Traditionally, a honeymoon should follow a wedding. But, when Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp got married in May of 2001, they started a band instead. In the week after their wedding, as they were hanging around the little house they had just fixed up together, a local club called to tell Ivan that the opening band had cancelled for a show later that evening and asked if he knew anyone who could fill in. He hung up the phone, turned to his wife and said, “We’re in a band and we have a show tonight.” So the newlyweds put five songs together (enough for a respectable opening-spot set). With the instruments they had lying around the house and an old Sears drum machine, The Rosebuds were born.
Every marriage is collaboration; the new shared experiences, the give and take and the development of a shared vision or plan for life. For Ivan and Kelly, their band is their marriage. It’s full of love, creativity, passion, and struggle. For them, the process of writing and making music is private, subtle, and quiet. Ivan writes melodies on the guitar and tells Kelly what he thinks the song might be about, what mood he is going for. Kelly then joins in with other instruments and suggests a longer version of the story, helping to fill out the lyrics. Friends stop by all the time and, if they’re drawn to the music room (and they usually are) they pick up any instrument they want and play however they want. Rehearsals for shows and before recording are also relaxed—friends come over for coffee, conversation, and band practice. It’s a community of truly creative people who, through The Rosebuds, produce incredibly infectious and thoughtful pop music.
The Rosebuds’ debut CD, The Rosebuds Make Out, caused quite a ruckus among fans and critics alike. Magnet magazine called it “a record for pop-music believers”, Harp magazine referred to “contagious-as-mono pop songs”, while The Onion raved “It’s not easy to make music this close to flawless”. Once the band hit the road with their infectious and high energy live shows, fans were converted across the country as well.
For Birds Make Good Neighbors, Ivan and Kelly once again turned to Brian Paulson to handle production, after feeling so comfortable with him on their debut. The album was recorded at Paulson’s studio just outside of Carrboro, NC over several months during the spring of 2005 with contributions from local musicians Lee Waters (Work Clothes) on drums, and Wes Phillips (Ticonderoga) on stand up bass. The new album displays Howard and Crisp’s natural progression as songwriters, full of confidence and willing to experiment. Kelly takes a more active roll on vocals, with stunning results. The sound is a bit more nuanced, perhaps a little darker, than on their debut. The lyrical content explores the theme of choices made – whether in a personal or historical context – and the ripple effect of those choices, large and small, on the world around us. As well as how the perspective of history can change, depending on the context of the story, or point of view of the storyteller.
Both Ivan and Kelly grew up along the rural byways and in the small towns of eastern North Carolina. Relatively isolated lives for a couple of curious and creative kids. Lives steeped in an oral tradition of story telling; and the necessity of creating your own fun. Kelly spent part of her childhood on the then-isolated Cedar Island (on NC’s Outer Banks) where the fishermen believed themselves to be the descendents of the Lost Colony. Kelly’s family and the local fishermen and women would get together at night, build a fire to ward off mosquitoes, and tell stories about the island, it’s history and it’s inhabitants. Beyond Kelly and her younger brother, there were not many children on the island, so playtime was often a solitary fancy. As a young child Kelly was naturally drawn to acting and would entertain herself by creating characters, stories and situations—inventing lives she thought normal people would live and she’d act these out.
Ivan spent his childhood on a tobacco farm in rural Wake County, NC. He spent his days shooting a basketball in his backyard, and walking in the woods with the gaggle of stray dogs that always seemed to take up at his house. Besides the dogs, it was a pretty solitary life for a little boy, but Ivan managed to make the most of it. His family often entertained themselves by going out to their barn in the evenings to play the music that they loved--songs by Merle Haggard, CCR, the Beatles, and even Ivan’s mother’s own songs (she had spent some time as a country singer in the 70s). Those musical influences and the sheer joy of performing music purely for one’s own entertainment would leave their mark.
Ivan and Kelly met in Wilmington, NC where they both went to start their lives after high school. Ivan planned to play basketball for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington but before he got to suit up for his freshman season, he broke both arms in a pick-up game, essentially ending his basketball career. He didn’t know what to do next but he was too depressed to care about school anymore. Kelly, who was studying English, became one of his closest friends. She would share stories about her own life, talk to him about books she was reading, and they would go to see rock shows together. It was a good friendship and eventually, it was a relationship. Ivan started playing the guitar and writing songs. Kelly started writing her stories down and joined an all-female performance group that wrote and directed their own material. So, by the time of their wedding, they were both so heavily involved with their own creative projects that they were eager to try a project together. When The Rosebuds took the stage on that first evening playing as a two-piece with a drum machine, they were unknowingly defining their future as a married couple.
Birds Make Good Neighbors is a beautiful collection of songs from a band that continues to grow, learning more about what they can accomplish together as a couple and as a band. Throughout their second LP, The Rosebuds’ joyful enthusiasm for their craft shines through on every note. We are confident you will enjoy this latest installment in their story as much as they enjoy telling it.