A three-year journey for Grace Serene and the Super Clean 

click to enlarge Grace Serene and the Super Clean's core members include bassist Arjun Baxter, vocalist Grace Serene, and guitarist Zack Mikida. - PHOTO BY BRIDGET HAGEN
  • Grace Serene and the Super Clean's core members include bassist Arjun Baxter, vocalist Grace Serene, and guitarist Zack Mikida.

Last time CITY checked in with the soul-rock band Grace Serene and the Super Clean, the band was just beginning to find the sound that would be fully realized on its debut  “Grace Serene and the Super Clean: Volume One.” That album will be unveiled — and played through — at the quintet’s live release show at Essex on Saturday, February 17.

In June 2021, Grace Serene and company released its NPR Tiny Desk Contest submission video, a version of their energetic single “Slow Down,” played at the Secret Garden next to Bitter Honey on Railroad Street. The performance was full of life; so much so that it felt like it could have gone off the rails at a moment’s notice. The musical talent displayed by vocalist Grace Levendusky (AKA Grace Serene), guitarist Zack Mikida, and bassist Arjun Baxter was undeniable. Still, it was clearly a band in its nascent stage.

It represented a turning point, leading the energy of the songs that were to come and indicating magic the band wanted to pursue.

“‘Slow Down’ is really such a mile marker,” said Levendusky. “And then I think we just had a full pot of songs to pour out and we continued to write and didn't think too hard about any of them.”

The song “Adrenaline Rush” — with its evocation of Fleetwood Mac-on-“Dreams” vibes and a chord progression akin to “Careless Whispers” — was written soon after. At a certain point, the band had enough material to release an album of the same name. But they waited, opting to sit with the songs longer and see which resonated most with them as musicians.

Now, the eight tracks from “Volume One” document the group at a different point in its creative life entirely. After teaming up with sound engineer and producer Dave Drago at 1809 Studios in Macedon, Grace Serene and the Super Clean fashioned an ecstatic display spanning rock, gospel, soul, and funk with splashes of R&B, Americana, and even tango.

As self-described perfectionist, Levendusky is somewhat surprised by her fondness for the songs that are three years old.

“I've been writing music the whole time since, and all of us are working on new tunes now, too," she said. "But (it's) a credit to this project being what it is — I thought about it and was like, 'I still want to release it. I'm still proud of it. I think we still found something really special.”

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRIDGET HAGEN
While Mikida and Baxter still live in Rochester, Serene now calls Nashville home. Part of what makes the band work is the space the musicians allow for one another to live separate lives, in different places and individual moments.

“It's really cool that we didn't put a ceiling on it and say it has to be this with this type of involvement, with this type of vision for the band,” said Levendusky. “We are letting this project be whatever it is. We're not forcing it either way, and that's why we were able to be patient with the record.”

Mikida agreed, adding that the bandmates have achieved a comfortability on stage that comes from the strength of their friendship.

“It comes from just exposure to each other, in a lot of ways apart from music,” he said. “Just hanging out and breaking bread and having campfires and sipping beers, laughing.”

Grace Serene and the Super Clean is releasing “Volume One” digitally, with plans to make a preorder available for vinyl. And while the records aren’t yet in the hands of listeners, the title of the group’s first record inevitably leads to the big question about a would-be follow-up.

When asked about “Volume Two,” Levendusky didn't reveal any information.

“Everybody’s gonna have to wait,” she said. “Maybe we do, maybe we don’t.”

Grace Serene and the Super Clean performs its album release show on Saturday, February 17, at 7 p.m., along with supporting acts Aaron Rizzo Band and The Sideways. $30. essexroc.com.

Daniel J. Kushner is an arts writer at CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].
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