Bombadil announces new album, All That The Rain Promises, out Nov. 8
Bombadil had reached a new creative peak upon recording 2009′s Tarpits and Canyonlands. But, unfortunately, the band was sidelined shortly thereafter. Bassist Daniel Michalak suffered a delibilitating nerve injury. Drummer James Phillips moved to Portland. Guitarist Bryan Rahija moved to Washington, D.C. For a while, it seemed as if we might’ve heard the last of Bombadil — and if they had to bow out, well, at least they’d left us on a high note.
But with Michalak making a marked recovery, and the band reaffirming its commitment to its whimsical (if secretly serious) folk-rock, the band has returned. In addition to a “secret” slot opening for the Avett Brothers in Carrboro a number of months ago, and the band’s acclaimed performances at Hopscotch and the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion earlier this month, the band has announced the release of its fourth record, All That The Rain Promises, out Nov. 8, via longtime label Ramseur Records.
The band recorded the album — a triumphant return to form — over the course of a week at Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, Ore. Shuffle caught up with Rahija to find out about the state of Bombadil, and what this new album means for the future of the band.
—Bryan C. Reed
Shuffle: I think the question everybody wants to have answered is, how’s Daniel doing? Has he made a full recovery?
Bryan Rahija: Daniel has really come a long way. He’s gone from being able to play in only 15-minute bursts, to now being able to handle a full day of practice. He does have to take breaks every 45 minutes and do this crazy yoga move he invented, where he basically sprawls upside down on a piece of furniture so his shoulder nerves stretch out. But he’s worlds away from the days when he couldn’t brush his teeth without feeling pain.
In addition to Daniel’s injury, you and James both left North Carolina, for D.C. and Portland. How have these obstacles changed the act of being in Bombadil?
It does make things a little trickier. But we’ve been diligent about assembling various members of the band together once a month to work on new tunes. The separation has also freed us up to work on some other projects, which I think has been healthy. In addition to honing his engineering chops, James has been out on tour with Samantha Crain, Paleface, and fellow Portlandians the Lone Madrone. Meanwhile, Stuart has been on an absolute tear writing up new tunes. Sometimes a little distance can can be good–I think it helped us figure out where we want to take the band musically, and reflect on things a bit.
You were all able to convene in Oregon to record All That The Rain Promises. How did that go?
Great! Each record gets a little easier. Our goal going into the session was to record 6 songs, but we decided to push it and wound up with 11 that we felt really good about.
Was recording this album very different from the way you’d recorded Tarpits or A Buzz, A Buzz?
For starters, instead of going into a studio as we had in the past, James recorded and mixed the record for us. That meant he was working on the record for like 13 hours a day, whereas the rest of us were able to take turns in the recording booth. In a way it also meant that this record was more Bombadil than anything else we’d ever done. No outside engineers, no outside performers (well, we did bring in a vocalist for one line) — just us and the frogs chirping in the background.
I think there was also a sense of trying to be economical on this record. We had limited time, limited funds, and limited instruments (we ended up borrowing almost all the gear we used), and honestly that was just sort of how we were all feeling in the aftermath of having to take a break from touring. I think that sentiment–striving for a simpler way–probably made it into the record in some form or another.
Lastly, and not insignificantly, it was colder. Portland can get chilly in November. The only source of heat was a stove, and we were constantly on the hunt for firewood. The problem was that the stove tended to emit unwanted crackling noises. I ended up setting a bunch of stones on top of it so that when we had to go without flames, I’d have the rocks to keep my hands warm between takes.
You’ve got a new album, and you’ve played a couple shows, but is Bombadil going to be as active as it once was? Are you able to tour much?
Well, we’re not exactly trying to book any shows in Phoenix any time soon. But we all want to find a way to have the band be a part of our lives. We had such a positive experience performing in September that it’s hard not to want to do that more often. We’re certainly hoping to take the show on the road more regularly in the months ahead (next up is Cat’s Cradle on 11/12!) than we did in the last year.
What made you decide to keep going, and make this album, and keep the band together, despite the hurdles life put in front of Bombadil?
We kept writing new tunes even after we went into suspended animation back in 2009, and I think we all just figured we would make an album when we were ready. Personally, it seems like there’s always one more song in the hopper that I want to get out into the world, and that drives me to try and get the next record out there.
At the end of the day, I think we all just really like making music. We’re like-enough-minded dudes whose qualities, flaws, and senses of humor complement each other more often than not. I feel lucky to have found that, and I think we all believe strongly in whatever it is that we’ve been able to create as a result.