The Bowery Ballroom
Bad Books (Featuring Kevin Devine & Manchester Orchestra)

Bad Books (Featuring Kevin Devine & Manchester Orchestra)

The Front Bottoms, Weatherbox

Wed, February 20, 2013

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

The Bowery Ballroom

New York, NY

$17 advance / $20 day of show

Sold Out

This event is 16 and over

Bad Books
Bad Books
The second collaboration between singer/songwriter Kevin Devine and Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra, "Bad Books II" finds these two extraordinary tunesmiths untethered from their respective brands, joining forces to reach new stylistic and emotional terrain. Accompanied by members of Manchester Orchestra -- with guitarist Robert McDowell also producing and keyboardist/percussionist Chris Freeman once again supplying distinctive album art -- Hull and Devine offer up a series of magnificently etched songs which light upon everything from anthemic stadium rock ("The After Party") and reflective balladry ("42") to energetic bubblegum ("No Sides"), gloriously baroque psychedelia ("Petite Mort"), and whistling big-beat pop ("Forest Whitaker"). The real-time sound of a group of talented friends synthesizing into something altogether more cohesive and accessible, "Bad Books II" reveals a remarkable new band in the truest sense, emboldened and at ease enough to set out together for places unknown.

"Bad Books is my therapeutic outlet," says Hull, "a place I can go and do whatever I want in the moment. Somehow, amazingly, it works out."

"There's an openness and a playfulness to it," Devine says, "but it's still pretty serious music. It's a weird combination -- we take the songs very seriously but we let ourselves loosen up about the results in a way that's different from either of our more personal projects. In a weird way, that allows for us to go certain places we might not go on our own."

The fast friendship between the Brooklyn-based Devine and Atlanta's own Manchester Orchestra began in 2007 and has since included multiple tours and a 2010 split EP in which each covered one of the other's songs. The more collaborative Bad Books followed later that year, featuring individually penned songs from Hull and Devine, backed by Hull's fellow Orchestra members (including the crack rhythm section of bassist Jonathan Corley and drummer Ben Homola). A number of well-received live dates followed, mostly acoustic, as well as further joint tours in other assorted permutations.

In January 2012, Devine hit the Manchesters' Favorite Gentlemen Studios in Atlanta for another go-around. Having made the first Bad Books album in just under a week, the musicians decided to stick with the system and work as rapidly and instinctively as possible. They knocked out tracks at a brisk pace, recording most songs in under a day.

"It's an exhilarating feeling, " Hull says, "making something so fast. You just wonder the whole time if it's good. There was a moment when we got the mixes back. We were like, 'Holy shit, we just made something that's pretty cohesive and pretty solid in just eight days.'"

The gloves-off sessions were marked by their openness, vibrancy and democratic spirit. Songs like Devine's majestic "Never Stops" were deconstructed and promptly rebuilt, the players uniting to impel the music in hitherto unconsidered directions.

"We were a little less precious about stuff," Devine says. "Actually we were a lot less precious. Any idea we followed. No stone was unturned. Our attitude was, if it works, it works, and if it doesn't, well, okay, we just won't use it."

Which of course is not to say that the songwriting on "Bad Books II" is anything less than the result of great care and craftsmanship by both Hull and Devine. Songs like Hull's "Lost Creek" and Devine's knockout rocker, "No Rewards," touch on matters profoundly personal to both songwriters, tackling big themes with passion, precision, poignancy, and power. Hull further displays his mastery of lyric narrative on the elegantly articulated tour de force, "Pyotr," a true account of Russia's Peter the Great placing his wife's lover's head in a glass jar and then ordering the adulterous Catherine to visit it daily, told from the twin perspectives of the Tsar and the head itself.

As before, each songwriter brought in material that seemed to fit the Bad Books project. Whereas their first album essentially gathered five fully formed songs each from both writers, Hull and Devine were now comfortable enough to workshop together, allowing each other's expertise and sensibility to inform the finished product.

"I've never had anyone do that with me before," Hull says. "I've always written everything. I've never asked for any help. But this time, I asked. I said to Kevin, this is what I want to say here, how can I say it better? And he was able to help me, which is cool. I think my pride probably up until this point wouldn't have allowed that to happen, but to be honest, I don't really care anymore."

"There's so much delicate ego involved," Devine says, "you can feel very vulnerable. I think it speaks to how much we relate and respect each other that now it seems to have developed into letting even the most sensitive part of what we do be up for grabs."

Hull and Devine's six-year friendship is manifested throughout the album by their intimate, often magical harmonies. Having begun experimenting with vocal layering while touring the first Bad Books record, the two friends made a conscious effort to bring that intriguing influence to the new album. The close voices on tracks like "42" and "Pyotr" superlatively express and counterpoint their increasing familiarity.

