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Fruit Bats Release ‘Gold Past Life’

Interview with Singer Eric D. Johnson

Photo: Courtesy Fruit Bats

Few things deliver more sensory satisfaction than great music or a fantastic meal. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club and underground restaurant pop-up the Coterie Club are ringing in Solstice Friday, June 21, with an evening that combines both of these pleasures. Celebrating the release of folk-rock band the Fruit Bats’ new album, Gold Past Life, the Coterie Club will present a preshow champagne reception and raw bar with a multicourse dinner and beverage pairing on SOhO’s patio.

Led by Chef Nick Bodden, the Coterie Club hosts its event-driven dinners in intimate locations. Bodden’s Michelin-starred kitchen experience showcases the beauty of S.B. produce and shines a light on the expanding arts scene as well. “Building relationships with venues and musicians is important to us,” Bodden said. Reflecting on the relationship between music and food, Bodden explained, “I think when you pull away all the layers, it comes down to the stimulation of the senses. It’s just raw human emotion. … It’s an instinctual sense of seeking out pleasure. It’s also just fun.”

The Independent caught up with the Fruit Bats’ singer/songwriter Eric D. Johnson in advance of the band’s album release soiree.

Photo: CourtesyFruit Bats

The Fruit Bats were formed in 1997, you were a member of the Shins for four years, and your seventh Fruit Bats album, Gold Past Life, is due out June 21. To what do you attribute your longevity?  I’ve been patient — or foolish (reckless?), depending on how you look at it. I’ve managed to just not stop. I think it’s got to be harder now to get started for a young singer/songwriter. I do feel pretty fortunate to have gotten a break in 2002 getting signed to Sub Pop. Fruit Bats never really got big, but getting to play in the Shins for a few years made it so that I could focus on music moving forward. I’ve been mega-lucky, and patient, and probably a little relentless.

Where did you get the name Gold Past Life from? Is there a theme of nostalgia to the album?  No, sort of the opposite of nostalgia! The song “Gold Past Life” is about rose-colored glasses, about yearning for things in the past that never really were. … It’s more about embracing right now. Which is kind of what the central theme of the record is: emotional displacement, fate, heartache … all the good stuff!

What is your songwriting process like?  I don’t really have one. I’m not super prolific, though lately a little more so. My songs can take a pretty long time. I carry around notes — some actual notes, some in my brain — with images, ideas of words. I’ll come up with some musical ideas and try some mumbling along. Sometimes you walk way down the wrong path and end up somewhere interesting. Sometimes you end up right where you intended to head. Every once in a while, I’ll write something in one big blast. Frequently my most popular fan-favorite songs are written that way. Folks can sense that immediacy. But some songs are intricate like tile murals.

How do you feel your sound has evolved over the years?  The first three records have some sort of world and mojo to them. But my writing and record-making was very cautious at that time. Tempos were slow, I was singing like I was trying not to stick out too much. I’ve gotten more confident, musically and otherwise. I started off as a bedroom recordist on a four track. My first records sound like I’m trying not to wake up the neighbors. Now I’m ready to wake them up.

Where do you find inspiration?  Anywhere! The world is a sad and beautiful place.


We’re thrilled you’re celebrating your record release in Santa Barbara. Do you have a connection to the area?  Nope, other than I live just down the road in L.A., and I love going to Santa Barbara. What’s not to like?

What can the audience expect from your show?  Full band playing medium loud, and me shooting emotional lasers out of my eyes at you.


4•1•1 | The Fruit Bats play SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Friday, June 21, at 9 p.m., following The Coterie Club: Solstice Pop Up Dinner and preshow reception starting at 6 p.m. Call 962-7776 or see sohosb.com.

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