Thursday, August 14, 2014

Spider Bags Writes A Frozen Letter

Spider Bags
Frozen Letter is full of firsts for the raucous rock band Spider Bags. It is the first album out with Merge Records. And it is the closest frontman Dan McGee has ever come to making the record he set out to make.

The band started recording in late June last year with McGee hoping to lay five tracks down and then finish it up later in the year. All that changed when his wife told him she was pregnant. If McGee wanted to be freed up for the birth, the band needed to wrap at least eight.

So Steve Oliva (bass) and Rock Forbes (drums) took to sleeping at the studio to get it done. At the end, it was pretty impossible to tell which five tunes McGee came into the studio with in his head and which three were composed off the cuff.

Frozen Letter is a sonically nimble album with overwrought vocals. 

Back With You Again In The World kicks things off with a late fifties du-woppy groove. McGee brings his best relaxed vocals, easing into the album like the jazz-anointed rock and roll playing in the background from a big and plush wingback chair. It's gripping and comfortable, start to finish, while teeing up the bouncier Japanese Vacation jangle to liven everything up.

Chem Trails starts with a juicy kiss before McGee and company unleash a trip worthy and blistering onslaught of distorted spooky-dom. The analogy of becoming zombified by chem trails works perfectly with this freakout ditty written by McGee.

The video makes the moment even more fun thanks to director Jonny Look and producer Chris Mast. As a head melt garage rocker, there really won't be any better produced this year. It's all good fun.

According to McGee, Coffin Car really kicked off the creative process and gives the album its name.  He imagined picking up an old refrigerator magnet out of the snow, making it feel like finding a buried treasure from yesteryear. That is the point of the album too.

When McGee started writing it, he wanted to make an album that sounded like someone was playing a stack of found singles from the seventies. It's one of reasons that even the occasional fifties influence sounds filtered by another era. Tracks like Summer of '79, for instance, finds its home in an era that would have likely paid homage to it (right up to the bass-heavy transition anyway).

Where Frozen Letter works overtime is in how the songs interrelate so well together. After recording a few records, McGee says it's one of the most important lessons to learn. People identify with songs that relate to each other and the rest just fall through the cracks.

"You can’t just put all your best songs on a record, because it just doesn’t work that way," McGee told AudioFemme in another interview. "People don’t hear it that way."

Although the front half and the back half almost sound like two sides to a record, McGee does manage to preserve a continuity if not the pace of a perfectly addictive and gripping album that is hard to turn away from. And with eight new tracks in the arsenal, Spider Bags will likely light up their live appearances with a 50-50 split between the new material and what have become classic fan favorites.

Frozen Letter By Spider Bags Ramps Up 8.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

For a band that started out as a long distance relationship between friends who occasionally played together, the band and its lineup have finally solidified into something that feels permanent. While McGee will always be at the heart of the band, it seems like Oliva and Forbes are making themselves right at home.

It only makes sense. After two albums, several singles, and playing as the backup band to North Carolina bluesman Reese McHenry, Spider Bags has come together nicely on the psychedelic landscape.

You can find Frozen Letter on Amazon or download the 8-track recording on iTunes. Barnes & Noble carries the vinyl edition of Frozen Letter by Spider Bags. Visit their Facebook page for upcoming engagements. See them live. It's worth it.
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