Change seems to be the only constant in the Bleeding Rainbow camp. But they excel at adapting.
They’ve gone from a duo to a three-piece to a four-piece band. They’ve had a handful of drummers in recent years. Now less than a month away from releasing Interrupt, their fourth full-length album, the Philly band has its most filled-out lineup to date, but is releasing its rawest, most stripped down effort, and the most reflective of its live show.
“When we were writing songs for [our last album] Yeah Right, we were still a three-piece,” guitarist and singer Rob Garcia says. “And I was doing a lot of things to make it sound huge. Now these songs came together so much faster. They’re kind of like ‘just get to the point,’ just cut the extraneous stuff.”
Garcia’s and bassist Sarah Everton’s vocals are the first thing that gets noticed as being more pronounced on Interrupt.
“We didn’t want the vocals to have any effects,” Everton says. “We wanted it to be straightforward.”
That’s how it comes off on single “So You Know,” or the up-from-the-ground blast of “Out of Line” on the album’s b-side. Both sound a bit more introspective than what we might be used to from Bleeding Rainbow. There are also a couple moments of shear aggression unleashed from Garcia, such as on “Images.” He says the album deals with angrier, more intense emotions.
“But it’s still positive,” Everton interjects. “When we were writing songs for Yeah Right, a lot of it felt angsty and alienated. And it was kind of like a weird time for me. This time it feels more like, ‘well, even if shit gets real scary, everything’s cool.’”
That’s an outlook she and Garcia adopted while reading about John Keats’ idea of negative capability: the idea of embracing life’s uncertainty. Perhaps that’s the flipside to what former drummer Greg Frantz might have been feeling when he decided to amicably leave the band following the grind of touring on a DIY band’s means.
“The lifestyle that he wanted did not match that of a musician in a struggling band,” Garcia says. “We still love him though.”
“It’s understandable,” Everton adds. “It’s not for everyone.”
The blistering sound of Interrupt was aided by working in the studio with hard-hitting drummer Robi Gonzalez of A Place to Bury Strangers fame. He’d sat in with the band after the departure of Frantz, and his initial replacement Dominique Montgomery, who’d filled the drummer spot on tour with them last year.
But Gonzalez only had plans of recording Interrupt with them. And actually, his performance on the album was recorded relatively off-the-cuff, according to the band.
“While he was warming up, he said ‘I haven’t really listened to these [demos],” guitarist Al Creedon says. “‘We’ll see what happens.’ And then it worked out pretty naturally. We’re all happy with how it came out.”
After Interrupt was finished, Gonzales and the band parted ways, and Ashley Arnwine joined the ranks. She proved to be an an equally aggressive drummer in a recent gig at West Philly’s Golden Tea House, and while it may sound like the classic story of drummers always being at a premium or a reference to the Spinal Tap drummer that meets his demise, Bleeding Rainbow hasn’t had problems adjusting to new people behind the kit.
Meanwhile Arnwine hasn’t had qualms about playing what Gonzalez laid down.
“His style is very complex,” Arnwine says. “But it’s also heavy, and that’s where we intersect. I kind of started doing some of [his drum fills] my own way. But I also try to play what’s on the record.”
Really, what’s on the record is total hook-laden power pop with a punk rock aesthetic, but unafraid of droning out or going catchy at times. “Tell Me” is pop gold, complete with rhythm hammering and lead picking guitar lines at the head of the track. The harmonies between Everton and Garcia indicates this is the Bleeding Rainbow everyone knows best early on in the album. “Dead Head,” shows the shoegaze side of the band as Everton and Garcia’s vocals barely go beyond an airy near-whisper before a looping drone in the bridge. But the vocals are also noticeably cleaner, especially in comparison to prior Rainbow releases.
Last year, Bleeding Rainbow was on a tour that they felt just wasn’t going their way, playing on a “weird, mash-up lineups in bigger venues with twenty dollar tickets,” while they wrote many of the songs on Interrupt.
“There’s was a point on that tour where we were just like, ‘fuck this,’” Creedon says. “And we were just being really loud on stage. So, some of the songwriting comes from that.”
But what Interrupt has come down to for Bleeding Rainbow may be being able to accept change. And keeping their negative capabilities in mind, change is no big thing for them.
“As far as the mental state we were in for Interrupt, rather than Yeah Right, with our personal lives a lot of changes happened,” Garcia says. “And with this album, we’ve accepted it and we’re totally happy with it.”
Bleeding Rainbow opens for Mission of Burma at the First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut Strete, on Saturday, February 8th. Tickets and information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.