"Our relationship is built on these heavy talks," Hull says. "We both have different views on things but there's kind of a thread that runs through our beliefs. He's a wise guy and there's a lot that I can learn from him."

That kind of camaraderie marked the recording of Devine's stunning "Ambivalent Peaks," an intensely felt song "about navigating the depths -- or the shallows -- of your self-understanding, of who you are and why you're in the relationships you're in." Spurred by the subject matter, the session somehow evolved into an expansive "band therapy session" in which all involved divulged their own private takes on love, romance, and the whole damn thing.

"It was a pretty beautiful moment," Devine says. "Everyone was sharing openly. I know it sounds a little hoary or anti-rock 'n' roll, but it was something that deepened an already deep connection."

Justifiably proud of what they've accomplished together, Bad Books plan to continue to develop their union with considerable touring. Full-scale itineraries are currently being planned for North America, Europe, and Australia.

"This record deserves to be worked more than the last one," Hull says. "It doesn't matter what band you're in, if you create something that deserves to be worked by touring, we should try and push this as much as we can."

"We've made a record that stands up favorably against anything either of us have made on our own," Devine says. "I think it has the potential to connect with people who don't like either of us a whole lot. I think it could turn some heads."

As inspired, expressive, and fully realized as anything in either artist's outstanding back catalogues, "Bad Books II" reverberates with boundless excitement and artistic fervor. While all involved intend to continue their day jobs, Bad Books is now very much a going concern, "a second color that we paint in," according to Devine.

"We're both continuing to grow," he says, "and this band is part of that growth. I think what happened on this record will actually end up informing what happens with each of us and the records we do next."

"Bad Books became a band," Hull says. "When we started, it was really just Kevin and I coming in with five songs each because we wanted to do something together. There was no real plan. Now I don't ever see us stopping."
The Front Bottoms
The Front Bottoms
What can we say about The Front Bottoms? We know we love them: a punk band that uses acoustic guitar, indie-rock dance grooves, Springsteen-y keyboard lines (this they might deny). It’s hook-filled… it’s anthemic… it’s confessional. Maybe Joni Mitchell by way of Green Day? They must have heard some Replacements along the way, and it seems like what Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers did for the Boston suburbs these guys are doing for Bergen County, NJ. But they still leave us scratching our heads. Just what the hell have the Front Bottoms alchemized?

With the wonders of the internet and their obsessive gigging, they are now known from New Jersey to…Spain (?) where director Pablo Nieto found them online and asked to create a video for “Maps.” The video features Williamsburg, a farm (where Mathew sometimes works), and that aforementioned Econoline as well as some “loveable” hand puppets. Word of mouth and great reviews has them fielding calls from promoters all over the tri-state area.

New Jersey’s The Star-Ledger called them “one of the leading lights of the New Jersey pop underground. The group’s amalgam of punk, guitar-folk, lo-fi experimentalism, imagist-inspired poetry (drawing heavily on Sella’s upbringing in the Jersey suburbs) and playful humor (that betrays the singer’s youth) has caught discriminating ears on both sides of the Hudson.”
Weatherbox
Weatherbox
It would be reasonable if you thought Weatherbox imploded some time ago. After all, the San Diego band has cycled through more than a dozen members in its half-decade existence and has kept a relatively low profile since the release of their last LP, 2009's The Cosmic Drama, and subsequent departure from Doghouse Records.

Frontman Brian Warren has since scaled that mountain and regrouped with a supporting cast that includes longtime friends (including two vintage Weatherbox members) and a new label, Youth Conspiracy Records. Together they will release Follow The Rattle of the Afghan Guitar, a six-song EP that brings you to the entrance of a tunnel, hands you a few matches, and shoves you into the dark.

Recorded this spring in multiple locations in California, Follow The Rattle of the Afghan Guitar finds Warren & Co. returning to the colossal pop-rock that made 2007's American Art so likable, while keeping the frontman's expanded lyrical ideas from the psych-folky Cosmic Drama intact.

Exploring themes of alienation, white privilege and the general insanity of our times, Follow The Rattle Of The Afghan Guitar is esoteric, challenging and thought-provoking, while still remaining hook-driven, innovative and exciting. The band hurls itself from a neutral space between pop and progressive, between vague and specific, ultimately leaving it up to the listeners to figure it out for themselves.

Weatherbox howls from the cave in some alien tongue, but the message is loud and clear.
Venue Information:
The Bowery Ballroom
6 Delancey St
New York, NY, 10002
http://www.boweryballroom.com/