Show Info

Fruition

Wooly's Presents:

Fruition

American Babies

Sun, February 19, 2017

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

Wooly's

Des Moines, IA

$12.00 - $15.00

This event is all ages

Fruition
Fruition
The first time they ever made music together, Fruition's three lead singer/songwriters discovered that their voices naturally blended into stunning three-part harmony. Eight years after that impromptu busking session, the Portland, Oregon-based quintet has grown from a rootsy, string-centric outfit to a full-fledged rock band with an easy but powerful grasp of soul, blues, and British Invasion era pop. On their new album Labor of Love, Fruition shows the complete force of their newly expanded and electrified sound, matching their more daring musicality with sophisticated, melody-minded songcraft. With Anderson, Asebroek, and Naja trading vocal duties and offering up their own singular brand of gutsy yet graceful songwriting, Fruition infuse each track on Labor of Love with timeless urgency and three-part harmonies that never fail to enthrall. The follow-up to their 2013 album Just One of Them Nights, Labor of Love came to life over the course of a year-long process of exploring new sonic terrain that included everything from Phil Spector-esque pop to dreamy psychedelia to Motown-inspired soul. " In the past our approach was always to just get in the studio and get it done, but for this one we decided we were going to take all the time in the world to make the album great," says Anderson. Teaming up with engineer Justin Phelps (Amanda Palmer, Jolie Holland, Chuck Prophet), Fruition self-produced Labor of Love and mined major inspiration from the inventive precision of longtime Beatles producer George Martin." This is the first album where we made a point of bringing out the character of each song to the fullest," says Thompson, who helmed the mixing of the album. " With our previous albums we tended to treat each song the same, but this time we really went all the way with whatever sound we were going for." Despite pushing into so many disparate directions, Labor of Love emerges as a wholly unified album that subtly imparts the sense of being swept along on a journey. That unity' s got much to do with an open-hearted spirit that sets in from the first notes of the dobro, mandolin and electric guitar driven title track, carries on to the sleepy soul of " Santa Fe," then unfolds into the beautifully epic balladry of " The Meaning." Another key factor in the album' s journey-like feel: Fruition' s ingenious use of between-song transitions, such as the Brazilian-style percussion that lifts Labor of Love from the breezy R&B of " Above the Line" to the joyful worldbeat-folk of " The Way That I Do." " We brought in a local band called Tapwater one night and enlisted their samba line," recalls Asebroek. " They taught us all the drum parts and about ten of us formed a whole drumline, which was just a really fun and unique experience for the band." Though Anderson, Asebroek, and Naja each bring a distinct sensibility and boldly nuanced lyricism to their respective songs, a mood of warm melancholy instills much of Labor of Love." A common theme for all three songwriters is trying to embrace being out on the road all the time, but also feeling like you' re missing out on the everyday lifestyle that most people get to have," says Leonard. Embedded within that tension is a wistfulromanticism that imbues many of the album' s songs. " Most of the love songs are very much about those rare moments of getting to be with the people you love," says
Anderson. " And then other songs are about coming back to the people you love, and trying to deal with the strange ways things change because of being apart." The band chose Labor of Love' s title to reflect that balance of sacrifice and satisfaction, Naja points out. " We don' t sleep nearly enough and we' re away all the time and we do work really hard," she says, " but that' s our job, and it' s pretty much the best job in the world." All near-lifelong musicians, the members of Fruition came to Portland from varied corners of the country and gradually crossed paths by way of their adopted hometown' s music scene. " Mimi and Kellen were going to busk one day and I went along with them, ' cause that' s what we always did to pay for that night' s dinner and drinks," says Anderson. " So we started playing and just instantly nailed these three-part harmonies, to the point where we' d get done with a song and burst out laughing at how good it sounded." The magic of those harmonies ended up proving instrumental in rounding out the rest of the band. " The first time I ever played with them, we were jamming in a friend' s attic and the harmonies surrounded me," says Thompson, who joined Fruition in 2011. " I had goosebumps for an hour afterward, and I decided right then I was quitting my other band and moving to Portland." Releasing their debut EP Hawthorne Hoedownin 2008, Fruition devoted the coming years to relentlessly writing and performing, The band moved from busking on the street, to scraping their way onto the lower levels of festival lineups, to opening tours for bands like ALO and Greensky Bluegrass and onward to being invited to play bigger festivals with ever bigger billing on those lineups. Last year saw them appear at Bonnaroo, Northwest String Summit and Telluride Bluegrass where Rolling Stone cited their artful choice of covers and " raucous originals filled with heartfelt lyrics and stadium-worthy energy." This year will see them share a Red Rocks bill with JJ Grey and Mofro and The Infamous Stringdusters, along with a full headline tour of the United States. That breadth of touring experience has steadily reshaped the band and ultimately allowed them to achieve a sound they' ve long aspired toward. " A few of the songs on the new album actually came from years ago, in an era when we were much more of a string band," says Thompson. " We' d imagined the songs in a particular way but didn' t have the ability or experience to get them where we wanted to be—we didn' t even own the right instruments." But despite broadening their repertoire, a certain spirited simplicity still forms the heart of Fruition. " We all tend to write on acoustic guitar and let things start in the same stripped-down, folky sort of way that we always did," says Naja. " So where the songs come from hasn' t really changed much at all. What' s different is where we let them go from there."
American Babies
American Babies
As part of the upcoming Epic Tour From East to West we are throwing four Masquerade Balls of Light & Dark in Boulder, CO (10/22), Chicago, IL (10/29), New York, NY (11/5) and Mill Valley, CA (11/18). For these four performances we ask that attendees dress in black and white and wear Masquerade Masks of their choosing. "A group of our fans in Rhode Island organized a group of people to wear masks similar to the characters from the cover of our "Epic Battle" album cover to a show, and we just loved it," says Tom. "It was super cool to play to an audience that was dressed up like that, and we wanted to expand on the concept."

