Debuts are always exciting, none more than the arrival Monday of pop rockers Crowded House and Lawrence Arabia at Wolf Trap's Filene Center.
If you go Lawrence Arabia from New Zealand, special guest for Crowded House debut concert Where: Wolf Trap Filene Center When: 8 p.m. Monday Info: $40 in-house, $25 lawn; 877-965-3872; wolftrap.org
Since reuniting in 2006, guitarist Neil Finn and his Crowded House band have continued to enjoy commercial success both on the road and with album sales. Finn and Lawrence Arabia, both New Zealand natives, share an affinity for the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and creative songwriting chops, perfect ingredients for an exciting evening. Lawrence Arabia is the pseudonym of James Milne, who was looking for a dashing presence, an identification that would take him out of his everyday self. His latest album, "Chant Darling" is proof that his musical persona overflows with imagination and melodies. One can almost feel the rhythm of Pacific Ocean waves in "The Beautiful Young Crew" and "The Crew of the Commodore," no small wonder given his love of the sea.
"I chose the album title because it's intriguing and I like to combine things that are a lot different," he said. "The New Zealand accent [when the title is spoken by a native] adds interest by suggesting sea chanteys and other things that have a nautical relationship. I also have a Buddhist friend, so that fits into the mix."
Milne laughed when reminded that a flat Brooklyn accent or one from South Philadelphia might not lend the title words the same kind of allure his own accent projects. No matter, the songs are awash with melody and the laid-back mellowness that characterized the Beatles.
The lush vocals are provided by the band members themselves, Milne on guitar together with a drummer, a bassist, a trumpeter and a keyboardist. He describes the Lawrence Arabia style as old-fashioned pop music. Despite a bow to the artists he grew up listening to, his melodies are fresh and luminous, the lyrics a lovely balance between everyday and otherworldly.
"I normally compose by getting away from the studio and I often compose melodies in my head while walking down the street," he said. "Sometimes I'll pick up a different guitar and what comes out is something unexpected, depending on the guitar you play. The variation is amazing.
"Growing up in New Zealand has influenced my music because its location makes you a little less worried about what is going on in the rest of the world. The real strength is that it's so isolated and relaxed you're not under pressure to conform. On the other hand the nautical distance makes you want to get out and around at times."
Milne was encouraged to pursue a career in music by his father, who once played in a band. Along the way, he made friends who acknowledged his talent and gave him the confidence to believe in himself. Now that he is near the start of a tour that will take Lawrence Arabia across this country and Canada, he looks forward to making new fans who gravitate to his style and eagerly follow his evolution into the next decade.
"We're playing to thousands of people on this tour, 99 percent who have never heard us," he said. "If they like us, we have nothing to lose."