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Fox and the Bird: Tonight’s venue perfect fit for upcoming album’s narrative

Dallas band Fox and the Bird will debut songs from the band’s upcoming album, Darkest Hours in mere moments at St. David of Wales Episcopal Church in Denton, with Doug Burr and Glen Farris. Band member Dan Bowman talked about the show, the first single and the album. (Listen to the single, “Wreck of the Fallible,” here)
littledTX: Fox and the Bird bills itself as a folk choir. This makes me think two things: 1) vocals and lyrics are central to everythingthe band does and 2) gospel music. Are vocals and lyrics the formative part of the band’s music? And how does gospel music inform the band’s sound?
Dan Bowman: Lyrics are really import in the music we make, mostly because these songs are as much about storytelling as they are about the music. The album we’re releasing in October is a collection of songs with a common theme that tell a story about desolation, hope and the power of people that band together. The lyrics are the backbone of the musicand give it it’s power. Harmonies and group vocals just show that this is a collective story we can relate to as a group. We’ve all contributed to the songwriting and composing the music so group vocal delivery is an easy way to show that. The choir reference doesn’t actually refer to gospel music, but more to the vocal arrangements. Some of us have an affinity for old gospel songs. Really it’s just that the harmonies are layered and delivered like something you’d expect from a more traditional choir.  
St. David of Wales is a small, pretty church in Denton. It’s almost an anachronism, with its brick, bells and stained glass standing quietly near the boundary of a neighborhood full of fixed gear bikes and hybrid cars. Any special reason FATB wanted to perform “Wreck of the Fallible” and other tunes in this church? 
Wreck of the Fallible is a song about the downtrodden and rejected on our society. The homeless. The beggars. The drug addicts. The prostitutes. And the feel of a church chapel with its stained glass and live acoustics fits the theme of the song (and the other songs that will be on the album). The space in the chapel is completely open. We can perform the songs without much (if any) amplification so they can be heard just as they are. No added effects. It fits the theme – the rejected of society have no choice but to appear just as they really are, without alteration… so that’s how we want our music to be delivered for this release show. 
Where are you guys in the process of releasing the upcoming album? 
We’ve recorded nine out of the 12-13 tracks that will be on the album. Our final recording session is down at Ramble Creek Studios in Austin on June 14-16. Britton Beisenherz at Ramble Creek is recording and producing our album and he has a knack for capturing the raw sound of folk artists like Fox and the Bird. Doug Burr, Seryn, Telegraph Canyon and other local acts have recorded at Ramble Creek.  We plan to have the album finished by the end of June and it will then take several months to create the vinyl.  We expect to release the full album the first week in October.  On a side note, we’re filming a music video for ‘Wreck of the Fallible’ that we will release in June.
For each song we recorded in the studio, we tracked as many of the instruments and the lead vocal simultaneously. Many bands track songs one instrument at at time, but we had to get everything right in just one take. It was crazy because you’d have one take where the vocal delivery was perfect but the drums and guitar were out of sync here and there. Or another take where the vocal performance could have been better, but the instrumentation was perfect. For some songs it was hard to get that one perfect take, but for others it came naturally. Even though it made for some challenging recording sessions, we wound up with a set of songs that sound authentically like us. Our live performance sound comes through in this album.
Do you think FATB took some risks while writing and working on this upcoming album? 
What do you think the band has gotten really good at this far? What do you feel like the musicians have discovered about making art through the work they’ve done in this band?
Fox and the Bird has seen members come and go as the musical collective changed over the years. I am the only original founding member of the band but most of the current members have been playing together for years. The current lineup of musicians is a great fit. We push each other creatively and it shows on the new album, especially when it comes to innovation with the drum and vocal arrangements. As a collective of musicians that each write and contribute their own musical parts (and songs), we’ve had to figure out how to deal with each other as musicians.
We want a collective sound. We want the songs to be collaborations. But I don’t write the same way Jacob Metcalf does, and he thinks about music differently than our drummer does. So it’s learning when to back off and let people explore new compositions, and when you should jump in and provide critique… learning how to work with each other to make the music better while still allowing everyone to contribute what they think is the best thing for the song. And that means dealing with differences in opinions and dealing with amazing musicians that just take different approaches to songwriting.
But when we have the patience to deal with the process and the humility to accept our differences, we create songs that are better than anything we’d have written as individuals. And that’s what happened on this album. 

