Photo by Amanda Longtain
Now that we’ve been doing this site for over 2 years, I’ve been able to see some artists’ career trajectories with a bit more detail. For example, it was April 29, 2011 when the Great Nostalgic first came into my life (technically, it was a few days before that, but that’s when the review got published). After that, I interviewed lead singer and main songwriter Abram Shook for the first ever In-time Interview, and got to learn more about his songwriting process. While the band was becoming my most-listened-to local act (thanks, last.fm!), I was waiting for the promise of more material that never…well, materialized. When word came out that one of the members had moved to California, and that the band’s activity had fizzled, it was a sad day – not knowing if one of my favorite local bands (and one that never quite got the widespread acclaim I thought they deserved) was gone for good.
All of that is the context for the EP I’m sharing with you today. Because now, Feverbones isn’t just some random new band on the Austin scene, as they might be to you if you’re new to town or a new reader to this blog. For me, Feverbones is the new project from Abram Shook of the Great Nostalgic.
For Feverbones, Shook has hooked up with two other notable Austin musicians – Chris Cox and Matt Sheppard – who have been musically involved with Dana Falconberry (another of my favorite local acts!) and Paul Banks (not the guy from Interpol). Cox and Shook often split vocal duties (though Cox ends up clocking more time behind the mic), and their vocals align rather closely. Shook is a bit more subdued in his delivery than in his previous work with The Great Nostalgic, and Cox bears a striking sonic resemblance to Dave Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors that I really like – check out “Never Ending Dream,” which sounds like an outtake from the Swing Lo Magellan sessions. On Feverbones, Cox sings low and languidly, and Shook follows suit. Overall, there isn’t quite the urgency that I expected based on TGN, but it also is way more tense than Dana Falconberry’s music (I have to confess I’m not very familiar with Paul Banks and the Carousels’ work). These three musicians seem to arrive in a new place for all of them, based on each others’ influence.Feverbones - 'Breaking Even'
As much as I want to compare this new stuff to everything I’m familiar with, it’s important to recognize the ways in which Feverbones succeeds on its own merit. For example, there’s “African Rue” – a three-minute cut that revels in a West African shuffle. Some of the lyrics are sung in a unison chorus, and there’s a repeated guitar line with organ accompaniment that is a remarkable rendition of Afrobeat. Before you know it, though, the bridge settles into a much more familiar indie rock groove. That Feverbones can bounce between these two styles so fluidly (as they do a few times through the song) is a testament to their musicianship and their creativity.
The rest of the record returns to more Western indie rock styles. “Breaking Even” features some great vocal harmonies in a catchy chorus that follows some really interesting chord progressions. In fact, harmonically, the whole record is adventurous. It doesn’t jump out with easy and accessible patterns; instead, the chords are rich and the melodies run in unexpected directions. For example, “Cheer Up” starts off with some very major and upbeat arpeggios in the opening guitar figure, before settling into a more minor area. Again, Feverbones jumps between the different feels multiple times.
After listening to these songs at least a dozen times each, I can assure you that they are great. They’re adventurous and interesting without being off-putting. The band is clicks well musically, and their influence on each other seems to be bringing them all into exciting new directions. Catch their EP release tonight at The Blackheart, and look for it to be available on their bandcamp site.
– Carter Delloro