Life Like is the Rosebuds‘ fourth release with Merge Records, who have loyally backed Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard‘s musical endeavors since the band’s inception. And the label must be proud of their husband and wife duo - Crisp and Howard are far from running out of ideas. So far the band’s collection spans from the industrial sounds of their lighthearted first release, The Rosebuds Make Out, to the melancholic sounds of their sophomore album, Birds Make Good Neighbors, before hitting hard on the their most controversial and political album to date, Night of the Furies, and finally stumbling upon the concept behind Life Like.
Their third and fourth releases are almost siblings born in the same year. “The records,” Crisp proclaimed, “are about one year apart. A little over one year, I guess. We released [Life Like] quickly because we were going to do a second tour for Night of the Furies, but ended up canceling to record instead.” And what they’ve laid down as their fourth release is anything but leftovers from their third. “I would say,” Kelly explained pensively, “they are totally different albums. They have completely different lyrical content,” she continued. “Everything about Life Like seems more wholesome. Night of the Furies is very political and dark. It’s heavy, and scary, and negative, and I guess it’s a dark record because it was recorded in a dark time. Life Like is more like a spring record,” she finished. “I guess we’re a weird band. We always have tons of material laying around. We’re like an art band. ‘What materials do we have that sound good together?’ we wonder. And our new album tackles every day questions. It’s less about metaphors of purity and has gotten more into terrestrial territory.”
And when Crisp claims they had things just “laying around,” she isn’t joking. One of the new tracks begins as a 7” recording of Howard’s own grandfather, away during wartime, who laid down a few words of comfort for Ivan’s grandmother, which he shipped her way. Howard found this treasure and turned it into the beautiful whistling tune they’ve affectionately named, “Hello Darling.”
The whole album seems to have an almost 1950s vibe to it. And upon suggestion that the 50s were anything but perfect, Crisp instantly agreed. “There are two sides of that era,” she said. “When I think of the 50s, I think of outsiders of 1950s poetry. I was reading a lot of 50s poetry when we wrote this record. And it must be there,” she wondered aloud. “It’s still here - that feeling that we’re up against something big and feel like there’s nothing we can do. In the 50s they must have felt this way, but didn’t talk about it. Well, with Life Like we’re talking about it a little bit.”
The pair is no stranger to what it feels like to struggle. “Creativity is a gift, obviously,” Crisp explained. “We look at creativity as something required; but still the main ingredient of an equation of time and energy, making the end result something worth while. Art is a great, great feeling. And I like staying busy,” she said. “But there is something romantic to be said about having to fight for time to write.”
Aside from finding inspiration in the beatnik poets of the 1950s, Howard and Crisp have found musical muses in people who just plain love music. “They come from everywhere. It changes all the time. Sometimes it’s not even music which inspires us. I mean, I read a story about a cave when we recorded our second album. It was called Snowy River, or Crystal River, or something, and anyway it looked like a frozen river of crystals. It was this beautiful story.”
Another source of motivation Crisp cites are the limits she and her husband have musically. “We’ve always looked at this band as an art project,” she recounted. “And me, I’m not trained. I play by ear and sometimes find out what my limitations are, then explore those technical limitations to make a good record. We can convey feelings, thoughts, and ideas and still entertain people. Just like someone can be a painter without having expensive paint and lessons. Painters who do that and do well are called ‘folk artists.’ We do well within our limitations, we’ve benefited from them.”
The duo’s latest album, Life Like, drops on Tuesday, October 7. Some particularly invigorating tracks, aside from those already mentioned, are the title track, “Cape Fear,” “Down to the Middle,” and “In the Backyards.” This album, along with the band’s three previous efforts, will be available on iTunes.