She Keeps Bees have shared “Is What It Is”, the lead single from their new album Eight Houses, out September 16th on Future Gods Records. “Is What It Is”, one of two songs on the album that feature Sharon Van Etten on back-up vocals, is a powerful track. The album revels in the raw power of subtlety, silence and space, coloring Jessica Larrabee’s compositions with lean piano lines, hazy horns and warm organ rolls.
Eight Houses finds She Keeps Bees working with an outside producer, Nicolas Vernhes (Deerhunter, The War On Drugs, Dirty Projectors, etc.) for the first time and enlisting guest musicians including Sharon Van Etten and Adam Schatz.
Considering how controlled the chaos is on Eight Houses-a record that’s ruptured by riffs and rattled by rhythms without leaping straight off the rails-it’s tough to imagine a time when Jessica Larrabee and Andy LaPlant didn’t finish each other’s sentences, creatively and personally. But that’s how She Keeps Bees began: with LaPlant bashing a borrowed kit (including a garbage-picked floor tom) atop a step-ladder and Larrabee directing the dark solo recordings she began soon after moving from Philadelphia to Brooklyn.
“It was trial by fire,” says LaPlant of their early rehearsals. “Luckily what she wanted out of me at the time wasn’t complicated.”
“We grew together slowly,” adds Larrabee, “like a tree. It felt powerful with him behind me. Nothing really clicked until I met Andy.”
That dynamic became more pronounced with each passing record, peaking with the self-produced songs of Nests and Dig On, the latter of which expanded the pair’s minimal sound with bass parts and synths. Now joined by an outside producer (Rare Book Room’s Nicolas Vernhes) and guest musicians including Sharon Van Etten and Adam Schatz, She Keeps Bees revels in the raw power of subtlety, silence and space, coloring Larrabee’s compositions with lean piano lines, hazy horns and warm organ rolls.
“There was definitely a batch of more aggressive songs that got cut from the record,” explains LaPlant. “Having a producer was nice in that respect; if things were starting to sound too similar and we didn’t hear it, Nicolas wasn’t shy about letting us know. We wanted to step outside our comfort zone stylistically, which really gives Jess’ songwriting a chance to shine.”
“The reservations left a heartache in me,” she explains, “and swarms of questions. I began reading stories. The more I read the history, the more I realized this was a universal story of ‘progress’: the Western world surrounding indigenous people, taking their natural resources, destroying their sense of self.”
And yet there’s still a light at the end of the tumultuous tunnel Eight Houses carves over the course of 10 punchy, confident songs. It kicks in as “Raven” collides with its choruses, meeting the human condition head on.
SHE KEEPS BEES
FUTURE GODS RECORDS
SEPTEMBER 16, 2014
1. Feather Lighter
4. Both Sides
5. Burning Bowl
8. Greasy Grass
10. Is What It Is