by Michele Zipkin
You never know when a new song might arise from an attempt to revisit an old one, but for Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp of the Rosebuds, that is exactly what sparked their latest record, Sand + Silence. This marks the sixth full-length from the North Carolinian duet, after they spent two years working on their own respective projects. They could not have come up with a more melodically engaging, stylistically eclectic collection of tunes from their rekindled partnership in songwriting.
Like many works of art, the initial inspiration may come quite haphazardly, and usually in the unlikeliest of places. Sand + Silence was born from a plan to reconfigure songs from 2011’s Loud Planes Fly Low and fashion them into a record. However, Howard had strayed from that path and haphazardly stumbled upon a new musical idea.
“I tried to work on old songs, but I sat down and wrote this,” Howard had said to Crisp. “He played the demo for ‘Blue Eyes,’ and I loved it,” Crisp says. “The freedom we had in scrapping an entire project and starting this album gave him enormous open creative space. That freedom is probably the most important element and it pervades every sound in every decision we made.”
All too appropriately, the motifs of spring and summertime pervade the record- seasons that symbolize revitalization, growth and fresh starts- a fine parallel to the way in which the new songs came about. Crisp described the freedom of tossing aside the old songs to embrace the new as having “…opened a window.”
To record this album built on the warm breeze of renewal, Howard and Crisp collaborated with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon as well as producer BJ Burton. “Our best guy team,” says Crisp. Vernon’s and Burton’s conceptions of intriguing melodies and textures coincide nicely with Howard and Crisp’s vision of what makes for a compelling, atmospheric song.
“Justin is brilliant…In every song, he knows what it is Ivan and I would find beautiful or interesting, and it makes him especially attuned to being creative with us,” Crisp says. Working with Burton has also proven to be a harmonious partnership. “BJ is a gemologist. He knows exactly how to find and showcase the tiny aesthetic ideas Ivan and I really adore,” she says.
Other players on Sand + Silence include Justin Vernon’s percussive collaborator Matt McCaughan, and bassist Nick Sanborn of indie folk band Sylvan Esso. Together, the six musicians have crafted an album that flaunts lush musical soundscapes, sprightly guitar riffs, and stories sung through haunting and hooky melodies.
Listen to the Rosebuds live at Boot and Saddle this Thursday night, sharing a bill with Jesse Merchant. The music starts at 8:30 pm.