New Sounds: Fine China are back on the high rise of life with ‘Anybody Else’


Sometimes, location matters. If we were writing this New Sounds post for a national audience, we’d be quick to herald the return of Phoenix’s Fine China, the Tooth & Nail indie band who were active in the late-’90s and early-’00s. And really, “Anybody Else,” with its modern rock acumen and Marr-esque guitars, is a spectacular return, setting the mood and pace for the trio’s upcoming album Not Thrilled.

If we were writing this post with Boston audiences in mind, we’d be very fast to tell you that Fine China was guitarist/vocalist Rob Withem’s band before teaming up with Joy Electric’s Ronnie Martin in The Foxglove Hunt. That duo provided one of the most-requested and most-danced-to songs in Boston indie dance party history with “The Life Highrise”, the throwback synth-pop banger that consistently filled The Pill’s dance floor at Great Scott for nearly a decade.

So the rest of this post is a CYOA, as long as the journey you take leads you back to Fine China’s latest effort. The group reformed last year after more than a decade away, recording a new album at Withem’s, and the sound is both familiar and refreshed, particularly on the breezy “Anybody Else.”


“I started this song fairly early in the process of writing the album and I feel like it is a good representation of my vision for the record,” Withem says. “I wanted a sound that harkened back to singles from the mid to late-’80’s that I heard on the radio as a kid — stuff like Don Henley, and Dire Straits. But also root it in an elegant guitar pop sound, like XTC or Crowded House.”

He adds that the new single “started out as just two chords over and over laid over a tight, repetitive drum beat. I wrote and arranged the song over a couple months, slowly adding parts and layers, and writing the lyrics the night before recording vocals. All the guitars were recorded on my old Roland JC-120 amp, with true stereo chorus, and I think I used six different guitars on the track. The track is also the first (and probably last) time we used hand-drum percussion on a track.”

Fine China release Not Thrilled on February 23 via Velvet Blue Music, the indie California label that issued their first few releases in the ’90s.