For Pageantry, less is more when songwriting is on the line

PAGEANTRY 
When: doors open 9 p.m. on Friday, May 24, 2013
Where: Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, 411 E. Sycamore St.
With: The Angelus & Lord Buffalo
Cover: $5, $7 for ages 18 to 20
On the web:  Pageantry on Facebook, Pageantry on Soundcloud
Denton’s Pageantry, a local trio of established musicians, caught our ear after band member Pablo Burrell mentioned the new band while waiting for drinks at Banter Bistro. We found the Facebok page and checked out the too-few music files available. What we heard was enough to convince us that Pageantry was one of the top Denton bands appearing at 35 Denton last March.
With an EP release on the horizon, and a show on Friday at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, we picked the musician’s brains about what make the band tick, music-wise.
From left: Bassist Pablo Burrell,

Meet Denton’s Pageantry. From left: Bassist Pablo Burrell, guitarist and singer Roy Robertson and drummer Ramon Muzquiz. Photo courtesy of the band.

littledTX: Can you tell me who plays what in the band?
Roy (Robertson): I sing and play guitar. Ramon (Muzquiz) plays drums and Pablo’s (Burrell) on bass, they both sing back up vocals, too.
What made this group of musicians decide to form a band and make music together?
Ramon: I think admiration for each other more than anything. We all were playing in different projects and our paths crossed at a lot of local shows. Eventually Roy asked me to play on some of his material, and we didn’t click at first. Roughly a year later, we got together again and recorded an EP that, for various reasons, was shelved. Some of those songs actually made up the first Pageantry material. I had been playing in another band with Pablo. Roy had wanted to play with him after seeing him play with yet another band. It was an easy fit due to mine and Pablo’s experience together already.
 
For such a recently-formed band, Pageantry has a mature, measured and fully-formed sound. To what do you guys credit that?
Ramon: Practice and musicality. We trust ourselves and each other but we are more than willing to try five different things before we decide something is done. We try to practice a couple times a week and our rehearsals are usually pretty rigorous. The longer we play something the more it takes shape and can breathe. In retrospect, the songs on the EP (Friends of the Year) were written in a much shorter time than the new material we are working on, but we also did a lot of self-editing on the final recorded versions of them. We are very proud of how it turned out, though we wish we could have released it sooner. Hopefully, the next album will be more of a happy medium between self-critiquing and trusting our guts. We also are finding our footing as a band more and more as we write. Songs from the EP were presented to us as a whole. New material is coming in parts and we are shaping more of it together. The new songs are different but we are looking ahead to the future and not willing to compromise on what we enjoy playing just to appease older material. That being said, there are elements of the old in the new. It’s hard to explain without sharing the songs but hopefully that will come soon enough.
 
What is the band working on right now?
Roy: We have our first EP coming out June 11th, with an EP release show at Dan’s Silverleaf on Friday, June 14th with Chambers, Good Field and Senor Fin (go here to get details). We’re also playing a bunch in Austin this summer, working on touring outside of Texas more and hopefully start recording a new album soon.

What needs to happen for the musicians to feel that Pageantry is making good music?

 

Roy: It’s pretty intuitive.
Ramon: Definitely intuition. We rely a lot (live) on seeing each other and it’s no different in rehearsals. If I look up and see that Pablo is focusing really hard and Roy is smiling really big, then we are on the right track. Also, confusion. I like to think we confuse ourselves into a hole that we then attempt to dig ourselves out of. Sometimes though, it’s like we have to dig to the other side to get back to the surface.
How do songwriting duties break down for the band? Is there a melody maker and lyricist, or does everyone contribute sounds and words?
Ramon: Roy is the main songwriter. He writes melodies and lyrics. Pablo and I contribute more in terms of arrangements and grooves although sometimes this is at the direction of Roy or each other.
Often a song takes shape when the groove is established. At that point it can take the weight off of the chords or guitar parts to function as the lead. It’s something we are striving to get better at, because it is easy to overcrowd a song even with three people. It’s also different in terms of our live show and our recordings. We have a lot more breathing room on a recording where we can layer instruments and build more of an atmosphere.
In terms of sounds, that’s a number of sources. We all have a pretty good handle on what sounds good and we record a lot of ourselves in rehearsals in order to see if those sounds are meshing. Roy has a great ear for recording and we are lucky to have that in the band. Pablo has a great ear for melodious bass lines. I try to incorporate some electronic elements via a drum triggering pad that we’ve had varying degrees of success with. Overall, we are very open to each other’s criticisms. Rehearsals are an open forum and we rarely butt heads.
EP RELEASE
What: Friends of the Year
When: doors open at 8 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m.  on June 14, 2013
Where: Dan’s Silverleaf, 103 Industrial
With: Chambers, Goodfield & Senor Fin
Cover: $5. No smoking.