“Kent Thompson, our old bass player, he’s a very analytical guy,” says Travis Even. “He sent me a pie chart of the weird stuff I reference in our songs -- wolves, ravens, fire. We were writing a song in practice and discussing what it was about. He went, ‘It can never just be about a girl, can it?’”
Even is opening up about his lyrical obsessions as we're discussing New Born, the fourth album from his band, Lovely Dark. The songwriter, his wife Sonia, and their new bassist Al Erbach are gathered around the Evens' dining room table in their south Minneapolis home while their daughter sleeps in the other room.
Their cozy place holds the many treasures that Travis and Sonia have collected over the years, including a record collection that provides a continual soundtrack to our conversation. In their basement, Travis -- who resembles Bret McKenzie, while Sonia could pass as Aubrey Plaza’s sister -- built a home studio so the band could record at their convenience.
The title of New Born is both apt and a little misleading. The album's been finished for almost two years, but only now is seeing the light of day (and receiving a Friday release at the Triple Rock) due to busy family lives. In the last two years, the Evens and two other Lovely Dark members had babies, while another member got married. The music was put on hold while tiny lives were being shaped.
Growing up in South Dakota, Travis originally found solace and escape from his home state's oppressive political climate through music. “That’s my outlet,” he says. “I found friendships through music. Of music, art, and writing, music’s been the most communal. One of the things that helps when I’m stressed is getting together with my friends. It feels good to be able to connect that way versus watching a movie.”
Once he moved to Minneapolis, Travis would play noise rock with friends, including Erbach, at the now-defunct Uptown Bar, where Sonia would watch them perform. Music, essential to all Travis's relationships, would become an element of his marriage as well when Travis and Sonia formed a band. The sound from his past groups would come to inform the aesthetic that went into Lovely Dark.
Travis and Sonia share writing duties, and a handful of the tunes on New Born were composed in one weekend at Sonia’s family cabin. But when they were brought back home, none of the pieces worked. The group, which also includes Ben Johnston (drums), Max Becker (drums), and Erik Shaw (guitar), reworked the songs until they fell into place and sounded like Lovely Dark pieces.
Recorded with Ben Durrant (Andrew Bird, Fog, Dosh) at Crazy Beast in Northeast Minneapolis, the new album has a few consistent themes, such as how our choices shape where we eventually end up. “The Seer,” a folk metal number, offers a thoughtful glance inward.
“The song is a mixture of trying to find peace and what role religion/science/myth relates to you and your journey and what you’re going to pass on to your children,” Travis explains. “It’s a universal theme of life, in general and how that theme is interpreted by the user. It begins with a funeral dirge and parts of the lyrics are taken from J. Robert Oppenheimer’s statement and poetry on his thoughts on creating the nuclear bomb. It’s his coming to terms with the nuclear power. It’s prophetic, because we’re on the cusp of nuclear war.
“These subjects are always going to be relevant -- that fear and being on the precipice,” he continues. “When the patron saint of science was burned at the stake, I’m sure he was thinking we were on the cusp of this new thing. There’s always going to be people who try and push things forward and advance and progress, and there will always be someone trying to stop it.”
Despite Travis's heady explanations, the band's lyrics are highly accessible. “This music brings us all together. You connect to the music individually, then you watch other people connect,” Sonia says. “Then you’re connecting with everyone in the band. There’s an undercurrent that appeals to us all.”
“It also lets be loud -- to be able to physically feel it in your bones.” Erbach adds. “We are punk rock kids that got older and decided to play together. However it started, we built upon it. We wrote songs about getting older and becoming parents, and we showed up at the next practice as parents.”
With: Maeth, The Sunny Era, Christopher Weiland
Where: Triple Rock Social Club
When: 9 p.m. Fri. Aug. 11
Tickets: 18+, $6 adv, $8 door, more info here