Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased tracks, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Tangie & Ray” by Fruit Bats from their 2011 album Tripper on Sub Pop.
From time to time, different members with impressive musical resumes have played a part, but for the last ten years and five albums, the constant in the Fruit Bats has been Eric Johnson. Johnson was working at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, the largest independent community arts school in the U.S, and got connected with another ever-changing band, the experimental group Califone. After that, Johnson formed his own band with a revolving door of talent, who hop into the mix album to album. The latest in the Fruit Bats lineup next to Johnson is Chris Sherman, Sam Wagster, Ron Lewis, Graeme Gibson, and most recent recruits, Dave Depper of Loch Lomond and Nathan Junior, who has played with M. Ward, and Sea Wolf, as well as his own band, Duover.
Taking the narrative full force with the new album, Tripper, due out on August 2, “Tangie and Ray” is a standout that was primarily inspired by the solitary trek back from a solo show in Anchorage, Alaska, and a renewed appreciation/fear of the wilderness’ innate power to “swallow you up.” Beautifully executed, falsetto and all, the song lulls you into a false sense of security… until you listen to the lyrics. Cheerfully set up with dancing guitar lines and lyrically driving rhythm that depicts a duo and their newfound freedom into the wild, unknown, slightly dangerous, the melody injects the ominous situation with a sense of hope and possibility.
In fact, much of Tripper is narrative-based, an approach fairly new in Johnson’s songwriting, and was inspired by a real life encounter Johnson had while riding a train from Chicago to Olympia, during which a cantankerous vagabond sat next to him. That 12-hour relationship inspired this album, 10 years later!, as Johnson revisits the the changing scenery, themes of escape, and his dueling relationship as a youth with the embittered older man.
Fruit Bats are kicking off their tour tomorrow in Spokane and will be in Seattle this coming Tuesday, August 2, playing a free in-store performance at Easy Street Records. They’ll also be playing LIVE ON KEXP the same day at 12pm, so tune in.
Then, after playing Pickathon next weekend, they’ll hit the road with The Decemberists and play Redmond’s Marymoor Park on 8/22. You can see the full list of venues large and small on their website and MySpace page. As you wait, check out the video for another new song by Fruit Bats, “You’re Too Weird”: