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Fruit Bats – Mouthfuls

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That’s March in Ohio for you: I walked out the door into a stiff, damp wind-slap of about 35 degrees this afternoon and it was hard to believe that this was the same planet as last night.

We’ve had a pretty crazy time of it lately: the war has weighed upon our heares and demanded much time and attention, my mother-in-law has been staying with us for the last couple of weeks (and has moved all of her worldly goods into our house – she is trying to sell her condo, is visiting a series of Buddhist retreats over the next several months and doesn’t want to be materially burdened), my son seems to have activities or friends over ALL THE TIME, and we have a 3 year-old.

Early last night my son was off to his mother’s for the weekend, the 3 year-old was taking a late nap, my mother-in-law was off to visit some relatives for a week, and it was about 75 balmy, breezy degrees out. My wife and I set up a boom box out on the back deck, fired up the grill, opened a couple of Dortmunder Golds and settled down to take in our new backyard for the first time since we moved last November – it snowed a few days after we moved and it has been a L-O-N-G, brittle winter ever since.

Sitting on our new deck, smelling the steaks, sausages, zukes, and corn sacrificing themselves on the grill, looking at our own grass, our own trees (still naked, but a tree is a tree), and feeling a gentle warm zephyr like an advance scout for summer was enough to make the world seem a place you’d enjoy living in.

And dancing lightly, organically, tunefully on that breeze was the new Fruit Bats CD Mouthfuls, a bit of neo-’60s acoustic psychedelia that could not have fit the mood better had the Fruit Bats been joining us for dinner. Sometimes everything just comes into focus and you wouldn’t change a thing. And then the next day it’s 35 degrees, but that’s another story.

Here’s a bit of Fruit Bats bio since I haven’t said much about them, other than that they’re great and will be a staple on our deck on all such perfect days in the coming months:

    Fruit Bats are from Chicago, Illinois. The line up is a bit nebulous, but revolves around Eric Johnson (guitars, keys, songwriting) and Gillian Lisee (keys, bass, mandolin). Eric sings most of the leads, everybody else sings with him.

    Fruit Bats started out in the mid-nineties as young Eric Johnson (not the virtuoso guitar player nor the Archers of Loaf guy) sat in his bedroom like so many other young people at that time and discovered the joys of the 4-track machine. He went on to form the short lived band I Rowboat, whose Velvet Underground-ish sounds managed to win no more than a small Chicago fanbase. One day Johnson and two other Rowboaters, guitarist Dan Strack and drummer Brian Belval decided to dip their collective toes in folk music. This side project was dubbed Fruit Bats, named after a type of large, flying, fruit-eating tropical mammal. Recordings were made, tapes were dubbed, and all was forgotten.

    A couple of years down the road, I Rowboat was dissolving, and Johnson found himself playing banjo and guitar in almost-legendary folk weirdos Califone. Spurred on by Califone/Perishable Records honchos Tim Rutili and Ben Massarella, Johnson and Strack set out to finally record the album they thought was destined to link The Holy Modal Rounders and Rumors-era Fleetwood Mac. That record was the Fruit Bats debut, Echolocation, produced by Brian Deck (Red Red Meat, Modest Mouse, Souled American, etc…) at Clava Sound.

    Two years and six national tours later, amidst numerous line-up shifts, the band found its sound evolving from bizarro folk-rock into lush cinematic pop music. This caught the ear of the good folks at Seattle’s fabled Sub Pop records, who swooped the Fruit Bats up in late 2002 for a recording deal.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.cerulean.blog.com/ Cerulean

    That’s well written. Fruit Bats is an amusing name and their album title is too.