You Won't, Bombadil

You Won’t is the Boston-based duo of Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri, fast friends ever since they squared off in a fierce but poorly executed sword-fight in 1999. The two Massachusetts natives collaborated on a litany of non-musical projects prior to forming a band, conspiring to produce a series of little-seen experimental films, guerrilla theater stunts, and duct-taped refrigerators filled with toxic sludge. You Won’t was born in late 2010 following three lonely, inspired months spent recording in the suburban woodlands of Eastern Massachusetts. Following the release of debut LP Skeptic Goodbye on Old Flame Records in February 2012, the pair has toured across the United States, garnering praise from the likes of SPIN and KEXP for their distinctly lyrical, insistently melodic, and thoroughly percussive sound.

Bombadil¹s last album was almost its swan song. The quartet of singers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists – Stuart Robinson, Daniel Michalak, Bryan Rahija and James Phillips ­ recorded All That the Rain Promises in ten days, while living in a barn in Oregon. The barn was so cold, they had to warm their hands by a wood-burning stove between takes. The album¹s sparkling blend of folk, rock and gentle psychedlia earned rave reviews, but Michalak¹s continuing hand problems made the future look grim. He¹d developed a case of neural tension that made playing and driving painful. They toured sporadically and weren’t sure about the future of the band.

Happily, a regimen of relaxation and stretching exercises has Michalak¹s pain under control, and the band is rebuilding its momentum. They spent most of 2012 touring and recording the songs that became Metrics of Affection. The album is their most melodic and adventurous outing yet, a cornucopia of styles marked by mischievously surrealistic lyrics and their familiar lush harmonies. Their inventive arrangements add funk, country, boogie woogie, rap, early rock and hints classic pop songwriting, circa 1940, to their already eclectic sound.

“We produced the album ourselves,” Robinson says. “We recorded in our house in Old North Durham. James [Phillips, our drummer] engineered it in our home studio. It¹s the first time we recorded at home, instead of going somewhere to make a record. It was also the first time that we used drum machines, synths and samplers. James sang more on this record than ever before, Daniel rapped for the first time, Bryan wrote a cello part for the first time and I recorded pitched wine glasses for the first time. We all write songs and we¹re not afraid of jumping out of our box to write any kind of song we like, whether it¹s classical, hip-hop, punk or bluegrass.”

Metrics of Affection is an embarrassment of riches, 13 tracks of pop without boundaries, brimming over with bubbly energy and masterful songwriting. A subtle drum loop, simple piano triplets and slide guitar, ala George Harrison, give “Angeline” a swooning energy to match its bright, playful lyric. “Boring Country Song” is actually a literate, lyrical ode to the missed connections that make relationships so difficult; its luxurious cascading harmonies and sparse piano will send chills down your spine. Bluegrass banjo and hip hop rhythms collide on “Born at Five,” a song that tells the story of an ordinary man¹s life in three minutes, a really remarkable piece of songwriting. The melody of “When We Are Both Cats” has the infuriating catchiness of a nursery rhyme. It¹s a bouncy folk rock tune with Mersybeat cello, subliminal organ and unexpected snare drum accents, highlighting a cryptic conversation between a boy and girl who don¹t quite connect. The hook is a line spoken by Penelope Cruz in the movie Vanilla Sky ­ “I¹ll tell you in another life, when we are both cats.” Bombadil rapping? Well, yes, sort of. “Escalators” opens like an old fashion pop tune, with cuatro and gorgeous four part harmonies. Then it morphs into a slow rock ballad, featuring a melancholy trumpet line played by Michael Stipe to support Michalak¹s vocal, a staccato sing/talk performance full of tongue twisting internal rhymes that land somewhere between Grandmaster Flash and Fred Astaire. Every track is crammed with little musical and lyrical touches that will pop your ears, twist your brain and tickle your heart with their unexpected flashes of playful wit.

Bombadil is as much a family as a band, a collective of like-minded friends who just happen to be talented and innovative musicians and multi-instrumentalists. Like all families, they¹ve had their share of ups and downs, break ups and reunions, but the long road they¹ve traveled together has made their bond closer and their music more emotional and intimate.

Stuart Robinson met Daniel Michalak on a hiking trip during a pre-orientation program at Duke University in 2002. They started making music on Michalak¹s laptop, playing keyboards, singing and writing songs together. In 2004, Michalak went to Bolivia as an exchange student and ran into Bryan Rahija. They¹d played together in a cover band, but didn¹t become friends until they met in Bolivia. After discovering they had similar ideas about songwriting, they began making demos. After hearing the band’s music, a friend suggested they call themselves Bombadil, after Tom Bombadil, the singing, songwriting character in “The Hobbit.” With Daniel¹s brother John on drums, they became a quartet and put up a few newly completed songs on their MySpace page.

Dolph Ramseur, head of Ramseur Records, loved what he heard on the band¹s MySpace page and caught their live show soon afterward. He was impressed by their energy and signed them. He helped them book shows, hone their sound and make records, including the Bombadil EP in 2006, A Buzz, A Buzz in 2008 and Tarpits and Canyonlands in 2009. In 2007, a Craigslist ad had turned up drummer James Phillips, a long time Bombadil fan, and he joined the band just as A Buzz, A Buzz was being completed. The band was getting rave reviews for their lively, chaotic shows and brilliant albums, which drew not unwarranted comparisons to The Beatles. Then things fell apart. Robinson said he wanted to leave the band and Daniel Michalak was slowly losing the use of his hands due to his neural tension condition.

By the time Tarpits and Canyonlands was released, Robinson had quit and the band was on hiatus, hoping Michalak¹s hands would heal enough for him to play music again. Next, John Michalak left to go to medical school. It looked like the end of the line, but the call of the muse was too strong to resist. On his own, Robinson had been writing songs and asked Michalak and Rahija to help him flesh out his ideas. Rest and therapy helped Michalak regain the use of his hands, and the reborn quartet moved into Pendavavis Farm near Portland, OR (where the Decemberists recorded The King Is Dead), to record All That the Rain Promises. They toured sparingly to support the album, but with the band whole and healthy, and Metrics of Affection recorded and ready for its July 23 release date, Bombadil is back, on tour and intent on fulfilling their dream of writing great songs and touching people with their powerful stage show.

$10.00 - $12.00

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