Four years went by without a whisper from Chicago/Portland outfit Fruit Bats, and it’s partly because the band’s main songwriter and only constant member, Eric Johnson, who formed the band in 1999, spent that time participating in various side projects, including playing in The Shins and Vetiver. Not too shabby of an excuse, but now Johnson is stepping out of the shadows as a sideman and back into the limelight himself—with bandmates Christopher Sherman, Ron Lewis, Graeme Gibson, and Sam Wagster in tow—with Fruit Bats’ latest release, The Ruminant Band. Bring your picnic basket and a Frisbee—these folk-pop songs form the perfect soundtrack for a summer sojourn in the park.
Occasionally trading in the signature acoustic sound that saturated the band’s 2005 release, Spelled in Bones, in favor of an electric touch, some might be tempted to write off the record for its familiarity. But, though the record embodies the very definition of “feel-good,” you would be remiss to dismiss it as simple. With Johnson’s tenor expertly spouting well-wrought lyrics over generous tempo changes and smile-inducing instrumental jingle jangle, I think the two words we’re looking for are intelligent and timeless. You have two chances to see Fruit Bats perform in San Francisco tonight: they play a free show @ Amoeba at 6 pm, and then at The Independent later on, just down the road.
Who: Fruit Bats
What: The Ruminant Band
Why: “You won’t lose the beat if you just keep clapping your hands / Like sweet sweet Peter clap for the ruminant band.”
How: Sub Pop