The Sharp Things is a New York City-based chamber pop collective led by singer/songwriter Perry Serpa. Current members include Steve Gonzalez, Jim Santo, Aisha Cohen, Michelle Caputo, James Pertusi, Andrea Dovalle and Adrienne Day.
The band originated in the late 1990s as a recording project of Serpa and drummer Gonzalez. The band’s name was taken from the title of an unreleased demo tape, Here Come The Sharp Things, which in turn was taken from a lyric to a never-recorded song, the title of which is now forgotten. Guitarist Santo (formerly of Jenifer Convertible), joined in 1997 and the trio adopted The Sharp Things as its name for performances at small clubs on the Lower East Side of New York City.
The Sharp Things steadily added members over the next few years and began to broaden its musical palette with strings, horns, woodwinds, keyboards and other instruments. The group’s first album, Here Comes The Sharp Things (an entirely different set of songs from the similarly entitled demo tape) was released in the United States in 2002 on Dive Records.
Comprising songs recorded by two different ensembles in 2000 and 2001, and largely produced by Serpa and Santo in the former’s basement studio in Queens, New York, Here Comes The Sharp Things won critical acclaim for its lush, melancholy blend of British folk, classical music, jazz and 1970s radio pop influences. Favorable comparisons were drawn to a diverse list of artists, including Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson, Nick Cave, Talk Talk, The Left Banke and Randy Newman. A cassette-only release appeared in 2003 on the Italian label Best Kept Secret, followed by a release in the United Kingdom on Setanta Records in the spring of 2004. In August of that year, the song “Demon Of Love” was released by Nettwerk on Public Display of Affection: The Sound of Independent Radio, a compilation of songs chosen by program directors from four of the most influential public radio stations in the United States. (The Sharp Things were picked by Rita Houston of Fordham University station WFUV.)
The follow-up, Foxes & Hounds was released in 2005 on Bar/None Records. In contrast to the lo-fi, homemade approach of the debut, the second album was entirely recorded and mixed in professional recording studios in New York City. Foxes & Hounds also marked the emergence of The Sharp Things as a relatively stable line-up, and coincided with a stepped-up schedule of performances. R&B, blues, disco and rock influences manifested themselves in the songs on the album.
The Sharp Things began recording their third album in October, 2006. Entitled A Moveable Feast, the album featured performances by The New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble, a 40-piece orchestra, conducted by Sybille Werner, recorded at the Julia Richman Education Complex in Manhattan. Other guests included Tony Award-winning actor and musician Michael Cerveris; Franz Nicolay, then-keyboardist for The Hold Steady; and tenor saxophonist Stuart D. Bogie of Antibalas.
Returning to the homemade approach of Here Comes The Sharp Things, A Moveable Feast was recorded in various kitchens, living rooms and basements around New York City by producer Billy “Prince Polo” Szeflinski. The album was mixed in March 2007, by Alex Lipsen at Headgear Recording in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. At the urging of Bar/None owner Glenn Morrow, an additional song, “Cruel Thing,” was recorded the following month at Truth & Soul, also in Williamsburg. Clay Wells Holley was recording engineer, and mixed the song with Szeflinski.
A Moveable Feast was released June 26, 2007 on Bar/None Records, again to rapturous reviews from the likes of SPIN, which declared, “hope is on the horizon thanks to pop visionaries the Sharp Things,” and Jud Cost of Magnet, who wrote: “Don’t let all the trumpets, oboes and cellos make you nervous. Underneath the big-league arrangements are a set of muscular tunes that would still sound good played by a standard rock combo.”
On September 28, 2009, The Sharp Things began recording what was to become a four-album series titled Dogs Of Bushwick. Again produced by Szeflinski, the recordings are the band’s first at The Kennel Recording Studio in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a facility co-owned by Santo and current Sharp Things bassist James Pertusi, with whom Santo previously performed in Jenifer Convertible. Between July 23, 2010 and September 15, 2010, the band sponsored a Kickstarter fundraising drive that received more than $3,600 in pledges to fund the album’s recording.
The first album in the Dogs Of Bushwick series, Green Is Good, will be released on February 26, 2013, on Dive Records. Further releases in the series are scheduled through 2013 and in early 2014.
A free digital single, “It’s Alright,” originally recorded by Black Sabbath and written and sung by drummer Bill Ward, will be released in November 2012 to promote the new album.