The Quad-Cities’ Lennon and McCartney, Kerry Tucker and Bill Douglas of Einstein’s Sister, have more than expert pop songcraft in common with the Beatles on their latest EP, “Exit Strategies” — the record was mastered at Abbey Road Studios.
Miles Showell, who has mastered records by The Beatles, The Who, Queen, and others, is one of the sonic luminaries on the new album; the other being Nick Davis, who mixed it, and has worked with XTC, Genesis, Bjork and others.
“It was unbelievably surreal,” Tucker said of being at Abbey Road. “We were in the middle of working on something and I looked out the window and saw the Beatles’ street crossing (which was on the cover of the album named after the studio), and was looking around the room and thinking of all the amazing recordings that have been done there, and it was just incredible. If you told 10-year-old Kerry that I’d be standing in that building working on something someday, there’s no way I would’ve believed you.”
It may seem incongruous to some, this commingling with such notables for a local band, but it’s difficult to pigeonhole Einstein’s Sister as just a local band. The group – songwriters Kerry Tucker (guitar and vocals) and Bill Douglas (vocals), drummer Marty Reyhons, and bassist Andrew Brock – has had a national and international presence since emerging in the early ‘90s with a string of nationally critically-acclaimed indie discs, including “Learning Curves,” and “Humble Creatures.” The group has repeatedly played at national festivals, including International Pop Overthrow, has opened for a ton of national acts, and has had its music provide the backing soundtrack to a plethora of MTV and cable shows, including “Road Rules,” “Real World,” and, most recently, Hulu’s “Pam and Tommy” last year.
Douglas and Tucker have been compared by critics to Lennon and McCartney, Squeeze, Crowded House, and other legendary power pop talents, and the fact that they’ve been accepted into Abbey Road to finish the album speaks to the high regard in which they’re held in the music industry, especially among power pop fans. But at heart they remain a couple of guys who met in high school and bonded over liking the same records.
“Bill and I never wanted to perform, we were just looking to write songs together,” Tucker said. “I got in this band called The Vouchers, and Terry (Tilka) had just bought RIBCO and was looking for a band to play there, and we got the gig, and packed the place. That began our relationship with Terry. Bill and I started working together because we just wanted to make money to pay to record demos, so we started playing acoustic, and Terry would hire us as an opening band because it was just two guys and so it was a really simple setup. You could have the other band’s gear up and ready to go and it was just Bill and I there with a guitar and a couple of chairs and a couple of microphones.
“We ended up opening for Leon Russell, NRBQ, Jude Cole, Freedy Johnston, and a bunch of other big names, because we just became the guys who Terry would turn to,” Tucker said. “It was really cool, but we didn’t really think anything of it, we used the money to pay for recording and that’s how we paid for the first CD (in 1996). We just wanted to write, then we got the music publishing deal, and it just kind of went from there. Our music publisher saw us at a gig at RIBCO and thought ‘If there was ever a band that would work for television, it’s us, because our music is melodic and it’s not too hard rock or anything.’”
Before long, the band’s music was providing the backing soundtrack to a myriad of popular shows.
“I think we have a record on MTV for seven songs in a row as the background music for one show, ‘Undressed,’ HGTV was using us non-stop, ‘Punk’d’ was using a lot of stuff, Discovery, Oprah’s network, lot of stuff like that,” Tucker said. “You’d hear us on TV all the time. It was really surreal.”
A few years after that success, the band went on hiatus, as the members all had kids and jobs and life intervened. They would meet up periodically, and collaborate on other projects from time-to-time, but it wasn’t until late 2019 that the group would reunite in the studio to record a double-A-side single, “Begin Again” and “Standing Still.” The group had planned on playing more gigs to support the record, but covid intervened. Still, once the pandemic faded, Douglas and Tucker began playing out again with a variety of bands, and talk of an Einstein’s reunion popped up.
“Basically what it boiled down to is that we had so much fun doing the single, and we were really happy with the way it turned out,” Tucker said. “I just felt a need to start writing again, it’s just part of my DNA. I’ve been playing a lot of gigs, and Bill has been playing a lot, and we needed to start getting back to writing again. And we just missed playing with the band. We’re all still friends and we missed having an excuse to get together, and this seemed like as good an excuse as anything else.
“Also, we had made some incredibly great connections (with Nick Davis and Miles Showell), and we had the opportunity to work with them, and work in Abbey Road, and it was just something that we had to do,” Tucker said. “I figured this would be a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. It all worked out great. It was just an incredible experience. Everything they contributed was just beyond anything I could have hoped for. It’s still hard for me to separate myself from it, because I’ve heard it so many times as a musician. But I’m incredibly pleased with it. I think everyone brought their A game on it, and the mix and the mastering is just fantastic, it sounds great.”
Despite the brushes with fame, the group, and particularly Douglas and Tucker, remain inconspicuous and humble creatures, still wide-eyed about the stars with whom they’ve mingled, and always ready to lend a hand to fellow local musicians, hitting the stage around the region. However, it’s rare the entire band plays together, making it a special occasion when they hit the stage.
Einstein’s will hit one particular stage, at Common Chord, Saturday night. Doors open at 6, show starts at 7 p.m., Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 the day of the show.
“This isn’t our final gig, we played that 20 years ago,” Tucker said with a laugh, adding the band might reunite for gigs here and there. They’ve also talked about playing a charitable event for a local food bank around Christmas if it happens, so you’ll still be able to see them live, albeit sporadically, from time-to-time.
“I hate it when bands say this is our last tour, so we didn’t say this is the end and we’re never doing this again, we know better than that, but we’re kinda thinking this (record and reunion for shows) could be the last one, so without saying goodbye we’re just saying this might be it for a really long time,” Tucker said. “We’ve all been busy doing stuff, and obviously we took a long time off before the last single, so who knows? We’re just saying if we take this detour off and we jump off here we’re ok with it, and we hope you are too.”
Could this be Einstein’s Sister’s actual “Exit Strategies?” We’ll see.
In the meantime, the record of the same name is available to hear for free on YouTube, and you can pick it up locally at CoOp and Ragged Records, and online at Bandcamp.com.