The Ruminant Band by Fruit Bats on Apple Music

11 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

The Fruit Bats have been through several lineup changes since their first release in 2001, with the one constant being Eric Johnson — who has rambled a bit himself, playing in the bands Califone, Vetiver, and most recently the Shins. This time around the Fruit Bats are a quintet with Johnson writing the songs and the band bringing forth an acoustic/electric blend of mellow-to-midtempo soulful Americana. They offer introspective and wistful ballads (“Beautiful Morning Light,” “Singing Joy to the World,” “Flamingo”), pedal-steel-driven country rock (“Primitive Man,” “The Ruminant Band,” “Being On Our Own”), and catchy parlor-piano romps (“The Hobo Girl,” “My Unusual Friend”). Solidly entrenched in a tradition that stretches from Neil Young and the Band to the Fruit Bats’ many alt-country contemporaries, what is striking is how the Bats pull off such melodic and memorable songs with such apparent ease. Each lick and lyrical phrase drops just where it should without filler or fuss. Simultaneously familiar and fresh, The Ruminant Band is a strong addition to an already solid discography.

EDITORS’ NOTES

The Fruit Bats have been through several lineup changes since their first release in 2001, with the one constant being Eric Johnson — who has rambled a bit himself, playing in the bands Califone, Vetiver, and most recently the Shins. This time around the Fruit Bats are a quintet with Johnson writing the songs and the band bringing forth an acoustic/electric blend of mellow-to-midtempo soulful Americana. They offer introspective and wistful ballads (“Beautiful Morning Light,” “Singing Joy to the World,” “Flamingo”), pedal-steel-driven country rock (“Primitive Man,” “The Ruminant Band,” “Being On Our Own”), and catchy parlor-piano romps (“The Hobo Girl,” “My Unusual Friend”). Solidly entrenched in a tradition that stretches from Neil Young and the Band to the Fruit Bats’ many alt-country contemporaries, what is striking is how the Bats pull off such melodic and memorable songs with such apparent ease. Each lick and lyrical phrase drops just where it should without filler or fuss. Simultaneously familiar and fresh, The Ruminant Band is a strong addition to an already solid discography.

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About Fruit Bats

Originally hailing from Chicago, Fruit Bats featured an ever-changing lineup based around the folk-pop songwriting of bandleader Eric D. Johnson (not to be confused with the Eric Johnson from Archers of Loaf or the guitar virtuoso of the same name). Johnson began writing songs on his four-track in the mid-'90s before forming I Rowboat, a Velvet Underground-inspired indie rock band. He also began dabbling in folk music with two of the band's members, guitarist Dan Strack and drummer Brian Belval, thus forming the earliest incarnation of the Fruit Bats. When I Rowboat disbanded, Johnson continued to widen his network by playing guitar and banjo with Califone. Bandmates Tim Rutili and Ben Massarella (who also owned Perishable Records) urged Fruit Bats to record an album for their label, which resulted in the trio's 2001 debut, Echolocation.

Over the next two years, the group toured and refined its lineup, adding multi-instrumentalist Gillian Lisee to the fold while embracing more elements of pop and experimental rock. In 2002, Fruit Bats signed with Sub Pop and released their sophomore effort, Mouthfuls, the following spring. Two years later, having relocated to Seattle and expanded to a quartet, the band released Spelled in Bones. The album continued moving away from the folk-rock foundation of Echolocation, although elements of that rootsy sound remained.

Following the release of Spelled in Bones, Johnson took a break from Fruit Bats to serve as a sideman for several other bands, including the Shins and Vetiver. He reconvened the group in 2008, having revised the lineup to include Christopher Sherman, Ron Lewis, Graeme Gibson, and Sam Wagster. The band returned to Chicago to record at Clava, the same studio that housed the sessions for Echolocation, and emerged with 2009's The Ruminant Band.

After The Ruminant Band, Johnson began devoting more time to scoring independent films (among them Our Idiot Brother, Ceremony, and Smashed), and 2011's Tripper reflected the more stripped-down approach of his movie work, with Johnson handling most of the instruments himself. In November 2013, Johnson announced that he was retiring Fruit Bats, releasing a statement that noted "it's been a long run and time for a change." However, after less than two years of working under his own name, which included the eponymous EDJ LP, he re-embraced his more familiar moniker, posting on social media in May 2015 that he intended to release a new Fruit Bats album. A tour with My Morning Jacket followed, and Absolute Loser arrived in the spring of 2016 via Easy Sound Recording Company, with Johnson as the only official bandmember. ~ Heather Phares

  • ORIGIN
    Chicago, IL
  • FORMED
    1999

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