The band will also be putting on their musical masquerades for these performances and performing the music of Radiohead in Boulder, The Beatles in Chicago, David Bowie's Blackstar album in New York, and The Dead (with a Very special guest) in Mill Valley for the 11/18 show (11/19's show will be a two set American Babies performance). These themes "just felt right to pair with these cities and venues", explains Tom, and "working on and rehearsing these songs has already been incredible, we can't wait for the show."

American Babies defies easy categorization. The Philadelphia-based band shapeshifts between Americana, psych-tinged indie rock and classic rock—leading them to spots opening for Bruce Hornsby, Greensky Bluegrass, the New Mastersounds and the Felice Brothers, as well as appearances at Gathering Of The Vibes, Electric Forest, Bonnaroo and the Allman Brothers-founded Peach Festival.

With such a chameleonic existence, it's unsurprising that American Babies founder/principal member Tom Hamilton's guiding creative principle is very simple: He doesn't like to repeat himself artistically. For the multi-instrumentalist, this mindset stems from a deep-seated need to always keep pushing himself as a musician—to delve into different lyrical themes and musical detours, and to explore potentially uncomfortable and unfamiliar emotional places.

"After you stop writing songs about standard things, then you're left with who you really are as an artist," he says. "Maybe you have to dig deeper into yourself, and talk about some shit that maybe you don't really feel comfortable talking about—or that you're not even ready to talk about. But that's what you're left with, if you keep challenging yourself.

"For me, that's where I am I my career. I'm trying to find the deeper things inside, and to start scratching those itches and opening up those doors that I didn't even really know were there."

Hamilton certainly dug deep when he and musical collaborator Peter Tramo started writing American Babies' fourth studio album, An Epic Battle Between Light And Dark. The record ended up evolving into an introspective collection that's a "meditation on mood," Hamilton says. "A meditation on dealing with having a hard time. Dealing with that constant struggle of confidence and doubt, that struggle of depression, anxiety and comfort."

The impetus for these themes was the sudden August 2014 death of Robin Williams, whose approach to comedy and acting—specifically, his penchant for improvisation and a dislike of repeating material—resonated strongly with Hamilton. "I consider myself a survivor of depression—I got through my late teens and twenties in spite of it, basically," he says. "When Robin Williams passed away, that was a heavy, heavy thing for myself. Topically, we started to explore dealing with depression and what a common thing it is these days. It was something that really hit home."

Hamilton admits the weightiness of this topic at first gave him pause—"Talking about mental illness and how we've experienced it or have dealt with it in others is a pretty fucking heavy thing. I wondered, 'Is that really a road I want to go down?'"—but once he and Tramo finished the album's first two songs, the War on Drugs-meets-Springsteen surge "Synth Driver," and the synthesizer-stacked, disco-tinged pop tune "Oh Darling," he knew they were on the right track.

"'Synth Driver' and 'Oh Darling' had two very unique grooves to them," Hamilton says. "That was the first marker of success for us. They have these really cool drum feels that affect you viscerally. These songs just opened the floodgates for the rest of the record, basically, and gave us direction as far as where we were going with it, sonically and lyrically."

