Founded in 2014 by vocalist Dan Rose and The Story So Far guitarist Kevin Geyer, ELDER BROTHER have always oscillated away from the hard-charged, sweat-drenched sounds of their figureheads’ primary impulses, opting for more brooding, patient tendencies of indie rock and Midwestern emo.
But by stripping themselves down even further – to nothing but their bare essentials – the Bay Area-based band’s message reverberates louder than ever on their third full-length, I WON’T FADE ON YOU (out Oct. 2, 2020 via Pure Noise).
Produced by Grammy-nominated Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Joyce Manor), LP3 finds Elder Brother, now a full-time quartet with the addition of bassist Morgan Foster and drummer/keyboardist Evan Garcia-Renart, in their most comfortable place yet, distancing themselves from their alternative roots in a profound way while simultaneously elevating their place in the prolific NorCal underground scene.
“I’ve been getting further away from distortion pedals and more into organic-sounding music,” says Rose, who also serves as The Story So Far’s tour manager. “In the past, my favorite songs of ours have been the ones where we’re able to jam a little bit more. I think we’re all getting better at our instruments, so it’s easier to start ripping off more talented artists.”
The singer’s self-deprecation aside, I WON’T FADE ON YOU doesn’t worship at the altar of other acts as much as it confidently peels back the band’s sound to reveal some perhaps surprising influences. At the beginning of the recording sessions, the band handed Shirley albums by artists like Wilco and Pedro the Lion, music that would ultimately guide the process and draw the sonic roadmap for what the album would become.
From its sparse instrumentation – largely recorded live to tape at Shirley’s Oakland studio with minimal overdubs – to dabblings in everything from acoustic-based indie pop (“If You Love Me (Like You Say)”) and bossa nova (“The Champion of the East Bay”) to keyboard-heavy funk (first single “I Get So Tired of You”) and 3⁄4-time waltzes (“Hair”), I WON’T FADE ON YOU showcases a breezier, lighter Elder Brother, one that’s peppered with imperfections and quirks that give the songs a humanity unlike anything they’ve previously released.
On the heels of 2018’s STAY INSIDE, an album devastatingly centered on the opioid crisis and its effects on the band’s personal circle, I WON’T FADE ON YOU is the sound of songwriters coming out of that hell battered but not broken, looking for the light and resolving not to let it fade out.
“I was intentionally trying to keep it a bit lighter this time,” Rose says. “The songs aren’t all necessarily super positive and upbeat, but they’re a little less of a bummer.”
On “Hair,” Rose laments an inability to untether himself from painful memories of a former partner, while the album-opening title track finds the singer pledging an unshakable bond to a loved one. This duality, disparate yet rooted in the same sense of permanence, gives the songs on I WON’T FADE ON YOU their heart.
They’re songs about growing up, growing together and growing apart, ultimately unable to outrun the ghosts of old friends, the pull of old flames and all those deeply embedded feelings we can’t shake – and those we never want to lose. That sense of connection is especially relevant when it comes to Garcia-Renart, a childhood friend of Rose who reconnected with the singer after years apart and whose keyboard proficiency was critical in shaping the album’s sound.
It’s life imitating art, a serendipitous reunion that’s led to the hallmark of Elder Brother’s career so far – and the album’s title come to life.
“‘I Won’t Fade On You’ was a song Morgan originally wrote,” Rose explains. “We ended up changing most of the lyrics, but that one line really resonated with me. It was the unifying moment of the song for me … Writing songs is weird: You’ll put in a placeholder line that fits, and then one day it just all sort of makes sense.”
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