Andy Hull is an exceptional songwriter, and what separates him from many of his just “good” peers is his ability to write in such a wide breadth of styles and levels of aggressiveness without losing any amount of proficiency or sincerity. In collaborating separately with Frightened Rabbit and Grouplove on this release, one can juxtapose the variety of music that Hull is adept at creating (not to undermine the obvious contributions of the collaborating bands and Mr. Hull’s bandmates in Manchester Orchestra).
The Manchester/Frightened Rabbit track, titled “Architect,” is actually a collaborative effort between only the primary songwriters of the respective bands (and a song completed without the two ever meeting one another in person). Almost impossibly, the song manages to be both sparse and lush. The sparseness comes from the skeletal instrumentation and lack of percussion, while the relentless fingerpicked acoustic guitar riff provides the momentum and drive that often lack from a guitar-and-voice-only approach.
As for the vocals, well…I know I can be prone to hyperbolic statements, but the vocals on this track are breathtaking. Scott Hutchison’s throaty, consistent delivery meshes perfectly with Hull’s nasal, loud-to-quiet delivery until each individual singer is nearly indistinguishable. The melodies and harmonies are sad and evocative without being mopey or obvious, and the song doesn’t linger, ending in a tidy four minutes. The most impressive part of this track is its balance: between the two songwriters, between the aforementioned fullness and sparseness, and between poetic ambiguity versus meaninglessness in regards to lyrics, “Architect” manages to walk the proverbial tightrope.
As implied in the introductory paragraph, the other song in question is something different entirely. Opposed to the two-man show that was “Architect,” “Make It to Me” is a boisterous little ditty, complete with note-dragging synth riffs, a variety of vocalists, and a perfect combination of Manchester’s indie rock prowess and Grouplove’s dance-infused goodness.
The Weekly Tour Round-Up
Winter - Spring
From Indian Lakes on Steve Miller
The Industry With Jesse Cannon
Behind The Booths
Kevin Devine and Andy Hull treat PropertyOfZack better than we could ever ask for, and they always give us incredible interviews. I was able to catch up with the duo at Bad Books' Philadelphia, PA tour stop for one of POZ's best interviews of all time. Kevin, Andy, and I discussed Bad Books' new found cohesiveness and success, all the details you could ask for for Kevin's Kickstarter campaign and two upcoming albums, Manchester Orchestra's reboot with a new split and album, and so much more. We couldn't be more excited about the interview and all the great details within it, so check out all of it below!
So this tour is going really well, it seems. This is the fourth tour for Bad Books right?
Andy Hull: Yeah. We did a few short ones so yeah, four.
How many was it, like a thousand in Ohio?
AH: Yeah its nuts, I think we could have done that easily in New York from what we were told; in New York and Philly and Boston as well. Yeah totally nuts. The reception is really cool. Nobody’s asking for anything other than Bad Books tunes. People are actually enjoying the songs.
You can play a full set now, that’s awesome. No filler.
AH: There’s still plenty of bullshit, but yeah.
Kevin Devine: It feels like the balance is… there is one. It’s definitely more… the bullshit is an accent, as opposed to potentially being the main thing.
AH: Half if not more than half of the show…
I know that for the first record, or even for those first shows, there was always talk of, “This is really cool, but it still feels separated between two parties, rather than one band.”
AH: Dude it is so much different now. It feels like a real thing. It feels exactly like a real band. We’re all developing identities. It’s really cool because it’s going to be sweet to see what happens with the next record now that we have an identity. We all have things that we do in the band now. Rather than, “You do this. You play this.” There are members that are doing things. We can only go up from here.
KD: I think an interesting thing about how that live experience can translate into that next record too is that in carving out those identities, I feel like even though it’s a band it’s been something of a studio project for us in the studio. Like me and you [AH] end up doing a lot.
KD: And I feel like it’s nice to have that as an option. But I also think what this enables us to do in the comfort level we’re reaching here is that the next record can be more like a rock band playing songs; rather than building songs in the studio.
There’s been some satellite radio play too, right?
KD: Amazing response there. Like the number one song the last couple weeks on there.
AH: Yeah, nuts.
Especially because it’s four months out since the release.
KD: Yeah four and a half or so.
AH: There’s two different ways a record can go, you know? You could put a shitload of promotion behind it and then have a really big first week and then everything will trail off, or you can try to do it organically where it will continue to grow and just steady as it goes. It feels like that’s what’s happening with this record. It’s starting to connect more and more the longer it’s been out. It’s cool.
I assume you guys are going to be really busy this year. If the record’s doing well and tours are doing better than well, is that something that you now want to try to carve out more time for Bad Books?
KD: Yeah we were having that conversation last night. Like how it’s kind of…
AH: Short answer, yes we do want to. It’s just about making that decision. And hopefully finding some sort of time for it. It’s a timing thing really. I would love to do it more though, especially since it’s going better.
Have you found that with this touring and the band being more cohesive, that you actually have wanted to do a record sooner rather than later?
KD: We haven’t really talked about that yet. We’ve talked a little bit about doing it, but not about a timeline for it. Because I don’t really know, realistically, what that would look like.
AH: That’s the thing is when we could do it. But yeah, I certianly am in my head, being on this tour like, “Yeah we should be writing and we should go in immediately and go make another record.”