Indeed, An Epic Battle Between Light And Dark is a dense record predicated on unexpected sonic detours. In addition to its '80s influences, "Oh Darling" boasts eerie, soulful harmonies and a keening guitar solo reminiscent of Pink Floyd; "What Does It Mean To Be" is an exquisite example of Bowie-esque glam-funk; and "Bring It In Close" possesses a languid, jazzy cabaret vibe. The record's arrangements, meanwhile, masterfully stitch together disparate influences: The brisk "Fever Dreams" starts and ends with horn-peppered twang-rock—but boasts a sparse, pedal steel-augmented bridge that's straight-up vintage country—while the instrumental "Not In A Million Years" segues from zoned-out psychedelic rhythms and grooves into a hard-charging coda with firecracker-reminiscent electronic effects.

Despite its diverse sounds, An Epic Battle Between Light And Dark is a remarkably cohesive record. Hamilton attributes this to the fact that most of the record was created in one place, Philadelphia's Lorelei Studios—a space that he and Tramo had spent well over a year updating with new gear and a customized layout—and to the album's underlying swagger. "Most of the tunes on the record, the grooves all feel pretty good, and they're all different. They all share a familiarity of making your body want to move a little bit. For me personally, that's a sign of a record I want to listen to."

Hamilton comes by his love of the groove honestly: For starters, he's been drumming since he was five years old. But since 2013, he's also played in the Grateful Dead tribute band Joe Russo's Almost Dead, while in 2014, he was invited to join Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann's new band, Billy & The Kids. For good measure, Hamilton has also played with the Dead's Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart "in various combinations" in recent times, and he was a founding member of beloved jamtronica pioneers Brothers Past.

Being immersed in the Dead universe and songbook in particular had a profound impact on An Epic Battle Between Light And Dark—namely, Hamilton was adamant that the album didn't reflect his extracurricular musical activities. "I didn't want to come out and make a record that sounded like I'd been playing the Grateful Dead's music for the last two years," he says. "If you want to honor somebody that you really look up to or love, or somebody that influenced you, don't imitate them. That's the most insulting thing you could do.

"I don't want to sit there and try to sound like Jerry Garcia, for example—I want to try to forge my own path and to innovate in my own way."

Indeed, Hamilton initially formed American Babies in 2007 as a reaction to prevailing music trends—specifically, the live electronic music boom. He tapped his drummer pal, Joe Russo, to collaborate on American Babies' self-titled 2008 debut, an acoustic-leaning affair indebted to folky singer-songwriters.

In the meantime, Brothers Past had broken up. As a result, he decided to take American Babies more seriously as a creative outlet, releasing two albums, 2011's Flawed Logic and 2013's Knives And Teeth, recorded with an ever-evolving cast of musicians.

"The thing with American Babies I set up from the get-go, is that it would be a rotating cast of people," Hamilton explains. "It's not about who's playing—not even myself. It's about the tunes and the end result, and the record from front to back. I wanted that freedom to be there to change sounds and to evolve, so you don't get stuck where people are like, 'Well, I thought you were this kind of band, so you should play this kind of music or wear these kinds of clothes.'

"The word 'should' is something I've been trying to avoid for the last seven-to-ten years," he adds. "That's a cancer to creativity. I don't want to 'should' do anything."

Hamilton is especially effusive about his current collaborators, which include guitarist/vocalist Justin Mazer, acoustic guitarist/vocalist Raina Mullen and drummer Al Smith. "This current incarnation is wonderful—it's very open-minded people that are always into saying, 'Yes, let's try it,' as opposed to saying no right off the bat," he enthuses. "That's very important to me. I want to be in positive environments creatively, where the mantra is, 'Fuck it, let's try it.'"

By having an ever-changing lineup and adventurous sonic approach, American Babies is a remarkably fluid band which floats comfortably between scenes and genres. That's just how Hamilton likes it.

"Bruce Lee invented his own form of martial arts, called Jeet Kune Do," he says. "The point of it is there's no form to it. There's no set ways of standing; there's no set ways of attacking or defending. It takes the shape of whatever the moment is. And that's what I want the American Babies to be, and that's the way the American Babies are. Wherever the creative itch is at the moment, that's what we are. That's what we do. And that's what we sound like."
Venue Information:
Wooly's
504 E. Locust St,
Des Moines, IA, 50309
http://woolysdm.com/