” said Addington with a laugh.
By the mid-1990s, Addington relocated to Nashville, Tennessee and attempted to write country songs with Saam for other artists. He also decided to record his first album after previously focusing on live shows with bands.
“I bought a drum kit even though I didn’t know how to play drums,” Addington said. “I set everything up in the basement of the house in Nashville, and I started recording all the parts myself to the songs that I would write. Eventually, it became Suburban HiFi, which is me playing all the parts.”
Addington decided to share his evolving Suburban HiFi sound with Lowry, who invited him back to Michigan for a weekend recording session. They created a temporary studio in Lowry’s basement and recorded the tracks that would become The Odd Mess EP in 2006.
“I moved back to Michigan in 2006, and John and I set the recording studio back up and started recording other people,” Addington said. “Then, we eventually became The Hangabouts with Chip (Saam), who also came back from Nashville.”
In 2007, The Hangabouts released their magical power-pop debut album, Illustrated Bird, and reissued it on CD and orange vinyl with additional tracks seven years later. Their second album, Kits & Cats and Saxon Wives, dropped in 2017 and includes leftover, catchy gems from the Illustrated Bird days.
“We’re already working on a new Hangabouts record,” Addington said. “On the next record, you’ll hear Tom Curless as the drummer on it. Tom is fantastic, and he fits right into the band.”
He also plans to reissue Suburban HiFi’s The Odd Mess as an expanded edition with remixes, outtakes, demos and bonus tracks. The release will commemorate the project’s 16th anniversary.
“I look forward to getting that one out, too. It will be expanded beyond the EP length to a full-length record. The Odd Mess was gonna be a full LP, but it got cut back to an EP at the last minute,” Addington said.
“The songs that got left off are done and sitting there. I listened to them again and thought, ‘You know what? I like them; they’re pretty good,’” Addington said.