In this case, the Lansing indie rock quartet’s newest album functions as a sonic potion drenching listeners in soothing waves of vibrant folk-influenced dream pop.
“We knew that was the kind of record we wanted to make. Michael Boyes and I had done a lot of acoustic shows together, or rather where he played acoustic and I played electric,” said Tommy McCord, Drinking Mercury’s guitarist and vocalist, about the band’s latest release out today via GTG Records.
“We had focused on embracing that sort of finger style-like folky guitar playing and bringing that in with more textural and psychedelic stuff. From there, it was a matter of filling in the arrangements, but we all knew we wanted to have the vocals be really prominent and arranged on the album.”
Soaring vocal harmonies intertwined with slow, thumping drumbeats, driving basslines and gentle acoustic and electric guitars abound on the band’s striking follow-up to 2011’s alt-folk debut, “Orcades.”
Recording Drinking Mercury, Split Album with The Soods
To create the album’s laid-back feel, McCord invited longtime friends and bandmates Boyes (guitar, vocals), Timmy Rodriguez (bass, keys, vocals) and Kevin Adams (drums) to his family’s 60-year-old rustic cabin in Bitely last July to record new material.
“It’s like the cliché of getting back to nature to write your masterpiece. My grandpa and some other guys built this cabin in the early ‘50s, so I’ve been going there my whole life. I had thought in a daydream it would be cool to record an album up here,” said McCord, who co-formed Drinking Mercury nearly 20 years ago with Adams while growing up in Ionia.
“It’s not like it’s a big acoustically awesome space. It’s just a pretty simple cabin, but it’s in a beautiful area, and the atmosphere is really relaxed, and your cell phone doesn’t work there, and there’s no internet.”
A new 310AM track poetically proves not all problems have a right answer.
Written and recorded by Ypsilanti indie rock vocalist/guitarist Nate Erickson, “Expectations of a Failed Equation” explores the twists and turns personal relationships take when they’ve reached a breaking point. At times, the best solution may include moving forward without questioning why certain life chapters end.
“It’s one I held onto for a while and reworked bits and pieces for a couple of months before it ever got put into record format,” said Erickson, former lead vocalist and guitarist of the indie rock trio After Hours Radio. “I wasn’t really consciously thinking about where I wanted to take it lyrically. I think it ended up being the experiences of what my house situation and the band situation were like at the time.”
In August, Erickson and his After Hours Radio bandmates Greg Hughes and Mark Dunne ended their five-year run as one of Ypsilanti’s most notable do-it-yourself (DIY) bands. Together, they released two EPs, performed regularly throughout southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio and ran their own Ypsilanti-based DIY venue, The Late Station, to showcase emerging artists across a multitude of genres.
Earlier this year, After Hours Radio celebrated their five-year anniversary and briefly reunited with original lead singer Calum Galt for a special one-off performance. Together, Erickson and his bandmates decide to pursue their own solo projects instead of forging ahead.
“I think at the time we were still trying to make things work the best we could,” said Erickson, who co-founded After Hours Radio with Hughes at the University of Michigan in 2014. “This track is kind of like a what-if scenario, that’s how I wrote it, and things kind of went where they did.”
Released today, Erickson’s 310AM debut track, “Expectations of a Failed Equation,” opens with slow progressive guitar chords channeling disappointment and wonder – “You can hear everything that I think/Even though I blocked you out of this place we live in/They say actions make stronger statements that complement apologies/Or all those good intentions you claim.”
“I went through a couple of different iterations once I started adding other instruments to it because either way I felt like the parts I was writing were either too dark or way too bright, and none of it felt right,” said Erickson, who’s inspired by pop-punk emo bands Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance and Jimmy Eat World. “I had to go through a couple of iterations until I felt like everything meshed.”
Halfway through the track, Erickson’s guitar erupts into a firestorm mixed with thunderous bass and drums to mirror the building frustration – “Never said I’m right/And I’m not sure what more to say here/I’m not sure where to be/What to say/Or how to play this to avoid giving life the futures I fear.”
“Everything on there is me, and when I was working on this, it was meant to be like a side project from After Hours Radio,” said Erickson, who played all the instruments on the track and mixed it himself. “I didn’t take it to a nice studio or anything. It was just seeing what would happen if I just let myself run with the ideas I had in my head.”
After the release of “Expectations of a Failed Equation,” Erickson plans to drop two other new tracks in the next three to six months and continues to mix and engineer projects for local indie bands Stop Watch, Any Island, Forest Warren and Tryancareagain.
“I would like to start playing out again. For 310AM, the solo project stuff, I don’t want to do it unless I get the right group of people together to make it work like the recording,” Erickson said. “If I can get that to happen, then I would love to, but I’m not necessarily pushing for it. I’m waiting for the right fit.”
