Based in Brooklyn and Toledo, the dapper Antivillains make a lovely sound—a mellow, sweeping take on pop and old-time jazz. If there’s any justice, the songs from their album, So Much for Romance, will find radio airplay. -Time Out New York
Heavy on the harmonies and more than mild on the jazz, the Antivillains is a trio led by the brother-sister team Sarah and Ben Cohen. The group crafts its bittersweet sounds in Brooklyn, New York and Toledo, Ohio. On the group’s recently released album So Much For Romance, the siblings paint bucolic Midwestern soundscapes, and mourn lost romances on tracks like “This Only Sound”. With jazz percussionist Sam Woldenberg on board, The Antivillains may be the only ones in the Rust Belt to play music that hovers between haunting pop-rock and moody jazz. The candlelit basement setting for Saturday night’s show at The Sycamore should set the scene nicely for the duo’s melancholy melodies. - WNYC SoundCheck
It’s anyone’s guess as to what a band from the post-industrial Midwest is supposed to sound like these days, but chances are whatever you were expecting from a new trio from Toledo, OH, it’s not what the AntiVillains serve up on their debut album, So Much for Romance. Sarah Cohen, Benjamin Cohen, and Sam Woldenberg have created a set of lovely, ethereal music built around simple harmonies, bittersweet guitar melodies, and artfully executed arrangements that conjure up a world of broken hearts and glorious sadness, echoing through the bedrooms of lonesome bohemians late on a mid-winter’s night. So Much for Romance is strikingly accomplished stuff for an independent debut, suggesting some missing link between the Sundays and This Mortal Coil (only with more engaging melodies), and the production and arrangements are remarkably intelligent and effective, bringing a powerful shape and color to the simple lines of these nine tunes, and the vocal harmonies (especially Sarah’s frequent leads) bring a very human warmth to the music that contrasts nicely with the blue moods of the music. The AntiVillains may sound sad on So Much for Romance, but they’re not thoroughly mopey; there’s a jangly pop texture to “Don’t Get Excited” which gives the disc a welcome kick, and the jazzy, bossa nova feel of the title track makes for a witty contrast with the lyrics bemoaning a failed relationship. TheAntiVillains are not exactly reinventing the wheel with So Much for Romance, but they’ve absorbed their influences and shown both the talent and the desire to make something new and interesting from them, and the finished product is an album that’s clever and surprisingly powerful, confirming once again a lot more of importance is happening in Ohio than you might imagine. - AllMusic.com
The Antivillains Deliver Their Own Brand Of “Midwest Nostalgia”
BY KAYLA WILLIAMS Ala Toledo City Paper Oct. 2015
Sam Woldenberg, Sarah Cohen, Ben Cohen, and Petr Kharchenko have given Toledo a folksy flavor for over a decade.
On a warm Sunday afternoon at The Farm (formerly Bozarts) on South St. Clair Street, I sit on the grass listening to the haunting sound of a guitar, reverberating beneath lyrics that tell a tale of the tightening constraints of life in a small town.
The band is The Antivillains, and they are Sarah Cohen (lyrics, vocals, acoustic guitar), Ben Cohen (vocals, bass guitar, composition, electric guitar, rhodes), Sam Woldenberg (composition, kit, percussion), and Petr Kharchenko (electric guitar, bass guitar).
“We call our genre ‘Midwest Nostalgia,’ which is Americana, but obviously it is not Southern. It is our region. We try to create a mood with our music,” Ben Cohen said.
“It’s storytelling through imagery,” Woldenberg added.
Story of origin
The Antivillains formed 10 years ago to open for 1970’s folk superstar, Melanie (Safka), at The Happy Badger (a family restaurant, retail, and community space started by Ben and Sarah Cohen’s parents, who both had a deep love of music). The lineup has changed since then, and now includes guitarist Petr Kharchenko.
“So Much for Romance [the band’s first album] came out of an assignment in a Jazz Fundamentals class at The University of Toledo,” Ben Cohen said.
“That [songwriting approach] was kind of like a computer program, enter in emotion, love, unrequited,” Sarah Cohen joked.
“But the Melanie show was the real genesis [of the band],” Woldenberg said.
The Antivillains pull from a number of influences for their songwriting and their sound.
“For our first record, Galaxie 500 and Yo La Tengo. For our new one, Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen,” Ben Cohen said.
“I’ve listened to The Band over and over, my whole life,” Sarah Cohen added.
