Thursday, November 13, 2008


And, my Rosebuds piece appears this week as well in WE.

The Rosebuds’ Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard.

The Rosebuds’ Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard.

Credit: Supplied

MUSIC: The couple that rocks together, stays together

It’s been a beautifully morose few years for Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp, the married musical duo also known as the Rosebuds. Death has had a profound effect on their last two albums: Crisp’s grandmother died while she and Howard were writing their third, 2007’s Night of the Furies; and the death of a neighbourhood fox inspired “Nice Fox,” the best song on their latest album, Life Like. Most recently — three weeks ago, in fact — the couple had to put down their 14-year-old Boxer, Jasmine, the subject of an inspired music video in which they cover Salt N’ Pepa’s “Push It” (it subsequently became a YouTube sensation).

But even with such dark inspirations, Howard is pretty upbeat, looking forward to embarking on a North American tour in support of the Rosebuds’ most thoughtful album yet. The North Carolina-based indie-rock darlings are known for creating albums that sound nothing like their predecessors, and this latest one is no exception. Recorded inside their little two-storey house, Life Like has an extraordinarily intimate acoustic sound that stands in sharp contrast with the electronic/pop-rock stylings of Furies.

WE caught up with Howard a few days before the band’s hometown tour-kick-off show.

“Nice Fox” is about a fox that died in your backyard. Do you take from nature and your surroundings a lot?
Howard: Yeah, I think. We did the [2005 album] Birds Make Good Neighbors, and we didn’t record it in our house, but I wrote everything in the back room of our house. We live in downtown Raleigh, and it actually has 10 acres of woods behind the house, so we actually have a wildlife rescue, sort of, in our backyard. When you’re around that many things, it’s liable to creep up in your imagery. Our last record, Furies, didn’t have much of the animal imagery — it was based more on our trip to Europe and the impending doom of George Bush, stuff like that.

How did you deal with recording this album in your house, turning your living space into your work space and vice versa?
Every day, you have to re-set up everything, which sucks, but it kind of gets you in the mood to work again. [We ended up leaving everything up] and just shutting the door. It was better than driving an hour to the studio every day and driving back. You just make room for it and then try to forget it’s there. It’s a tiny house, too — just two bedrooms. But it was fun.

It’s a pretty unique situation, working so intimately with your partner.
Yeah. It’s good. That part was really convenient. (laughs) But sometimes you need space to think about things for a little bit. When I show Kelly ideas, I like to work them out a little bit and then show them to her, and she does the same thing. But when we’re all over each other in the same space and recording, you don’t get a chance to do that.

Kelly’s time is divided between Raleigh and Brooklyn as she pursues being a stand-up comic. Is it difficult juggling both lives?
Yeah, but not that difficult. Before we got the band going, she was doing a lot of acting and comedy, and then we moved to Raleigh and, before we knew it, our whole support community was music-based. Then we got signed to Merge Records and, accidentally, we were in a band full-time. We went to New York in 2004 to The Onion’s Christmas party, and she ran into all these comics and she was like, “Wow, I forgot about this whole part of my life that I really love,” so she got a sketch group together back in Raleigh and they were amazing, and I was like, “Yeah, we’ve been doing my thing for five years. Let’s do yours.”

I know you’re into sports. I don’t hear many musicians say that.
The whole community in Raleigh is into basketball, so I think that’s a misnomer... in the south, anyway. One of my best friends, Justin Vernon from Bon Iver, that’s how we met, was playing basketball… But maybe you’re right. I’ve spent months on the road and never shot a basket. I really know more about the starting lineup of a team than how a song was written.

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