The New York City indie rock singer-songwriter and frontwoman for Nikki and The Human Element eloquently depicts relatable themes about everyday life on her catchy debut album, “Elemental,” which dropped in June.
“For me, it’s really writing about the daily stuff I see. I’m not writing about love and love lost because I’m not falling in love every day. I’ve got two kids, and I think people just want to hear about life and things they can relate to,” said Neretin, who’s also a physician with the Institute for Child and Family Health in New York City.
“I don’t think they want to hear about the tumultuous relationship that went awry. I’m just writing about the people that I meet, the experiences that I have and the experiences that they have.”
Through “Elemental,” Neretin has become a modern-day troubadour for women, especially mothers raising a family, dealing with aging and working to improve local communities. In a sense, it’s a deep look into the thoughts, feelings and struggles of a fiftysomething wife and mother who balances personal and professional ambitions.
“I’m looking to speak to women in that way, and there’s group that still goes out, sees music and loves rock and roll are my age if not older,” said Neretin, 54, who grew up in The Bronx and cited her opera singer-actor father as her biggest musical influence. “I’m a new rock and roller coming out at this age as opposed to somebody who started in their 20s and worked their way up. This shows that I can still do this.”
Davis’ three stellar breakout singles serve as an instant sonic addiction with their beautiful verses, breathtaking melodies and brilliant arrangements. Her refreshing, relatable music will leave ears buzzing for more when Davis’ heartfelt debut album, “Trophy” drops Nov. 8.
“Each of the singles has their own identities and sonic worlds. Since this album is a culmination of my writing, there are huge gaps of time between their conceptions, especially the first two singles,” she said.
“The production style and arrangement choices help bring these songs together on the album. Obviously, these songs all come from me, but at very different times in my development as a writer. I think more than anything, the singles capture moments in time.”
The National knows how to make an indelible first impression in Tree Town.
The indie rock quintet enthralled a crowd of nearly 3,500 fans during their first headlining show June 25 at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium with Courtney Barnett.
It was their first appearance in Tree Town while supporting their latest and eighth studio release, “I Am Easy to Find,” which features memorable collaborations with notable female artists and musicians.
Bathed in brightly colored lights and flanked by two large screens displaying Impressionist-inspired artwork, The National opened their nearly two-hour set with “You Had Your Soul with You” and featured Dianne Berkun Menaker, founder and director of the Brooklyn Youth Choir, as a brilliant guest vocalist.
Lead vocalist Matt Berninger sipped a beverage from a red plastic Solo cup and joked with the audience throughout their set as twin brothers Aaron Dessner (guitar, bass piano) and Bryce Dessner (guitar, piano) cued up the band before each song.
The band performed several introspective masterpieces from their latest album, including “Quiet Light,” “The Pull of You,” “Hey Rosey,” “Oblivions,” “Light Years,” “I Am Easy to Find” and “Rylan,” while Berkun Menaker provided lush harmonies and background vocals that meshed beautifully with Berninger’s.
About halfway through their set, Berninger and drummer Bryan Devendorf engaged in friendly onstage banter. The introverted Devendorf spoke fondly about spending time in Ann Arbor before the band’s show. In response, Berninger joked with his quiet bandmate about finally speaking to the crowd.
“Are you going to say something, Bryan?” Berninger asked laughingly. “Let me give you my microphone … Bryan barely speaks, you guys.”
Devendorf proudly responded, “I visited a pool today called the Fuller Park Pool, it was fantastic, and right across the street is U-M hospital, am I correct? I was born there in 1975, so I’ve come full circle.”
The National also came full circle musically while performing past fan favorites ranging from “Bloodbuzz Ohio” to “Graceless” to “Fake Empire.” No National live show is complete without at least one or two timeless tracks from “High Violet” and “Boxer.”
The band closed the show with a four-song encore and featured Berninger jumping into the crowd and interacting with fans during “Mr. November.” It’s a highly anticipated moment from any longtime fan of The National.
A fan also presented Berninger with his own U-M baseball cap to wear toward the end of the night.
“Thank you for making this for me. I will wear this forever,” Berninger said. “You want me to sign it? I’m not giving this back to you.”
Hopefully, Berninger’s new cap will make it easy for fans to find The National in Ann Arbor again soon.
The National will be easy to find Tuesday night at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium.
The indie rock quintet will perform their first headlining show at the University of Michigan’s 106-year-old, 3,500-seat auditorium in support of their latest and eighth studio release, “I Am Easy to Find.”
Presented by AEG and The Ark, it’s the latest stop on The National’s current 20-date North American tour with special guest Australian indie rock singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Courtney Barnett. The band last performed in Michigan at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival in July 2018.
The National’s Matt Berninger (vocals) along with twin brothers Aaron Dessner (guitar, bass, piano) and Bryce Dessner (guitar, piano) and brothers Scott Devendorf (bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums) will showcase new introspective songs tinged with dark, melancholy lyrics from their critically-acclaimed 16-track album, which dropped May 17 on 4AD.
