Heading to River to River on Friday, July 20th at South Street Seaport? Bwog staffer Lucy Tang gets the back story on headliner Bishop Allen.
Bishop Allen may just epitomize indie pop at its shiniest. Upbeat songs with jangling guitars and fervent hooks shape them to be a fitting summer soundtrack. Fortunately, their sophomore album, The Broken String sees its release during the dog days of summer. This local favorite with an Ivy League pedigree will kick off their nationwide tour as part of the summer-long River to River concert series.
In 2006, Bishop Allen set upon the difficult goal of releasing an EP a month, leaving them to churn out about four albums of material in a year. For loyal fans, the upcoming The Broken String will sound familiar, with many songs from various EPs reworked.
When reminiscing about the EP project,Christian Rudder remembers the band rushing to finish the December EP; it was only a mere two hours before he left for a long vacation that Bishop Allen was finally able to put the EP project to rest. He admits the process “was definitely really stressful, but it’s a good feeling to be getting a lot of work done. Tough but good.” However, with half a year spanning the completion, Rudder laughs ruefully says, “I miss it now.”
After self-releasing their debut, Charm School, and the subsequent twelve EPs, Bishop Allen is finally working with a label, Dead Oceans, on The Broken String. For Rudder, the transition from self-reliance to a label has been strange, but “better, for sure, different only in a good way. We’re their main priority right now. They’re working just for us.
During the four years since Charm School, Bishop Allen has certainly grown a lot. Though they maintain their signature catchy melodies and lyrics, The Broken String showcases a much fuller and polished sound. Rudder recognizes this change, “Definitely first and foremost, we use a lot more instruments,” as evidenced by the xylophones, horns, and strings that pepper the album. In addition, the band members are now “stronger players, I’m a better guitar player.”
Now with a label, the band can also afford some perks, even splurging for real drums, Rudder proudly declares that “drumming is vastly improved. In Charm School, we used sequenced drums for almost every single song.”
Despite Bishop Allen’s usual performances in intimate venues, such as the monthly EP release shows at Joe’s Pub, he is confident in their South Street Seaport debut, “Our drummer and bass player, they’re a lot different. I can see them filling up more space with the way they play.” The band is ready to adapt their whimsical sounds for a larger stages (and audiences) as Rudder promises that even the tender “Butterfly Nets” will be “a little bit more rocking.”