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THE BROOK & THE BLUFF
The Brook & The Bluff is perfectly poised between the past and the present, at an unexpected crossroads where indie rock and folk-rock have found new frontiers and possibilities online. Their new album Bluebeard feels like a modern classic, shaped by the past but very much of and for right now. The first song from the album titled “Long Limbs” is a song about the highs and lows of being in love and the work that goes into a relationship but also a reminder to just be present and let yourself be with someone that makes you happy.
In recent years, The Brook & The Bluff’s incandescent harmonies, winning arrangements, and observational acumen have unexpectedly put them upon a different on-ramp for success: streaming stardom. They are now, by far, one of the most successful young bands at folk-rock’s amorphous contemporary edge, fusing the craft of the past with the ideas and avenues of the present.
The Brook & The Bluff have already made a name for themselves on the live circuit playing electric sets at Bonnaroo, Hangout, Firefly and Wonderfront. Having previously toured with Mt Joy, Noah Kahan, Rainbow Kitten Surprise amongst others, this fall the band will embark on their most ambitious North American headline tour yet.
Shapeshifting on an axis between folk, alternative, country, and soul, Bendigo Fletcher’s lofty melodies soar above earthy instrumentation on their 2022 Wingding EP [Elektra Records]. Charmed with psychedelic flourishes, yet tightly rooted in tried-and-true songcraft, the Louisville quintet—Ryan Anderson [lead vocals, guitar, banjo], Andrew Shupert [backing vocals, lead guitar], Evan Wagner [backing vocals, keys, guitar, percussion], Conner Powell [bass], and Chris Weis [drums]—continues to instantly transfix across the EP’s four tracks.
“More than a few times, I’ve explored the Wingding font universe as an entertaining break from more pressing tasks. I like the name ‘Wingding’ for a fictional creature, like the Mothman of West Virginia folklore. It’s also another word for party,” Anderson says. “This EP is a collection of distractions we built over the last few years when gatherings and adventures felt pretty unattainable.”
After crisscrossing paths in the Louisville scene and life in general (“Chris is my brother-in-law’s childhood best friend,” notes Anderson), Bendigo Fletcher initially formed in 2016. The group organically built an audience across their native Kentucky one gig at a time. During 2018, they made waves with the independent Consensual Wisdom EP highlighted by fan favorites “Wonderfully Bizarre” and “Soul Factory.”
Following a tireless grind, the band signed to Elektra Records and unveiled their debut album, Fits of Laughter in 2021. Beyond amassing millions of streams, the album earned widespread critical acclaim from Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, FLOOD Magazine, and more. Music Connection dubbed it, “Alt-rock, country-flecked folk-rock soaked in LSD,” while Atwood Magazine praised the collection as “a record of reverie, celebration, and true to its name, laughter: music made for good times and bad, that promises to leave us all a little more elated.” Along the way, Bendigo Fletcher captivated crowds on tour with the likes of Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Hiss Golden Messenger, Mt. Joy, Nathaniel Rateliff, Anderson East, Rayland Baxter, and Shakey Graves.
In 2022, Bendigo Fletcher returned to Nashville, TN’s Cartoon Moon Recording Studio to track their Wingding EP. Once again, the band teamed with Fits of Laughter producer and original Wilco/Uncle Tupelo drummer Ken Coomer in the studio. For the first time, the band enlisted Grizzly Bear bassist and producer, Chris Taylor, as a mixer.
“In addition to the brilliance of Ken’s ear as a song maker, I appreciate the environment he maintains,” notes Ryan. “All ideas are considered, and we try to just have fun trying new sounds. I think that mentality lends to a unique blend, keeping the band outside of any one box. And I’ve found constant inspiration in Chris’ work as a soundscaper since a friend introduced me to Veckatimest in high school. Having him on the project was really exciting, and I think his mixes present the band’s ethos in a beautifully natural way.”
The act of making the record opened a portal outside of the madness and mundanity of the last two years. Between holding down a job at a grocery store, Ryan picked up a pen and a guitar in his apartment and creatively departed this mortal coil.
“The songs were my way of coping with the idle uncertainty of the early pandemic months and escaping into a creative space to keep my spirit alive. They come from a more imaginative place where I feel a freedom to process and color some experiences in a productive light.”
The collection’s lead single “Pterodactyl” drifts into the arms of ethereal piano, woozy slide guitar, percussive handclaps, and wistful whistling. Meanwhile, Ryan ponders everything from budding love to “the witching hour for the higher power” via strangely saccharine melodies.
“It gradually bloomed with different instruments and textures in the studio,” he recalls. “The song kind of unfolds like a long-game relationship. It begins vulnerably and intimately, and evolves into deeper layers of musical support and mystery.”
The opener “Stranger Encounters” hinges on a delicate stomp and twangy guitars as a close encounter of a different kind happens…
“During the COVID lockdown, I found myself watching more sci-fi—X Files, Twin Peaks, the Alien movies— for entertainment and comfort,” he says. “This one’s about just getting out there and living, tasting, touching, experiencing through my own senses. We’re all part of an ecology of diverse preferences and individual truths, and this song is a celebration of that.”
Then, there’s “Juniper Moore.” Wrapped in a blanket of luminous guitar and piano, a hypnotic refrain pierces the sky with “a weird lasagna of feelings.”
“I’ve imagined a far-fetched romance or two that works out beautifully in another universe,” he states. “This song helped me to play a bit in that loneliness. I think a lot about the fine line within technology’s capabilities to either remedy or exacerbate that loneliness.”
Meanwhile, the bright acoustic guitar and lithe vocal delivery of “Broken Routine” fall back to earth with “some glimpses at a relationship that has worked out well.”
“We hope to provide a few moments of musical distractions for anyone who needs them,” he leaves off. “The EP dances between confession and fabrication for what feels like a cleanse of imagination. It’s a relief to share a few more stories from that place.”