2018Frankie Cosmos w/ Stef Chura, Shy Boys
DecemberDoors 8pm, Show 9pm - $16adv/ $18
Frankie Cosmos has taken several different shapes since their first full band album, Zentropy, erupted in New York’s DIY music scene in 2014. For Vessel the band’s line up comprises of multi-instrumentalists David Maine, Lauren Martin, Luke Pyenson, and Kline, who each contributed their own musical sensibilities to help shape the sound of the new record. In between tours supporting their last album, Next Thing, Kline brought new songs to the band’s rehearsals, and together the members collectively participated in turning them into full band arrangements. As a result, the album’s staggering 18 tracks implement a range of instrumentations and recording methods unheard of on the albums preceding it, while still maintaining the succinctly sincere nature of Kline’s songwriting.
The album’s opening track, “Caramelize,” serves as the thematic overture for Vessel, alluding to topics like dependency, growth, and love which reoccur throughout the record. The song strings together a scope of musical motifs and showcases the intense dynamics in both Kline’s lyrics and the band’s performance that continue on the tracks that follow. Although many of the scenarios and personalities written about on Vessel are familiar territory for Frankie Cosmos, what’s really changed on the new record is Kline’s nuanced point of view and her desire to constantly question the latent meaning of her experiences. In the album’s first single “Jesse,” Kline grapples with the startling personal epiphanies in life that stem from dreams and subconscious realizations. On another single, “Apathy,” Kline confronts her own insecurities around personal change and feeling distant from the people she once had a close relationship with. Then later on the album “Accommodate,” deals with the complexity of being in a community that would rather turn its nose a problem than hold its members accountable. “Being Alive” stands out as one of the few old bandcamp-era Frankie Cosmos songs the band reworked for Vessel, and shows the rhythm section quickly shifting between fast and slow tempos as Kline ponders the minutia of existence. Kline’s dissonant lyrics are paired with the band’s driving, jangly grooves creating several moments on the album where the bandmates’ chemistry playing together is brought to the forefront.
To record Vessel, Frankie Cosmos traveled back up to Binghamton, New York to work with Hunter Davidsohn, the producer and studio engineer who helped craft the sound for Zentropy and Next Thing. The band spent 3 days upstate tracking drums, bass, guitars, and vocals, favoring the spontaneity of reel-to-reel tape over the meticulous perfectionism caused by recording digitally. Then the band and Davidsohn continued recording the album for another three days in Brooklyn with Carlos Hernandez and Julian Fader at their studio, Gravesend Recordings. As Frankie Cosmos started testing out new songs for Vessel on the road, the band invited members from their fellow touring bands to join them on stage to sing or play parts on tracks like “Being Alive” and “Jesse.” Once in the studio, the band decided to invite those same friends and more to contribute parts to the final recorded versions including Alex Bailey (formerly of Warehouse, who has replaced David Maine as a permanent member of the live band), Vishal Narang (of Airhead DC), and singer/songwriter Anna McClellan. After six days of recording, Davidsohn continued mixing the album back upstate and eventually sent the finished album to Josh Bonati to be mastered.
Vessel’s run time is exactly double the length of Frankie Cosmos’ breakout record, Zentropy, and serves as enormous leap forward in the band’s catalog. But ultimately, the album’s unique sensibility, esoteric narratives, and reveling energy, allow it to exist as just another distinctive chapter in Kline’s ongoing musical auto-biography. Through Vessel, Kline provides the listener with a spectrum of disparate anecdotes, observations, and affirmations and then tasks them with arranging the pieces in a way that they can make their own sense of. Typically albums by artists at a similar stage in their career are written with the weight of knowing that someone is on the other end listening. Yet, despite bringing attention to her audience in direct references, Kline and the rest of Frankie Cosmos have passionately written Vessel with a clarity not muddled by the fear of meeting anyone’s expectation.
