More Recommended If You Like
Very few bands “make it.” Far more toil in relative obscurity, only sometimes earning a fanbase and a living wage for their art. A lot of these little-known or under-known acts, though, are the inspiration for or compatriots of those bigger acts, those bands that made it. Thus, The A.V. Club’s Recommended If You Like, where we start with a bigger band—Mumford And Sons, for example—and run down a few acts that Mum-fans might be into.
This edition, we’re expanding on the work of Justin Vernon’s Bon Iver. The band’s debut record, For Emma, Forever Ago, made a smash in the industry, and now Vernon’s worked with Kanye and Bon Iver released a follow-up, the self-titled Bon Iver. Vernon and Co. will play two sold-out shows Friday, July 22, and Saturday, July 23 at the Riverside Theater. For all those fans going and not going, though, here are a few more bands that might tickle your fancy.
In a recent Pitchfork interview, Justin Vernon called singer-songwriter Richard Buckner a “big influence” on Bon Iver. It’s easy to see why: Both artists share an affinity for impressionistic lyrics that are nonetheless devastatingly personal, and both tend to wallow in some good, old-fashioned self-pity. For evidence, look no further than “On Travelling,” a song from 1997’s Devotion & Doubt. Buckner’s long career has had plenty of bizarre bumps and dead ends (just Google “Richard Bucker + headless corpse”), though that hasn’t stopped fans from lavishing the singer with fevered praise. A highly anticipated new album—Buckner’s first in five years—Our Blood, is due out August 2.
Volcano Choir / Collections Of Colonies Of Bees
As most fans probably know, when Justin Vernon isn’t busy with Bon Iver, he moonlights as a member of Volcano Choir, a supergroup of sorts featuring Milwaukee’s Collections Of Colonies Of Bees. But CoCoBees has more in common with Bon Iver than just its roster—both groups project an almost unbearable sadness and longing in their music, a fact made even more interesting when you consider the Bees are a fairly rollicking, post-rock instrumental group. The band’s terrific upcoming album, Giving, is set for an August 2 release, and should propel CoCoBees to dizzying new heights.
Strand Of Oaks
Though the legend of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago (sensitive dude writes sensitive album in secluded, sensitive cabin) seems to finally be fading away, the usefulness of the tale in kick-starting Justin Vernon’s career is undeniable. Timothy Showalter, a.k.a. Strand Of Oaks, shares a similarly hooky, if bleak, origin story. On his 2008 debut, Leave Ruin, Showalter tackles such weighty subjects as a painful romantic breakup and a devastating house fire, couching it all in the familiar confessional/bearded-dude genre. 2010’s Pope Killdragon is equally somber, and not even “Daniel’s Blues”—a song about Dan Aykroyd dealing with the death of buddy John Belushi—breaks the mood.
Back before Justin Vernon for all intents and purposes was Bon Iver, he was in a similarly folky act called DeYarmond Edison—Vernon’s two middle names. That band broke up in 2006, but the group’s three other members—Joe Westerlund and brothers Brad and Phil Cook—went on to form Megafaun, a beard-centric, slightly freaky folk act based out of North Carolina. That band’s toured with Bon Iver and some members are in Gayngs, that Prince-funk fusion act that Vernon’s been playing with between Bon Iver gigs. For their part, though, the dudes in Megafaun have made three really great records, including 2009’s Gather, Form & Fly.
Bonnie Raitt, Rickie Lee Jones, and Indigo Girls
Bear with us on this explanation, because it’s easy enough to blow off these acts based just on stereotypes and “Closer To Fine.” When Justin Vernon was in college, he minored in women’s studies and, somehow, got really into the music of Bonnie Raitt, Rickie Lee Jones, and Indigo Girls, which he claims taught him to really use a range of emotion in his work. He likes Raitt so much that he recorded an absolutely devastating cover of her biggest hit, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and performed it live on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Still skeptical? Allow yourself to get totally swayed by Hold Me For The Pops And Clicks, a mix some random blogger made of the Raitt, Jones, Vernon, and the Indigo Girls.
Sean Carey’s made his living in recent years, for the most part, as the drummer for Bon Iver. Last year, though, he stepped out of Vernon’s shadow to release his solo debut, All We Grow. Though the record has a feeling all its own, it still harnesses that particular Northwoods style of pain, complete with a delicate choir of ghostly noise.