Since 2003, North Carolina's the Rosebuds have traveled through a wide variety of sounds over five full-length albums. The duo and their rotating cast of backing musicians got started after Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp married, and shortly thereafter, indie powerhouse label Merge Records released their cheeky debut album, The Rosebuds Make Out.
From their poppy, more refined take on the "couplecore" sound of the early 2000s (think Mates of State, Matt and Kim), the Rosebuds also toyed with elements of soaring dance pop on some later records, most noticeably on Night of the Furies. However, the group's future was uncertain Ivan and Kelly divorced following the release of 2009's Life Like. With this year's Loud Planes Fly Low, Ivan and Kelly have renewed their musical partnership with a nuanced, subtle meditation on their relationship and the complicated feelings that came with its dissolve. This isn't a break-up record, and it's not dark or depressing either; Loud Planes Fly Low is an honest record, and more than anything, it's about the renewal of Ivan and Kelly's musical relationship.
Before their show with Other Lives at the Entry on Tuesday night (and a string of dates opening for their buddies Bon Iver), Gimme Noise spoke with Kelly about the process of creating Loud Planes Fly Low.[jump]
Gimme Noise: So right now you're doing some dates on your own and then meeting up with Bon Iver for some dates, right?
Kelly Crisp: That's correct.
Have you played with Bon Iver before?
Oh, yeah. We've never played with Bon Iver, but we've played a lot of shows musically with Justin in the past. We're good friends with a lot of those guys that are in the band right now. We've been friends with Justin for years, he produced one of our records in North Carolina before he moved back to Eau Claire. And, he played as a guitar player in our band for a couple of tours, so that was pretty cool. Also, Matt McCaughan, the drummer for Bon Iver, has been a Rosebuds drummer for years, in the studio and also on tours. We've kind of grown to just really love those guys as friends and people, but I'm really looking forward to hearing them play the new album live every night, it's going to be special.
I thought that there was some connection there. You play keyboard live, but do you play anything else in addition, both live and on the new record, Loud Planes Fly Low?
Yeah, it's hard to remember what everybody played because we were all playing different instruments. It's weird, we were all just in the studio like mad scientists trying to grab any instrument that seemed like it would fit and doing what seemed right for the song. If anybody had an idea, we would try it out. So between the two of us, we played on every song on different instruments. I can't really even remember all of the credits for everything now. I know that I played the toy piano and the guitar and some bass and some drums. We like to keep it feeling creative like that in the studio.
Do you have a set approach to songwriting, or does it usually happen in the studio like that?
We've always kind of had a formula for songwriting, which was to demo out some songs and then fill them out with other ideas in the studio, but this time was really unique in that we didn't really have a concrete idea for what we wanted when we went in to the studio. We knew we wanted to communicate a certain feeling, and that's it. We had some pieces of songs, and some ideas, but really nothing very concrete this time in terms of demos.
That's interesting. What was the feeling that you wanted to communicate?
I think we ended up staying true to what we wanted, so whatever vibe the record has now, which is actually hard for me to describe, that was exactly the feeling which we went in to the studio with. We took our time and did everything that felt like it was going in that direction. We didn't do anything that didn't feel true or natural or honest. We had other musicians come in and play on the record at times, but it was always people who we knew or were friends with. For example, Matt McCaughan played drums on the record. Really, it was a choice of simplicity and honesty. He lives in our town and he understands the music and understands us as people, and we knew that he would be able to communicate our message. And he did. It was easy for us to get people to contribute parts to the record, like strings and other instruments, because we have such an incredible music community around us. We also have friends who are in that community who have known us for a really long time, so we were lucky for that.
How long did you spend working on the record?
That's hard to say because we conceived of it and started working on pieces of it a long time before we went in to the studio. But once we were there, ready to go finish a record, we were there off and on for about two months in the late winter/early spring of this last year. It took us a long time to get that part of the process.
Were you re-writing songs and trying to narrow it down?
It was more just trying to find our direction. We just needed that direction, and it took us a while to find that together.
What are you using in the live setting now as a band? The record has a much more nuanced, layered sound than some of your older records, so I'm curious how you're translating it live. That's been fun, trying to translate it live, and it's actually simpler than you might think. Ivan plays guitar and sings, Logan Matheny is our drummer and he plays drums, glockenspiel, and other percussion instruments, and he sings too. I play an Alesis keyboard which allows me to layer sounds and to separate the keyboard in half, which lets me play bass with my right hand. So we can layer bass, organ and other sounds into what I'm playing on the left hand. That frees our fourth person up too, who would normally be a bass player. On most of the songs, Daniel Hart plays violin. Then on some of the songs where I'm playing string patches live, Daniel plays bass, he's a multi-instrumentalist. We're flexible with how we approach each song, so we've been able to cover a lot territory. Not just sonically, but also just without losing feeling. We've been able to do a lot and we only have four people. I think in the future we'll probably look at adding a fifth person, but for now, we're pretty happy with what we're doing. Do you have plans for a new album, or any particular direction you want to take your sound in the future?
Once we finished this record, we felt so new again, almost light as a feather. There was this definite excitement about music, and being on this tour, we really want to go home and write music together again because it's so fun to play these songs live. It was really cathartic, and for us as people, it was very good for us to do this record. Doing this tour, every night is a confirmation that the universe is still working in really positive ways. And it's just simple things. We're happy with the way these songs sound live, we're happy with the bands we're touring with, we're happy as people every day. We've been so lucky on this tour, and we feel like we have inspiration. We want to go home and keep working.
That's great. It seems like you really try to push your sound in new directions with each album, too.
We have to be able to entertain ourselves, and to keep ourselves curious about music. It keeps us happy.
The Rosebuds play Tuesday July 19 at the 7th St. Entry with Other Lives. 7:30 p.m. 18+. $12 adv/door.
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