About The Best Around
Understated art-rock innovators, The Best Around, are that rarest of things in modern music… true originals. Pulling inspiration from diverse influences ranging from country rock, through Devo, to the likes of Oingo Boingo and beyond, they are a collaboration of artists that politely refuse to be pigeonholed. Their song-first approach allows them to produce eclectic fair compared to both “futuristic Honky Tonk” and “Bowie’s Hunky Dory era” (Inbox Records), as well as being dubbed “the sonic answer to a panic attack” (Yack). Camron Rushin, Todd Pruner, and Jon Merz form this tribute to what music can be when the constraints of convention are stripped away to leave room for unbridled creativity.
Named after the Joe Esposito song made famous by The Karate Kid’s soundtrack (which was the subject of a long running joke between Rushin and his father), The Best Around’s off-beat originality extends beyond their sound. The music video for their song “Bitter Pill” is the first (and likely only) music video ever to be filmed entirely on a Nest™ Doorbell Camera, earning it showings at both the Austin Short Film Showcase, Munich Music Video Awards, and Interrobang Film Festival, with more festival appearances to come.
“The Best Around isn’t something anyone planned. It just kind of happened,” explains founder Camron Rushin, “I hadn’t made art in ten years, but then the pandemic hit, and music just called me back.” Rushin had not worked on a recording since the dissolution of his indie punk band Safeword, but his co-worker Todd changed everything. “Todd is a multi-instrumentalist who's been in a few bands, like English Teeth and Kodachrome” recounts Rushin, “I started sending him some stuff I’d been working on acoustically, and he just fleshed it out. It was so much better than anything I had planned as just me.” However, the band wasn’t a band yet. They needed their third.
Pruner had been in a group called The Foundries with Jon Merz, another multi-instrumentalist whose band credits include My Jerusalem, Montopolis, and Soul Track Mind. Rushin recalls, “Todd brought him in, we started passing tracks around and… it all felt really natural.” Operating as a unit from three separate quarantined locations, The Best Around began recording.
As mature musicians bringing a wealth of experience to the table, they were able to develop a sound that danced across genres. “The way I see it, the lyrics are the meal, the music is the plate,” details Rushin, “I record something, pass it to Todd and say ‘this is the vibe’. He records his part, passes to Jon, says ‘this is the vibe’, and then we go around like that until we have it.”
Simultaneously vintage and new, enigmatic yet plainspoken, The Best Around are a harmonious contradiction. Their songs alternately flirt with meta-humor and silliness, before giving way to therapized tragedy or horror. “No one sounds like us, but we can sound like everyone,” jokes Rushin, “But really we just make music I want to listen to. The audience is me.”
Whilst The Best Around is playful by nature, Camron confesses that there is a serious underpinning to its legacy. Rushin’s grandfather recorded an album with Jim Beck (Lefty Frizzel’s producer) in the 50s. Unbeknownst to his grandfather, Beck died suddenly after recording and the tracks were unceremoniously shelved. “It was about 40 years later that my grandfather learned about Beck’s death. Until that point, he assumed he’d been swindled.” Rushin’s grandfather never attempted to record music again. Rushin now wears his grandfather’s suit and plays his guitar in memory of the career the man might have had. “I feel like I’m trying to make good on a lot of old promises, and I’m so glad that Todd and Jon are helping me do that.”