Her debut studio album, Messes, is embedded with her years of experience playing around the Michigan underground and setting up DIY shows in the area. Originally from Alpena, Michigan, Chura began playing in the Ypsilanti area in 2009, before dropping out of college, she moved to Detroit in 2012. Chura has been home-recording and self-releasing her songs for six years, playing bass in friends’ bands as well.
Through intricate guitar work and warm, textured production, Messes finds her trying to making sense of life’s ups and downs. “It’s about emotional mess, not physical mess,” Chura says. “The title track is about knowing that you are going to do something the wrong way, but you’re doing it anyway because you want that experience. I’ve had to do a lot of things the wrong way in order to figure out how to live my life.”
Consider Shy Boys - DIY local champions of Kansas City, MO, who if you add it all up, are something sacred. Comprised of brothers Collin and Kyle Rausch and best friends Konnor Ervin, Kyle Little and Ross Brown, Shy Boys are the heartland’s answer to The Beach Boys had Alex Chilton been on guitar.
But if a harmony falls into a microphone in the middle of America does anyone really hear it? Some do. Take for instance Shy Boys’ 2014 self- titled debut on local Kansas City label, High Dive Records - I first came across this album while living in Los Angeles and catching wind of a band from my home town that I was told could “actually sing,” and after the first spin, through the muddy fidelity, man, could they actually sing.
On August 3, 2018, the world will see the release of their second record, Bell House, out on legendary and globally cherished record label Polyvinyl, bringing both their profile and music to the surface for the first time. The album’s title is taken from the band’s beloved headquarters - the old house on Bell Street in Kansas City where they lived together for the better part of 5 years.
“‘Lived’ is a loose term,” says lead songwriter Collin. “It was more like a bum den than anything else. There was a giant hole in the floor of the kitchen that had a piece of plywood over it. In the backyard, weeds got like 6 feet high in the summer. It was its own thriving biome. We lived in trash.”
Musically, Collin describes the songs on Bell House taking shape through “a group of guys trying to get through some sort of mutual identity crisis. The lifestyle became overwhelming and really seeped into the music.”
In the time since the release of ST, Collin saw himself falling in love and getting married, leaving the old house on Bell Street, and moving back into his mom’s house with his wife in a suburb of the city. It’s here where the songs of Bell House were born. Being back under the same roof he had grown up in where there was “still writing on the walls from childhood,” Rausch found himself reflective and looking out at his life as a whole.
Take closing track “Champion” for instance, a song Collin says is dedicated to his and Kyle’s mother. “It’s just a note saying that she took care of us when we were young, and now it’s time for us to be there and take care of her.”
The reflective spirit sprinkled throughout the album is also evident on lead single, “Take The Doggie,” a bouncy, guitar driven track centered around wanting to secretly rescue their neighbor’s dog from an abusive owner, or on album highlight “Evil Sin,” which tackles the memory of drummer/bassist Konnor Ervin getting robbed.
But through all of this, Rausch kept his passion in his band, if even for nothing more than to - in his own words - have an excuse to keep hanging out with his brother and best friends. “I have to keep Shy Boys alive to have a regular excuse to hang out with them,” says Collin. “To keep the band alive, I have to write songs. To be able to travel with my buddies, there has to be a new record.”
There is an old term that’s kicked around in country music called a “blood harmony” - in which two people in the same blood line, usually siblings, harmonize with one another in real time. Perhaps that is Shy Boys’ magic touch, putting them just a notch above all the other angels out there in the indie rock choir, and it makes sense, though no longer practicing evangelicals, Collin and Kyle grew up singing besides their parents in their church choir, so their keen sense of harmony is nothing new to them, but instead a life practice devoted to the voice as an instrument.
The result is Bell House, and the result is beautiful. There is something sensitive to the touch about this album, which is perhaps another way of saying that, well - Shy Boys are indeed Shy Boys. I envision the band as a solid unit, with each moving part as an equal. There is a heavy sense of family in everything they do both, literally and figuratively. Bruce Springsteen’s 1980 song “Highway Patrolman” always seems to come to mind;
“Yeah me and Franky out laughing and drinking, Nothing feels better than blood on blood.”