Knitting Factory Presents
Howlin Rain, Evolfo, Weak Signal, DJ Paul Major (Endless Boogie)
San Francisco Bay Area-based power quintet Howlin Rain's third album The Russian Wilds passionately protests the currently popular notion that heroically conceived and executed rock music is a thing of golden ages passed. Having been formed by bandleader-singer-guitarist Ethan Miller in 2004, as a melodic offshoot of blazing new-psych innovators Comets On Fire, Howlin Rain soon caught the attention of uber-producer Rick Rubin, who signed them to his American Recordings label and involved himself deeply in their subsequent musical evolution thereafter. Rubin worked closely with Ethan for over a year and a half as he shaped and perfected the material being written for The Russian Wilds. Finally, the band entered the studio with producer-engineer Tim Green (The Fucking Champs, Nation of Ulysses), tracking at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, as well as at Trilogy Studios and Hyde Street in San Francisco, recording most of the overdubs at Green's Louder Studios in SF, where Tim mixed the album with crucial input from Rick.
Arriving Valentine's Day 2012 (March 12 in UK/Europe), The Russian Wilds is a sprawling, Pynchon-esque labyrinth and a colorful, feeling-filled catalyst for hungry minds. It's the masterwork earlier studio sets and Howlin Rain's barn-burning live shows have hinted at given blood and bone by a group in their fighting prime. "There was a point when we were really trying to blend Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland, Steely Dan's Gaucho and Bruce Springsteen's Darkness On The Edge of Town," says Miller. "I love the Boss' singing, where he's just blowing out his voice even when it's just a pop ballad moment. And we were inspired by some of the grooves and close mic stuff on Gaucho, and by how Electric Ladyland runs the gamut from super long jams to blues numbers to drifting psychedelic pieces. There's a sense of audacity to these records - a band chasing down strong, invisible connections - and there's moments like that on our record. We didn't always do the smartest or safest things [laughs]."
Besides Miller, Howlin Rain comprises Raj Ojha (drums, percussion), Cyrus Comiskey (bass), Joel Robinow (keyboards, guitar, vocals) and Isaiah Mitchell (guitar, vocals). These musicians have drawn upon the basic vocabulary of classic rock but then stretch and reshape it to more arcane and ambitious ends. The results present a unique aural vision that expresses the fantastical and the practical in equal measure, resonating quite nicely with the work of kindred spirits such as Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound, Wooden Shjips, Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Vetiver. This New Cosmic California movement shares an exploration of song-grounded, psych-touched, emotionally charged boogie and blues; they are, in short, the next generation to carry on the viscerally charged spirit of the musical pioneers that once rendered the Fillmore and Winterland stages magic in decades long passed. Where Howlin Rain differs from some of their compatriots is their penchant for conjuring simmering soul grooves in unexpected places, marrying blue-eyed soul influences to strutting highway-ready rock. In addition, their latest work reflects increased focus on sophisticated harmony vocal arrangements, adding exciting new dimensions to their ouevre.
Howlin Rain has performed at major festivals in the U.S. (Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Bumbershoot) and in Europe (Green Man, All Tomorrow’s Parties, Azkena), and has toured with The Black Crowes, Queens of the Stone Age, and Black Mountain, as well as sharing bills with Mudhoney, Roky Erickson, Terry Reid, Okkervil River and The Meat Puppets. After their period of intense woodshedding over these past few years, Howlin Rain is looking forward to seeing this new music blossom on concert stages around the world!
Evolfo is the sound that breaks through the fuzz on the low end of your radio dial and echoes out the back door of a pink neon lit bar. Mainstays of New York City’s clubs and DIY spaces, as well as the finest basement venues coast to coast, Evolfo has cut adventurous tracks through the U.S., gaining initiates and devotees every time they cram onto a stage and deliver their raucous live show. Last of the Acid Cowboys, the band’s debut LP, melts down decades worth of eclectic and bizarro records and puts on wax a house shaking mix of garage rock, psych soul, spiritual funk and ecstatic freakout. Like the faithful crate-diggers who have come before them, Evolfo mined the past for sounds and grooves that history left on the shelf. When they breathe their smoke into these forms, it produces something new.
“The process of writing and recording The Last of the Acid Cowboys was a lot of unlearning for me. My main focus was trying to reconnect with the untainted excitement I had for music as a teenager. Every artist I look up to defies categorization and I think that’s because they all concern themselves solely with making the music, and not labeling it from the get go,” said keyboardist and vocalist Rafferty Swink. “It might sound obvious, but these limitations are hammered into your head as an unknown artist and it’s only after you put both middle fingers up that you can make something real.”
With a guitar sound soaked in the gunk that drips down from an elevated subway train and a fire-breathing horn section, this Brooklyn septet plays garage-soul with the force of the Devil’s belly laugh and the groove of a New Orleans second line. They’re The Stooges playing along to Bitches Brew; Shuggie Otis soundtracking a Spaghetti Western; “Louie Louie” and a bottle of champagne.
In 2011 the rag tag group of seven music students, representing both coasts and the Great Midwest, came together in Boston, MA. They originally called themselves Evolfo Doofeht, a reversal of “the food of love,” Shakespeare’s famous description of music from “Twelfth Night.” Headed by guitarist and vocalist Matt Gibbs, the band had one goal: play with energy and bombast. They cut their teeth on the basement party circuit and earned a reputation for playing bacchanalian live shows. The crew wrote songs about gypsies and demons and quickly became local favorites, netting a Boston Music Award and inspiring Sound of Boston to proclaim “It’s hard, almost impossible, to listen to Evolfo Doofeht without feeling the urge to dance.” Now these boys are young men, they’ve traded Boston for Brooklyn, and they’re simply called, Evolfo.
In a few short years together, Evolfo have drawn the attention of indie rock tastemakers with their songs being selected for several films and television shows, inclusion on Spotify playlists and praise from media outlets like Impose Magazine who declared, “you fall into the depths of the lyrics within seconds,” and Speak Into My Good Eye who called the band, “raucous, dark, sinister, with a warm-psych-soul energy.”
Since their inception, Evolfo has been known for their performances and the band looks to keep developing. “I want the show to go above and beyond. I want to be on bigger stages consistently where we can experiment with the spectacle and the sound to their fullest extent,” said Gibbs. “My favorite thing about my band is that it’s what I do for fun. I live for the tours and I look forward to these shows more than anything else.”
Evolfo carries the essence of weird and raw music forward, one sweaty dance floor at a time. Play on.