SO YOU KNOW
Just to get this out of the way, yes, the New York duo Band of Lovers are in a romantic relationship, and yes, their 2015 debut full-length album, “The Coast,” is at least in part about that relationship. But this isn’t Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” we’re talking about.
What singer/guitarist Dave Strumfeld and singer/ukulele player Sabina Beachdell have actually created is an album that bursts with hope, optimism and joy. Musically, it’s damn near irresistible. The duo’s intertwined vocal harmonies are precise and exuberant, the sighing strings are an orchestral-pop lover’s dream, and the songs tumble one after the other through addictive choruses and effervescent arrangements.
The lyrics, by Beachdell, don’t have an ounce of cynicism in them. Even in the sadder moments, there’s always a glimmer that things will get better. It’s unabashedly sentimental, and the album makes no apologies for it. In many ways, it’s the kind of guileless, romantic indie-pop that they don’t make any more, at least not since the early days of Belle & Sebastian.
The album’s bright disposition (and its subject matter) comes both from Beachdell and Strumfeld’s relationship and from their first extensive tour after the release of an EP in 2013.
“Most of those songs were written in the first six months to a year of us being on the road,” Beachdell says. “And there was a very strong hopeful optimism during that time. We really embraced it and lived it day to day. So all the songs came out of that hopeful place. In the songs, whenever something sad or painful happens, there’s still that hope.”
But she’s also quick to point out that the album isn’t necessarily an autobiography. “It’s kind of a blend of the story that we were living out and stories we were hearing from people we were meeting,” she says. “We heard a lot of stories on the road.”
The band is playing a show at the Spinning Jenny in Greer on Friday, along with local favorites Darby Wilcox, Annie Elie and Twin Courage, but rather than bringing along the four-piece string section, pianist and bass player on their album, Band of Lovers will play this show as a trio.
“Everything is stripped down,” Strumfeld says. “I play guitar, Sabine plays ukulele, and we’re touring with a drummer, so everything kind of comes down to how we can arrange those instruments, and three voices. There’s a lot of emphasis on the range and dynamics of those three instruments and what they can do. And it’s surprisingly full. I think the energy of the way we play it live, that covers anything that’s potentially taken away by not having the strings or the other instruments on the album.”
In fact, that approach is really a throwback to how the duo wrote the songs in the first place.
“The songs started acoustic, with just the two of us playing, so the heart of the songs is just the two of us.” Strumfeld says. “So whatever we add on top of that is a bed of music that surrounds and points at the melody and the lyrics. It changed more when we recorded the album because we had the opportunity to make it lush and full.”