Swirling organs and ghostly piano melodies cast long shadows over the sparse intro, giving Sammer Rafner’s sweet, honeyed voice a mournful- at times tortured- tone. The tight, airy rhythm section shifts the song into gear without altering the tenebrous mood, like an action sequence from a 1950s crime film. Closing my eyes, I picture a grimy street, lit only by flickering neon signs, empty- except for a small crowd gathering outside a run-down venue.
The Portuguese band Drain, featuring Sammer Ramos (vocals, guitar), Ricardo Correia (guitar), Miguel Gonçalves (drums), and newcomer, Guilherme Dias (bass) draws from jazz, hip-hop, and trash metal to create a versatile and darkly atmospheric sound. Yet the visceral quality of “A Love Song” is indebted as much to Ernesto Rodrigues’s stream-of-consciousness lyricism, as the band’s instrumental nuance.
“You hypnotize the world away / Your red lipstick hypnotizes me,” Rafner sings, desperate words of a man struggling to articulate his affection before it’s too late. Even the seemingly vacuous title reveals the protagonist’s struggle to pin down exactly what quality of his subject he is so enamored by.
“The song is not a self-portrait, as I like to write fictions and fantasies,” said Rodrigues, “but I tried to capture the distorted image you have of someone when you first fall in love, and how hard that passion is to pin down.”
“At the same time, we understand it’s just another love song,” added Rafner.
Being in love with the idea of someone is at this point so cliche, it is hard to believe a song could capture the feeling effectively. Drain does so effortlessly, thanks to a soul-stirring vocal performance, counter-balanced by lyrical self-parody. Take the Byronic lines “does the rain that falls on your eyes soil your cheek” or “give me your hand / reach for the kiss we never had.” Banal? Yes. If I wrote those words down while in love would they feel like the purest expressions of affection? Of course, and Rafner’s singing style preserves the sincerity of his sentiments.
“A Love Song,” and its twin single “Wine” tease a sensational EP, aptly titled “That’s Why I Stay Home” (a name somehow chosen before quarantine began). Drain has been working on this release since 2015, when the high school friends began recording and performing together. Quarantine- with all its disadvantages- has given the band the time to perfect it.
“One good thing about all this time at home is we could listen more carefully to the songs on the new EP,” said Rafner. “The best is yet to come.”
The EP will release on November 6, 2020. Until then, enjoy the gorgeous and brilliantly subversive track “A Love Song,” available on all major streaming platforms.