Raleigh, North Carolina’s Rosebuds have been making tuneful-but-thoughtful indie pop for the past half decade. Husband and wife Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp first made a splash with 2003’s Unwind EP (released when they had a drummer as a third member), and the two have released yearly albums that have flirted with genres ranging from dance music to acoustic pop. One thing that’s stayed constant is their acerbic, politically charged lyrics. Example: If you thought their most popular tune “Get Up Get Out” was about hitting the dance floor, listen again. The duo is currently in the middle of a tour in support of Life Like. Here, Crisp talks about her band, past and present.
Why was there more of an acoustic sound on Life Like?
The Night of the Furies [from 2007] actually has a lot of acoustic elements to it as well. I’m not sure how to describe it other than to say Life Like has more of a terrestrial feeling to me than the previous record. For our fans who know all our records, it seems closer to the vein of Birds Make Good Neighbors [from 2005]. But I feel like it’s its own project; each of these records has been its own project, and this one is sort of produced to its own self.
Do you still do all your recording at home?
We’ll drive over to another studio in town around our area if we need to record something that they have over there. And some of the drums for this record we did in a friend’s home studio. But really, everything that we need — and that anybody needs anymore — is at home. And we have a pretty ideal home for recording, in a way. I wouldn’t feel weird recording other bands in our house, [and] I don’t feel like by recording at home we’ve lost anything — certainly not quality. Night of the Furies was faulted a couple of times for being overproduced, and we recorded that in our house too.
I enjoyed the political edge of “Get Up Get Out.” What inspired that song?
It’s about revolution, and it specifically is based on “The Good Earth” — that book. But I thought that it had elements of it that were appropriate for us to use in a song.
The songs on the new album all have disquieting elements. Was there any theme?
The songs all carry messages of their own, [but] they work together as vignettes of a larger piece. The first track, to me, is about Ivan leaving home and knowing that he had to leave a small town — not only specifically, but also he had to leave that skin behind. But the songs all have their own messages. I wouldn’t say the overarching theme is as political as Night of the Furies, though this record is highly political. I would say this one is more a question of simpler curiosity than we had on the last record.
How does being from the South inform your music?
We’ve been in a subculture for so long in North Carolina, and a lot of our music is a reaction to I guess what would be considered conventional in our location. We’re very liberal in Raleigh. I feel I’ve gotten comfortable there in my own skin, but I forget just outside of Raleigh it’s very conservative — even our families are, too. I sometimes feel the most uncomfortable when I’m around my own family. So going back into the country and visiting people creates an ability in us to create music that is sometimes scary and sometimes can convey emotions of reticence.
But you do make pop music in the tradition of the region: Don Dixon, Chris Stamey, etc. …
You can’t escape your geography. Most of us had musical families and I would say we work in a conventional pop formula. And all of the music that both of our families played and recorded was pop music.
You regularly write letters to Frank Black on your blog. Are the Pixies an influence?
I don’t know how much of an influence they are. But I mean any music that I like has been an influence. I think for whatever reason, I picked Frank Black [to write about]. I can’t remember how that came about. He’s always been the character in my mind that represents a normal man who has accomplished ridiculous things. He’s invented pseudonyms, characters for himself. He’s reinvented his own music several times and continues to put music out and continues to be this weird guy. But at the same time he’s this normal guy. He’s sort of enigmatic.
Is there anything about the new album you’d like to get across?
You know what’s weird? This is a story you might find interesting. When we were tracking the instruments and vocals for “Nice Fox,” we had our windows open and all of our neighbors would listen to us recording. We live in a bohemian neighborhood with a few old folks but mostly new people — it’s a neighborhood from the 1950s and most of the old folks have died or are in retirement homes. But our very next door neighbor was still living — he’s very old — and he had his windows open and was listening to us track “Nice Fox,” which is a song about a fox that used to hang out in his yard and our yard. And he died while we were tracking that song. Isn’t that weird? It means a lot to me as a musician. They say the last sense to go is hearing. So I imagine we were probably his last living experience.