Fruit Bats

Fruit Bats

When Fruit Bats announced its new album and signing to Merge Records late last year, singer/songwriter Eric D. Johnson did so by “Getting in a Van Again.” The 15-minute mockumentary presented a surrealist view of the music industry, while teasing the very real themes explored on Gold Past Life—due out June 21, 2019.

“I know I said I’d be around this year, but here I am getting in a van again.”

Gold Past Life marks both an end and a beginning. It’s the end of an unintentional thematic trilogy of records that began with 2014’s EDJ (a solo record by name, but a Fruit Bats release in spirit) and hit an emotional peak with 2016’s Absolute Loser. They encompassed years of loss, displacement, and the persistent, low-level anxiety of the current political climate. They were written in the wake of friends who left these earthly confines and families that could have been.

“I wrote music to comfort myself,” says Eric D. Johnson of those times. “It was a soothing balm.”

But these salves, these songs on Gold Past Life, also represent new beginnings—the journeys that await after making it through troubled times.

In fact, the notion of getting in a van to move on—literally and metaphorically—is exactly what Gold Past Life is all about. It’s about rejecting notions of idealized nostalgia (“Gold Past Life”) and the process of grounding oneself in the present, both geographically (“A Lingering Love,” “Ocean”) and spiritually (“Drawn Away”).

That spiritual sense of place is particularly important to Johnson, who has always been fascinated by dreams and the subconscious stories they can tell. “Some of these songs are directed at specific people, some at amalgams of people, and lots at myself, or the subconscious version of myself—that version like how they say you’re every single character in your dreams,” he says. “Even the artwork represents the notion that we’re all the characters in our dreams. Here’s me looking at you: I’m a deer on a beach looking you dead in the eye and licking my lips.”

Even as he works through these journeys, Johnson’s falsetto still shines atop the bopping folk-rock of Gold Past Life. The new record also features more keyboard influences and a range of guests including Greta Morgan (Springtime Carnivore, Vampire Weekend), Neal Casal (Circles Around the Sun), Trevor Beld Jimenez and Tim Ramsey (Parting Lines), Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), and more. It also sees his working relationship with producer and engineer Thom Monahan (Neko Case, Peter Bjorn & John, Devendra Banhart) hit its stride.

According to Johnson, “Fruit Bats has been a cult band for a long time.” With Gold Past Life, he hopes to bring more immediacy to the music and share positivity, hope, and motivation to keep on keepin’ on with a wider audience.

“Fruit Bats makes existential make-out music,” he describes with a chuckle. “But you’re also welcome to dive into it deeper if you want. Good pop music should be sublime like that.”

Air Waves

The album cover for Warrior, the third full-length by Brooklyn-based band Air Waves, features a ominous, androgynous figure standing with a bicycle, wearing a gas mask adorned with a daisy. The remarkable image was taken on April 22nd, 1970 at the inaugural Earth Day celebration in New York City by Nicole Schneit’s dad, Martin Schneit. Forty-seven years later, artist Em Rooney hand-painted Schneit’s original black & white photo, resulting in an image that radiates with Warrior’s indefatigable spirit, strength, and love

Like many queer women, Nicole Schneit is a warrior by necessity, fighting for basic rights, dignity, and acceptance. Such determination in the face of hardship and injustice runs in Schneit’s family; her new album was inspired in part by her mom who was diagnosed with fallopian cancer last year. As she explains, “The doctor told her she had a fifteen to twenty percent chance, and her response was ‘I’m going to get this mother fucker.’ So the title Warrior and the song are about her. After chemotherapy, surgery, and then more chemotherapy, all the cancer in her body has left and she's currently in remission. I feel like most of the people in my life, including myself, are warriors and have overcome obstacles that seemed impossible to defeat.”

The dignified fighter archetype referenced in the album’s title is explored on each of Warrior’s eleven pieces of bittersweet, empowering indie pop. According to Schneit the song “Gay Bets”, written after the 2016 election is “about being gay and being proud and open. I was thinking about hate crimes spiking and the current state of the world. My friend Jennifer Moore, who sings on the track, was my partner a long time ago, so I felt like I was writing a fuck you to Trump, for trying to take away queer rights, women's rights, people's rights.” The song “Tangerine” was inspired by the film of the same name in which two trans women try to make ends meet as prostitutes. This movie, a dark docu-comedy shot in the contrastingly sunny setting of L.A., reflects Schneit’s battle between identity and society via Brooklyn pop rock that swings between the pastel-tinged and the downright melancholic.

On the album’s gorgeous closer “Blue Fire,” (inspired by the Adrienne Rich poem "The Will to Change") Schneit equates her post-presidential-election anxiety to a flame that grows and recedes, as she pleads for herself and listeners to remain calm. Like its namesake, the track burns slowly and brightly into one of the most glowing points on the record, leaving the listener smiling with thoughtful hope. Warrior’s highlights, and all of the unmissable, satisfying pieces that tie them together show Schneit’s perseverance and resilience through crumbling relationships, personal adversity, and the current political climate, all leading to her most powerful collection of songs to date. Understated, subtly sophisticated, and equally empowering and comforting, Warrior launches Air Waves above the apolitical complacency of too many of the group's contemporaries. Schneit proudly declares her mission statement: “I want these songs to be heard by people in my queer community, but also by anyone that wants to feels strong, powerful, and included.”

GA $20 | Premier Plus $40

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