Sending the dogs racing

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Fran Broderick, center, with the band

Going down your own path is a Fran Broderick philosophy.

Transitioning into high school baseball as a left-handed player, coaches told him playing his preferred position of second base just wasn’t possible. However, he made enough of an impact in his attempt for people to start saying, “Aren’t you the left-handed second baseman?”

Tomorrow, Left-Handed 2nd Baseman, a band whose name pays homage to Broderick’s formative experience, will release its third album, “The Dogs Race to the Door.” The album arrives with a show at Abilene Bar and Lounge on the day of the release, and at Three Heads Brewing in November. The 10-track release is sonically diverse and reflects LH2B’s core band of local talent.

“It’s the best band I’ve been a part of,” Broderick says, praising co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Brendan Simms for convincing him of the project’s vitality.

Other locally known musicians (who have their own groups) on the album include Zak Mendoza on drums, Dan Carter on bass, Shane Kelsen on piano, Ben Rossi on rhythm guitar, Zak Lijewski on strings and Dan Merky on saxophone.

“(Following COVID), it was just awful at first. I was feeling like musicians were just being underappreciated and undervalued. I felt like I was just bleeding money on practice spaces. So overall, I felt uninspired and in this deep funk,” says Broderick. “But when I finally got out of it, which was when we made the song that cracked the album for me, it felt like magic.”

“I-90,” the lead-off track, was the song that did it for Broderick. A working-class anthem, along the lines of Bruce Springstein, the LH2B songwriter came up with the lyrics while driving on that titular road. He had a guitar riff stuck in his head at the time, meaning to him, it must be good.

“At some point I turned the radio off and started humming and thinking of lyrics,” Broderick says. “I was driving past those horrible-looking new rest stops they’re putting in. So there’s construction and the one in front of me was closed and that’s when it clicked.

“‘I’m driving down I-90/Carrying a load/My eyes are growing tired/And the next rest stop is closed,’” he says, reciting lyrics from the song.

The gruff vocals and simple but effective style of “I-90,” tinged with the slightest country strings, combines to create the perspective of an overworked trucker struggling to make it in modern America. Broderick sees the character as a man who has been “stretched thin” but still maintains some hope, imploring the road itself for help. (“I-90/Won’t you carry me home?”)

Similarly, “The Roof” is another song off the album with a clear philosophy behind it. The chorus is a mantra Broderick tries to live by.

“The lyrics I’m probably most proud of are: ‘Just cause you got a roof/Doesn’t mean it ain’t raining,’ which is the entire basis of that song,” Broderick says. “Fundamentally, it’s a message about having empathy. I don’t like it when I see people not having compassion for folks and blaming it on a personal failure.”

“My heart is always with the underdog,” he admits. “And a lot of people seem to relate to that.”

“The Roof” on “The Dogs Race to the Door” is actually a remastered version of a song off LH2B’s first album, “Eudaimonia.” While the lyrics and music were all satisfying, there was still something missing from the song, summarized in one word as: “More.”

“By the third verse, I wanted something like the Beatles or Phil Spector-type of wall of sound coming at you. Now at the end it’s like John Williams with this sweeping moment I was going for but was never able to do until now,” Broderick says. “I told everyone to have an attitude of, ‘You’re playing lead. Go as big as you can with it.’”

If those two songs represent a classic LH2B sound, “Branch Collar,” another standout track off the album, represents the desire for experimentation and going down your own path.

It was created for Dave Chisholm, a musician and comic book artist from Rochester, after he sent artwork from his new book, “Canopus,” and told his fellow musicians to “go wild” with whatever inspired them.

The book features an astronaut stuck on a foreign planet, inspiring Broderick to create something spacey and meditative. The music of “Branch Collar” features a heavy but driving drumline played behind a sweeping saxophone, electronic synths and reverbed vocals. Also adding to the unique tone is the use of record scratching and a looped dialogue sample from an old sci-fi movie.

“I was just scanning through movies in the public domain because I knew I wanted some kind of loop in it and I found some Martian movie where these two scientists are arguing to the president,” Broderick says. “I love that we got the chance to bridge and combine hip-hop and indie music together.”

Local musician and frequent collaborator Mike Napoli, aka DJ Naps, played turntables for the song and added his own flair to scratch and echo the lines to fit with the rhythm.

Overall, the album represents a new level for the group, Broderick believes.

“We’re excited about what it represents for where we are now because I love this music community,” says Broderick, a 15-year veteran of the Rochester music scene. “The big thing is everyone here is rooting for each other, people are cheering each other on, not tearing each other down; it’s not cutthroat. 

“From the musicians, to the audiences, to the venues–as someone who’s been to Austin and who has friends in the Brooklyn scene–we’re like in the top five best spots in the country,” he concludes.

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and data journalist. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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