Los Angeles – After seeing their performance last Friday at The Bootleg Hifi, audience members unfamiliar with alternative-pop act Ex Cops would have no way of knowing that the band just released one of the most polished records of 2014. While Ex-Cops’ most recent release, Daggers (on Downtown Records), saw the band venturing into more layered and pop-based territory, the band offered up a stripped-down live sound that brought a harder edge to their very-catchy tunes. The moody, intimate vibe of the Bootleg Hifi’s front room was the perfect place for Ex Cops to showcase this simple three-piece line-up.
While the band had previously toured as a fleshed-out five-piece as they supported their debut record, True Hallucinations, this iteration of the band used only live guitar, drums and vocals. It was surprising to see Ex Cops performing only as a three-piece, especially knowing the heavy production values featured on Daggers and expecting that to translate to their live set. However, the rock ‘n’ roll edge that was brought to the infectious songs off Daggers made for an excellent live set.
Ex Cops’ figureheads, Amalie Bruun and Brian Harding, traded off lead vocals sometimes even in the middle of the song. It is clear that the band moved towards giving Bruun an increased vocal role on Daggers, and tracks from that album made up the vast majority of their set. She kept the audience captivated with her impressive vocal range on cuts like set-opener “Black Soap” and the album’s clear standout, “White Noise,” while she gyrated along with the beat.
Though on-stage there may have only been three members of Ex Cops, Brian Harding essentially played the role of two additional band members. While he was singing and churning out fast-paced riffs on his guitar, Harding also managed to queue up bass and keyboard lines with the use of his impressive row of pedals. These additional elements provided texture to some of the more slowed-down numbers in Ex Cops’ repertoire, especially tracks such as “Rooms” and the Lana del Rey-like “Burnt Out Love.”
However, there were two songs in which the band stuck with a strictly guitar-drums-vocals dynamic. The first was “Tragically Alright,” a Daggers track that features Ariel Pink on guest vocals. Unfortunately the Los Angeles indie-rock hero was not on-hand to perform his portion of the song, but Ex Cops’ vocal duo did a fine job of making the song memorable in his absence. The other cut that did not feature any backing arrangements also happened to be the lone song pulled from True Hallucinations. “Separator” featured Harding serving up melancholy vocals and a captivating guitar line while Bruun chimed in on some verses and backing vocals on the refrain.