By: Jeffrey Terich
In 2007, North Carolina duo The Rosebuds threw listeners for a loop by sidestepping their trademark reverb-laden, surf-inspired rock and adopting a disco oriented dance-pop sound. While most of the band's core elements were still there - moody guitar work, dark lyrical themes and atmospheric arrangements - Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp had added bass-heavy dance beats and synthesizers to their equation that exposed a side of their music that had never before been explicitly explored.
In spite of these sonic explorations and the band's tendency to play with unusual approaches, on their new album, Life Like (released October 7, 2008 on Merge Records), Crisp and Howard have returned to the gorgeous, organic, melancholy rock that made earlier albums like Birds Make Good Neighbors such unique offerings. Yet neither album came as a result of seeking out a particular theme. Rather, the duo recorded the songs first and then pieced them together with a common thread afterwards.
"We never have the concept until we see how songs work together," Crisp says. "We have a lot of songs that don't make it on to the record. If a song doesn't fit, it can't be on the record. All of the pieces of the art project have to fit together. The music, the lyrics, the art, they all have to fit."
Both Life Like and Night of the Furies came together in a similar manner, according to Crisp. Both albums came as a result of cherry-picking highlights from a vast pool of demo recordings, and many of the songs on both albums came from the very same demo sessions.
"We always have tons of songs," admits Crisp. "We basically just take from our demos and say, 'Let's record these.' We have over 100 hours worth of demos. They just keep accumulating. And a lot of them are really good [but] they just didn't necessarily speak to this particular record. 'Bow to the Middle' was recorded for Night of the Furies but it just didn't fit on that record."
Life Like was recorded at The Rosebuds' home in North Carolina, and was self-produced. While the band has worked with outside producers in the past, they decided to take the reins on this outing. Crisp points out that they already had a clear idea of how they wanted the record to sound.
"There are benefits to both [working with a producer and self-producing]. We don't work in a very linear way," Crisp says. "We have our own ideas about how things are executed. In order to know what you want so well [as to be able] to communicate it to a producer, then you already know what you want [so] why not do it yourself? Recording at home, you don't lose quality. We don't have expensive equipment. It's all cheap shit. It just all happens to work."
While the great bulk of the material on Life Like is performed by Crisp and Howard, the album also features a cast of notable guest musicians, among them Superchunk's Mac McCaughan (who also runs The Rosebuds' label, Merge Records) and Justin Vernon, better known as Bon Iver. And on Night of The Furies, they also recorded a song with the Shout Out Louds, with whom they had previously toured. Though these may be household names within the indie rock community, The Rosebuds called on their talents because of friendship, rather than name recognition.
"They're our friends, so collaborating with them is fun," Crisp says. "It's not weird, like if we got Keith Richards. They got their own thing, but none of that stuff really matters. I think I would maybe be more intimidated if it was someone I didn't know."
Every Rosebuds song comes as a direct result of personal collaboration between Crisp and Howard. They may trade off singing lead vocals yet unlike some bands that operate with one central person guiding the direction of the music, everything that The Rosebuds creates comes from the creative input of both personalities, an aspect that Crisp personally finds particularly important to the value of their music.
"We collaborate on pretty much everything," Crisp says. "Even if it's a song I have lead vocal on, there's so much that goes into the collaboration; it's a collaboration on every level. When you're in the studio, you do one thing and the next thing and then the next thing and then you're done. We'll say, 'Let's go back to this song,' and then we'll add a piano and then we'll ask our friends to come over. It ends up being more meaningful to me that way."
The Rosebuds Tour Dates
01/14/09 Wed Ottobar Baltimore, MD
01/15/09 Thu Johnny Brenda's Philadelphia, PA
01/16/09 Fri Bowery Ballroom New York, NY
01/17/09 Sat Middle East Downstairs Cambridge, MA
01/23/09 Fri Visulite Theatre Charlotte, NC
01/24/09 Sat Cat's Cradle Carrboro, NC
"Nice Fox" from Life Like
JamBase | Homestead
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