Robert writes about rock & pop music, and vinyl record collecting.
As we continue our series about "bird" and "animal" group names and people in rock and roll history, let's explore some of the newer bands that have made a name for themselves.
Before Chicago native, singer/songwriter Andrew Bird made a splash in the pop music arena with his 2007 release "Armchair Apocrypha" and more recently 2009's Noble Beast," he honed his musical skills in a dizzying array of musical endeavors.
Birds' musical talents include competency in violin, whistling, guitar, mandolin and glockenspiel. Classically trained, he graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor's Degree in violin performance in 1996. He cut his first solo effort that same year with the cut "Music Of Hair," which showcases his immense talent and violin skills as well as his fascination with both American and European folk traditions.
Bird has also played with the big band-influenced Squirrel Nut Zippers, appearing on three of their albums ("Hot" "Sold Out" "Perennial Favorites) between 1996-1998. Assuming the role as a band leader, Bird formed Andrew Bird's Bowl Of Fire, a group that relied heavily on traditional folk, pre-war jazz and swing and released the albums "Thrills On Rykodisc" (1997) and "Oh! The Grandeur" (1998). In 2001, the group's third LP, "The Swimming Hour" changed gears and saw the band lean more towards more of a rock and roll approach and although the album received critical acclaim, the band failed to attain commercial success. The band ultimately broke up in 2003 and Bird reinvented himself as a solo artist, progressing to a more eclectic indie/folk sound. Early 2003 brought the release of the LP, "Weather Systems," and Bird debuted on Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe imprint in 2005 with "Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs."
Bird continues to impress his fans and critics alike with his ever-changing improvisational skills during live performances and is adapting well to his new found fame.
A group gaining considerable amounts of attention is the indie rock band, the Brooklyn-based group called Grizzly Bear. They have captured the ears of music lovers with an eclectic mix of acoustics and superbly blended harmonies.
The group initially began as a home recording project of Edward Droste and the music took on a new life with the help of multi-instrumentalist Christopher Bear (a Chicago native), whose diverse talents added substance to the homemade recording; resulting in the debut release for the band with 2004's "Horn Of Plenty." Originally released with little fanfare, the album quickly gained attention in New York's underground music scene by word of mouth and by the band's relentless touring.
Soon, Chris Taylor joined the band (reeds and electronics) and Daniel Rossen provided expert guitar and vocals to the mix. In 2006, the indie quartet released their first album "Yellow House" (named for Droste's mother's house where it was recorded) and the LP was named one of the top albums of the year by the New York Times and Pitchfork Media. The band has also released "Friend," an EP that features outtakes, alternative versions of songs. Their newest release Veckatimest (May 2009) is receiving rave reviews and expect to hear more from this up and coming indie band in the future.
Deerhunter is an American band from Atlanta, Georgia and are now comprised of members Bradford Cox, Moses Archuleta, Josh Fauver and Lockett Pundt (the group's first bass player, Justin Bosworth died from head injuries in a skateboarding accident). They describe their music as "ambient punk" but incorporate a wide variety of musical genres into the mix including noise rock, art rock and post-punk.
Their first LP, "Turn It Up Faggot" was influenced by the death of their friend and bandmate Bosworth (the liner notes dedicate the album to him) and was very difficult to make for all the band members. Cox soon enlisted his high school friend Lockett Pundt to join the group.
Deerhunter recorded their second album "Cryptograms" in November of 2005 which was released in January of 2007. It was more of a subdued effort than the debut. In May of the same year, the band released an EP called "Fluorescent Grey," which had been recorded in July of 2006) and in the same month released a 7" single called "Whirlyball," which was available only at Criminal Records and the single also doubled as a ticket to one of their shows.
The band lost guitarist Colin Mee in August of 2007 because of conflicting scheduling problems, but he rejoined for their autumn tour.
The group's third album "Microcastle" was released in October of 2008 and was co-released with "Weird Era Cont;" a bonus album. Colin Mee left the band again and was replaced by Whitney Petty (who consequently left in February 2009).
The band, whose influences include David Bowie, Brian Eno and Echo and the Bunnymen (among others) are well-known for their fiercely provocative live shows (Cox has worn sundresses and has performed with fake blood smeared over his face and hands) and they have toured with Nine Inch Nails, TV on the Radio, Liars and the Smashing Pumpkins, among others. Look for great things from the band, their music and spirit have just begun to capture listener's ears.
Andrew Bird Tidbits:
Andrew Bird was born in Chicago on July 11, 1973. Growing up, Bird was surrounded by classical music and as a child; he was interested in Irish tunes and bluegrass. Bird has stated that, at 22, he found a lot of indie rock and pop music repetitive and boring, but now understands it better. He currently splits his time between Chicago and a farm near the town of Elizabeth in northwest Illinois.
Andrew Bird is famous for improvising and reworking his songs during live performance, as can be seen in his series of self-released live compilations entitled Fingerlings, Fingerlings 2, and Fingerlings 3, the first of which was released in 2002.
Five of his songs - "Banking on a Myth" from The Mysterious Production of Eggs, a medley of "I" from Weather Systems and "Imitosis" from Armchair Apocrypha, and "Skin" and "Weather Systems" from Weather Systems - have all been licensed for use by Marriott Residence Inn.
Grizzly Bear Tidbits:
Grizzly Bear is: Daniel Rossen (songwriting/guitar/vocals/keyboards), Ed Droste (songwriting/guitar/vocals/keyboards), Chris Taylor (bass/woodwinds/electronics/vocals) and Christopher Bear (drums/vocals).
In summer 2008, Grizzly Bear opened for Radiohead on the second leg of their US tour. In Toronto, on their last date of the tour together, Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood spoke of his love for Grizzly Bear, on stage, calling them his favorite band.
An album of Droste's early demo recordings, Sorry for the Delay, was released in 2006 as the band finished up recording Yellow House
On March 1, 2008, Grizzly Bear performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
Also in 2007, the band released Friend, an EP which features outtakes, alternate versions of songs, and covers of Grizzly Bear material done by Cansei de Ser Sexy (CSS), Band of Horses, and Atlas Sound.
As with their first album, "Cryptograms" also had a dedication inside the album's liner notes, this time to a friend of Cox's, Bradley Ira Harris, a heroin addict who died in 2005.
While touring the Microcastle album in the UK, Cox booked an evening in a studio and recorded what would become the On Platts Eyott cassette. This was released in two batches of 100 copies each; an edition of pink cassettes was given out to competition winners by his record label and orange cassettes were sold at a special Halloween concert in Atlanta on the 31st of October 2008.
On Friday, April 17 2009, popular indie music website Pitchfork Media announced that Deerhunter would be releasing a new EP, entitled Rainwater Cassette Exchange, due out on May 18th, 2009 digitally and June 8th, 2009 on CD.