The Hippo


May 28, 2020









When: Friday, July 14, 9 p.m.
Where: Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester

Idle hands make top pop
Donaher celebrated debut CD at Shaskeen

By Michael Witthaus

 I Swear My Love Is True is a juicy serving of power pop pleasure; the debut CD from Donaher will please fans of Jimmy Eat World, Fountains of Wayne and similarly buoyant pre-millennial music. There’s a guest appearance from ex-Get Up Kids singer Matt Pryor; that and lyrics about romance at the mall (“it can be the two of us/I’ll buy you an Orange Julius”) make it clear where the Manchester quartet’s sweet spot lay, decade-wise.

Their bio page confesses to an over-affinity for My So-Called Life reruns, but there’s more to Donaher than Blockbuster nights spent with girls named Heather, Mandy and Courtney. Band front man Nick Lavallee said recently that the 10-song collection is a cycle, representing his difficult personal journey of the past two years. 
“I wanted to write a record that on the surface was very much a pop rock album, but if you paid a bit more attention to it, maybe the listener would discover a narrative,” he said. “Some of my favorite records are albums that are done that way. Pinkerton by Weezer is one.”
Lavallee played with punk band 5 Bucks before switching to comedy in the early 2010s. He’s been successful, touring the country doing his standup act and helping build a formidable alt comedy scene locally at the Shaskeen Pub in Manchester. 
When Lavallee got sober, an unexpected void formed, one he filled with music. 
“I just found myself with idle hands; if Friday or Saturday came and I didn’t have a gig, I had to do something. Lego sets only went so far,” he said with a laugh. “I’m a creative person, so I started playing music and writing songs. … I was able to get that part of me back through sobriety.”
He reached out to longtime friend Tristan Omand. 
“When my old band broke up, I sold him my Marshall. He was 15 or 16,” Lavallee said. “He’s like my other little brother.” 
A rhythm section of drummer Lee Sevigny and bass player Adam Wood completes the band. 
The record begins with sobriety, then romantic anxiety; on “Heather,” the singer frets about graying hair while falling for a “too young” girl. Love, idealized and passionate, forms the disc’s midsection. The infectious “Mandy Desmarais (Call Me Soon)” and “Wrong Side of Webster Street” are both standouts. 
“Think Big Star’s Thirteen,” Lavallee said of the two songs. 
A video of “Mandy” stars fellow comedian Jenny Zigrino. No Donaher members appear. 
“Who wants to see me? And people see enough of Tristan,” Lavallee said. “Jenny is smart and awesome. Who would not want to look at her walking out to the perfect summer jam?”
Side 2 — a vinyl version arrives this fall — traces the arc of a love; in, out and downward through. 
In Lavallee’s words,  it’s “the five stages of grieving … falling in love and knowing there was a finite time to that relationship, but I wouldn’t have met that person had I not gotten sober. … I don’t believe in a higher power outside of love, and that’s what this album represents.”
Lavallee met Pryor through a Twitter connection, and the two became friends at one of his solo shows. 
“He seemed to like my story about how I used to be in this pop punk band and then turned to comedy,” he said. 
Pryor invited him to guest on his podcast — “As a fanboy, that would have been enough.” After a sold-out Get Up Boys show in Chicago some time later, Lavallee asked Pryor to sing a second lead on “No Other Dude.” 
“I had written that part kind of with Matt in mind … I just threw it on him, asked if he’d do it and he said yeah,” Lavallee said. “I didn’t want to tell the rest of the band until I had it, didn’t want to get their hopes up. Matt turned it around in just a few days, and it sounds so great.”
I Swear My Love Is True is both cathartic and hopeful, but it bounces like a pop record should. Lavallee and his bandmates are proud of that fact. 
“It’s about finding your way through a lot of hard places,” he said. “But if you didn’t know the back story, it just sounds like a good record to turn up on the radio.”

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