The follow-up to 2017’s GRAMMY-award winning release, “Sleep Well Beast,” “I Am Easy to Find” features The National’s latest singles, “You Had Your Soul with You,” “Light Years” and “Hairpin Turns,” and harnesses their signature indie rock sound filled with driving guitars, eloquent pianos and pulsating bass and drum lines.
Interestingly, the album includes a short companion film with the same name and music by The National. Inspired by “I Am Easy to Find,” the film was directed by Academy Award-nominated director Mike Mills (“20th Century Women,” “Beginners”) and stars Academy Award Winner Alicia Vikander, who’s also featured on the album’s cover.
Along with the band, Mills co-produced “I Am Easy to Find,” which was mostly recorded at Long Pond, Aaron Dessner’s residential studio in upstate New York along with additional sessions in Paris, Berlin, Cincinnati, Austin, Dublin, Brooklyn and other far-flung locations.
The album also features beautiful collaborations with several notable female vocalists, including Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan, Gail Ann Dorsey, Mina Tindle and Kate Stables.
Both individually and collectively, The National’s members have been involved in countless artistic, charitable and socio-political pursuits. The group released “A Lot of Sorrow” documenting their collaboration with installation artists Ragnar Kjartansson that took place at MOMA’s PS1 and saw the band play their song “Sorrow” for six hours in front of a live audience.
The National are also behind the Red Hot benefit albums, “Dark Was The Night” and “Day Of The Dead,” and the compilation boxed set titled “7-Inches for Planned Parenthood.”
In 2013, the band saw the theatrical release of their documentary, “Mistaken for Strangers,” set to the backdrop of their 2010 release, “High Violet.” During their 16-year career, The National has sold more than 2 million albums in the U.S. alone.
As for The National’s special guest, Barnett will make her first Ann Arbor appearance in support of her second album, 2018’s “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” which “takes your vulnerabilities and everything that scares you and twists them until they fit into someone else’s hands.”
For her latest album and follow-up to 2015’s “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit,” Barnett’s writing is focused on the internal. She’s turned her gaze inward to study how the world and people in it are affecting her.
Listening to “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” it’s easy to imagine Barnett figuring out, song by song, how to orient herself and remain steady in a place that’s rapidly shifting around her.
Last month, Barnett released a new single and video for “Everybody Here Hates You.” Recorded in late 2018 during a break in her “Tell Me How You Really Feel” world tour, “Everybody Here Hates You” is the closest Barnett has ever come to capturing the extraordinary weight and swagger of her live performance on a recording. The track is a blues-tinged behemoth with squalling guitars, organs and tambourines.
Following the release of her latest album, Barnett went on to play sold-out rooms and packed festivals worldwide. Over the course of just a few years, Barnett has become internationally renowned for her witty, ironic and distinctive song lyrics.
She’s won the Australian Music Prize, J Award for Album of the Year, APRA’s Songwriter of the Year and four ARIA Awards. Barnett has worked on music with Jack White, The Breeders and Jen Cloher as well as releasing the 2017 masterful collaboration, “Lotta Sea Lice,” with indie rock singer-songwriter Kurt Vile.
Indianapolis’ From Elsewhere will bring their vibrant indie rock to the Motor City Sunday night.
The burgeoning trio will make their live Detroit debut at Nice Place, 70 Glynn Ct., starting at 6 p.m. with Merga, Anomaly and Carter Erickson. The show also will feature artwork from local visual artists.
“It’s going to be a mixed genre show with some hip hop,” said Nikhil Ramani, From Elsewhere’s vocalist and guitarist who originally hails from Chennai, India. “I’m really excited for Sunday because it’s going to be a good community of artists.”
Along with bandmates Travis Lee (bass) and Luke Duckworth (drums), Ramani will share tracks from their sparkling debut EP, “Just Like the Sun,” which dropped Friday.
The shimmering six-song EP features an eclectic mix of shoegaze and alternative rock – think Death Cab for Cutie, Smashing Pumpkins, Slowdive and Snail Mail rolled into one. The band recorded the EP over three days in late August, early September at Russian Recording in Bloomington, Ind., with Ben Lumsdaine.
With shiny guitar tones, solid bass lines and pulsating drumbeats, “Just Like the Sun” illuminates the dreariest Midwestern winter morning and creates a vivid, laid-back summer afternoon in the mind’s eye. From Elsewhere’s first two brilliant singles, “The Color Yellow” and “Collective Thoughts,” dropped earlier this fall.
“A lot of the EP is about finding yourself, your self-identity and a little bit of loneliness and sadness, just all human emotion basically,” said Ramani, who formed From Elsewhere with Lee and Duckworth in June. “Each song on the EP isn’t about strictly one particular theme or thing, it’s kind of a mix.”