Sharks and Minnows get chummy

Egos are often more corrosive than opiates, and a band laying low for a while can leave you questioning their status. For local power-poppers Sharks and Minnows, however, the two years since the group's first release have allowed the now-quartet to go pop in a more classical manner.

"For a while, I tried to make songs harder because we started getting lumped in with punk and emo bands," says singer/guitarist Christopher Simony. "But I got to where I stopped giving a fuck. Prior to this album, I was listening to Aphex Twin, Brian Eno, Can, Shuggie Otis — records where I really dug the levels of instrumentation. I wanted to make a loud guitar pop record with ambient space and creative use of percussion."

Simony holed up in Downtown Athens Recording (run by post-punk outfit Heros Severum's Eric Friar) along with bassist Chad Spangler, drummer Dan Heisel and his multi-instrumentalist younger brother, Chris. Friar and the band produced upward of 40 tracks (written as far back as four years), narrowed to 16 for The Cost of Living, a nigh-conceptual album about relationship cycles set to a bittersweet bop.

"Some of the great pop writers are [The Magnetic Fields'] Stephin Merritt, [Pet Shop Boys'] Neil Tennant and Neil Hannon from the Divine Comedy," says Simony. "I like sweet, catchy melodies with dour messages. In a good way, that's very insidious."

This pop has lost none of its tightly bottled fizz.

Sharks and Minnows plays the Earl Sat., Feb. 21. $8.