A different path
Recently, The Antivillains have been touring, and while they are currently working on new material to record, they are still playing a lot of their beloved older material.
“I have a real appreciation for our first record [So Much For Romance] now. We’re performing the older material on tour, and it makes sense,” Sarah Cohen said.
“One thing we’ve done is embrace whatever sound we’re passionate about at the time. The songwriting has gone from being more personalized to representing more cinematic themes found in traditional American songwriting,” Ben Cohen said.
Sarah Cohen added, “Our last album was more introspective. But now there are more universal things to talk about. Reading a book, watching a documentary… something coming out of that instead of it being about somebody not calling me back. There is one song, “150 Ways,” that is still personal, but other people can relate to it without having to know who I am or any of the stuff I’m going through.”
“It feels less neurotic than the first album, which was a collage of songs about delusion and disappointment,” Woldenberg said.
The band is looking forward to releasing new material and cultivating an even wider audience.
“With the last record we got so sidetracked by the logistics of recording that we didn’t distribute it as much as we could have,” Ben Cohen said. “It’ll be cool to get the new one out to a wider audience.”
“We’re taking pride in being a better live band and touring more,” Woldenberg said.
The Antivillains are currently at work on their new EP with 3 Elliot Studios in Athens, Ohio. It is due out this fall. They will be playing the Ohio Theatre Folk Festival, along with Jeff Stewart, The Ragbirds, and the Birds of Chicago on November 14th from 8-11pm.
Ohio Theatre and Event Center at 3114 Lagrange St.
Tickets are $15/advance, $18/door
Check out The Antivillains’ first album, So Much For Romance, here: theantivillains.bandcamp.com
The Official Website for The Antivillains: theantivillains.com
For booking inquiries: email@example.com
The Antivillains’ “So Much For Romance”
Out Of 10
So Much For Romance
January 1, 2010
When I first listened to Brooklyn and Toledo-based The Antivillains’ “So Much For Romance,” I closed my eyes and took everything in all at once and only detected beauty. I heard Sarah Cohen’s clear voice that I can only compare to water in order to provide it justice, harmonies with her brother Ben that bantered (in “Don’t Get Excited”) and twisted around one another (in “I Can’t Fall Asleep), and an array of instruments including chimes and sounds I’ve never heard along the more standard drums and guitar that supported the vocals while calling an adequate amount of attention to themselves.
After my first listen I ended up instantly loving the album, but I will admit that I went about it in the wrong way. I think that in order to fully appreciate So Much For Romance, you must take the album apart – lyrics, voices, beats, rhythms, everything – so you can understand each variable on a separate level and then layer them back together. By listening to each facet individually, I was able to gain a better analysis of the album: Ignoring Sarah and Ben Cohen’s immaculate harmonies showed me the pain behind the lyrics; Ostracizing their voices and focusing on the instrumentals revealed Sam Woldenberg’s skill as a percussionist and taught me that heartbreak can be beautiful, sensual, and even passionate; And then putting all of it back together again made me appreciate The Antivillains a million times more.
I do think The Antivillains are very aware of their individual talents, however. Sarah Cohen’s voice resonates most lucidly in “Weightless,” So Much For Romance’s opening track, and “To Be The One.” When her brother Ben joins in tracks such as “
Don’t Get Excited,” and “The Only Sound,” the result is a harmony that is hauntingly beautiful; however, in “Emily,” he proves that he can hold his own with a melody. And Woldenberg’s chime skills in particular leave me feeling “Weightless.”
Listening to So Much For Romance so many times in both ways helps me understand exactly how much mastery The Antivillains put into the album. The Antivillains’ sound is beautiful, memorable, and above all, now that I’ve heavily examined it, ingenious – and So Much For Romance is no different
“Remember that time the Cardigan’s broke into the Velvet underground’s heroin stash and fell asleep winding up a music box and tinkering on a toy piano? The Antivillains do. In an age where girl-boy pop duos are the hippest of the hip, The Antivillains have a leg up on ‘em all with the eerily similar, hauntingly gorgeous melodies of the brother-sister duo of Ben and Sarah Cohen. The two — along with drummer Sam Woldenberg — craft almost surreal, spacey, touching tunes that sparkle with charming pop hooks while drawing on a whole history of classic American music. Both vocalists have studied under Toledo’s resident vocal jazz legend Jon Hendricks, and the careful precision of fine art jazz radiates throughout
The Antivillains songs, providing a simultaneous feeling of fragile, yet well stacked musical composition.” - ryan bunch music writer