It’s a good problem to have.
KD: Yeah. It’s a luxury problem; it’s awesome.
In terms of Bad Books as a separate entity, do you think there are people now that are just Bad Books fans?
KD: I kind of do. Or I kind of feel like there are people who are more… there are definitely people who like it of it’s own merit. And I think that maybe there are some who even like it more than they like either of our things. Probably not the majority. The majority is probably still kids that are coming from Manchester’s world and my world. But I think it’s built itself into it’s own formidable entity. It’s totally amazing, yeah.
AH: It helps a lot that the second record is just such a… in my opinion, stronger album than the first record. The first record is kind of your perfect stereotypical first album for a band. It’s rough and a lot of loose ends. It’s going in all directions, we hadn’t really found out who we are. I’m stoked that we started with something that, you know, I’d saw was a three star record. I’d say this one is a four star record. Now we’re going to try to make a five star record.
Will Bad Books be going to rest for now until there is more time?
KD: Yeah I guess we’ll figure out what happens.
AH: Hopefully going to try to play as many festivals as we can and get some… We’re down to work. And honestly working with Kevin is a lot easier than working on my own. Not that I’m working on my own with Manchester, but just being the sole front guy, it’s just half the work. It feels nice.
KD: It’s totally noticable. It’s lovely. I feel like Bad Books tour is like… It’s still in a van and a trailer and all that stuff, but the fact that it’s other people doing this stuff sometimes, I’m like, “This is sick. Just hanging out while someone sells the merch… that’s amazing!”
Are we cool to talk about prospecitve projects?
KD: I really wish you wouldn’t… Yeah I don’t care.
AH: What do you mean?
KD: Like Manchester and me.
AH: Oh yeah.
KD: But I have to answer all of the Manchester questions and he has to answer all the the…
AH: That would be cool.
Kevin Devine and Andy Hull are like coffee and ice cream. They do their job perfectly well in their respective mug and bowl. When mixed, however, there is a harmony of flavor unmatched by any melodic taste either could muster on its own. Bad Books II is the coffee ice cream of indie folk-rock (assuming coffee ice cream is the best of ice creams) and represents the band’s newfound taste for songwriting.
In comparison to their freshman, 2010 release, II is a collaborative body of work. The self-titled had a cohesive, thorough line in terms of its somewhat sad sentiment - no matter the voice singing, the instrumentation and lyrics had heaviness to them. Some of that weight has lifted, not in sonic nuances or “heaviness” but rather in that solid two dimensionality - Devine and Hull. What II introduces is the Devine-Hull collaborative process, and the tag teaming has affected more than lyrics.
"The After Party" and "No Rewards," for example, are connected in their dissonance. Whether it’s the chord progression, instrumental arc or the lyricism, there is a subtle quirk in the tracks over all that seems to have come from the collaborative process. "Forrest Whitaker" is so quintessentially Bad Books in its melodic choice, but the production and instrumental tones seem to have a different kind of life in them.
Synthetic instrumentation is an addition for the band that may or may not have come directly from the co-writing process. However, there’s something to be said for “rubbing off” - the sonic performance changing and taking unintentional turns. Even on the solo writing projects, the lyricists didn’t take the “you bring 5 songs to the table and I’ll bring 5 songs to the table” attitude as they had in the past (check Bad Books’ bio for more of their writing process information). Each track feels as though it has taken a longer stroll on its way into fruition.
As a result, the album’s writing feels as though it has grown. In places where it could have been all-too reminiscent of the first release, it took a left turn. Tracks such as “Never Stops” and “Friendly Advice” harken to the 2010 release in its melodic choices, however the musical performance is a little fuzzier, a little more electronic. Elements of the 2010 track “You Wouldn’t Have To Ask” trickle in, but it feels as though the newer tracks have more time, love and care.
Bad Books are out on a West Coast tour supporting II, their new release that is out now via Triple Crown Records, and it’s great, so you should pick it up here if you can. We’re very happy to be hosting a new video Road Blog from the band on PropertyOfZack that features music, footage from the tour, and clips of Andy Hull and Kevin Devine talking about the journey. Watch the video update below by clicking “Read More!”
Bad Books have officially released “Forest Whitaker,” a track that we premiered acoustically last week on PropertyOfZack. Stream the great song here and check out what Kevin Devine had to say about the track below by clicking “Read More.”
Bad Books' second album is something that we're all waiting for, and Andy Hull was kind enough to play a brand new song off of that upcoming record for PropertyOfZack in a new Session. “Forest Whitaker” is a great track stripped down, and we can only imagine what it’ll sound like on tape. Watch the brand new Session below by clicking “Read More!”
Andy Hull recently performed in Hamden, CT on July 19th, and has announced that Manchester Orchestra will be recording a new ablum this winter. Check out a video of Hull perfroming a new song acoustically below by clicking “Read More.”
Right Away, Great Captain! has posted The Lost Sea LP online for fans. Stream it below by clicking “Read More.”
The deluxe packages for Right Away, Great Captain!’s final album have finally arrived. Andy Hull has also confirmed that he would be releasing The Lost Sea for all fans digitally sometime soon. Check out a tweet from Hull below by clicking “Read More.”