Annuals and The Bowerbirds Talk 2008, Coachella and SXSW

January, 31, 2008, by Jedidiah

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All the talk about Raleigh’s music scene rising from the ashes could use some boost in the early part of the year 2008.  When discussing local music scenes, it is evident that Raleigh needs to step outside of the shadow that Chapel Hill sheds over it.  To do this, it may need to ride on the shoulder of a couple of local “giants”, while the scene slowly builds back up.  Although not necessarily considered giants (yet), Annuals and The Bowerbirds each received a good amount of national recognition in the year 2007.  Both have fantastic debut albums and both are traveling across the country to very well known festivals this spring.  I spoke with Mike Robinson, the bass player for Annuals and Phil Moore from The Bowerbirds about the year ahead for both bands. 

Coachella.  It’s the festival that begins the festival year in America.  Its lineup is announced before all the other ones, and it usually packs the biggest punch (although soon “Festival may kill the Local Venue Star”).  It is where Daft Punk unveiled their massive techno pyramid that became the biggest live music story of 2007.  The lineups are usually full of the well known names, with a few bands that creep in and usually have some of the best post-festival buzz, except for Daft Punk of course.  When scrolling through the past 9 years of Coachella lineups, I couldn’t find another Raleigh band that had ever played.  I may have overlooked someone but could Annuals be the first from the capital city?  The Avett Brothers played last year, but they are from Concord.  When mentioning this possibility of being the first Raleigh band at Coachella, Robinson seemed to think it couldn’t be so, but was very excited about this being a possible truth. 

Annuals were close to playing last year’s festival, but complications arose.  Known for their energetic live shows, Annuals should fit right in on the big stage.  When chatting about the festival lineup, Robinson expressed interest in seeing a handful of the bands that will be playing on the same day, including My Morning Jacket and Roger Waters (performing Dark Side of the Moon).  He stated that they were lucky enough to play at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark last year, at which Waters also was a headliner.  None of the band members have been to Coachella, so this trip will be extra meaningful for the band.

Robinson said that the band have been holed up in a friend’s studio working on songs until April or May for a new album that will be released in the beginning of the fall.  Recording will continue in Asheville, North Carolina at Echo Mountain where The Avett Brothers, Band of Horses and Donna the Buffalo have all graced the studio space. .  No title or cover art has been announced or created.  “We aren’t that far into things” Robinson laughingly said.  Between now and Fall, we can expect a Annuals/Sedona split EP, on Steve Ralbovsky’s Canvasback label.  Canvasback, which Robinson referred to as a “boutique vanity” label, is home to Manchester Orchestra and released the hit soundtrack to the Irish rock-opera Once in 2007. 

Annuals will hopefully be hitting some other festivals this Spring, but first they are headlining, for the second year in a row, the first night of WKNC’s Double Barrel Benefit on Friday.  They are excited to play their hometown again.  Catch them while you can, considering all the changes coming in 2008, appearances in the capital city may become very rare.  Check back with New Raleigh in mid February for the announcement of an Annuals/Sedona secret show.  The venue is small and it will definitely be an energetic evening.  2008 looks to be a magical year for Annuals.  “I got magic in my head, magic up my nose, magic coming out my fingers, magic crying out my eyes. I’ve got magic everywhere I fucking look. I can’t fight it either, I wish I could.”

The Bowerbirds

When I spoke to Phil Moore, lead guitarist and singer for The Bowerbirds, he and Beth Tacular were driving to Chapel Hill to pick up some of her artwork.  The two currently live in an air stream trailer outside of Pittsboro, about 45 minutes from downtown Raleigh, while Mark Paulson (who was in Ticonderoga with Phil) lives in downtown Raleigh.  Nevertheless, they have been a big part of the downtown Raleigh music scene for a year or two.  When asked about upcoming Raleigh shows, Phil responded “I don’t know of anywhere to play in Raleigh anymore.  We used to play at Bickett Gallery quite often.”  Sadly, Bickett is now gone and since, it has seemed that the Birds have hibernated, coming out for only a small benefit show at Lump Gallery in the fall.  But, 2008 looks to be a bigger year for the band that John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, infamously referred to as his “new favorite band in forever”  Forget John Edwards, now that’s an endorsement.

Similar to Annuals, The Bowerbirds will be releasing an album this year.  But, in The Bowerbirds’ case, it is more of a reissue on a large scale than a sophmore album.  Hymns for a Dark Horse was praised highly (and was one of New Raleigh’s first articles) when it was released the first time on Burlytime Records.  Problem was, it was only in about 8 stores.  Since, they have split from Burlytime and took some personal time.  They were thinking of possibly releasing the album themselves, but fortunately they have been picked up by “their favorite label” Dead Oceans, an offshoot of Jagjaguwar who are reissuing Bon Iver’s album To Emma, Forever Ago.  Both albums will hopefully see well deserved attention in 2008.  Dead Oceans is also home to one of my personal new favorite bands, The Dirty Projectors.   

The Bowerbirds will be traveling to a very well known festival across the country in the Spring.  Raleigh bands are no stranger to South by Southwest, Birds of Avalon and The Rosebuds have both traveled there in recent years.  Both seeming to make large ripples in Barton Springs.  (Brite Boy says they are going this year as well.)  The Bowerbirds have been to Austin, most recently to play with John Vanderslice, one of their favorite current musicians, at The Parish.  South by Southwest is a completely different monster.  Multiple shows in consecutive nights in a city like Austin can be exhausting but well fun.

The Birds have been nominated for a Plug Award for “Americana Album of the Year”, which includes Jose Gonzalez, Iron and Wine, and fellow North Carolinians The Avett Brothers.  Phil stated that they have no clue how they were nominated for the award and that they kept getting emails and calls from friends telling them about the nomination.  A crowded field with some true giants, but it is a great album so go vote for it HERE.  Or if you haven’t heard it yet, check it out on their homepage or myspace page.

And while they still have no relation to Petey Pablo other than the same home state, 2008 may be the year they Raise Up and spin the music world around to a new understanding of Kalalak’s (Raleigh in specific) music scene.  Their next show is February 23rd at Duke Coffeehouse.  From there they tour with fellow label mates Phosphorescent until South by Southwest in mid March.  Maybe by then Raleigh will have a music venue that will have the band flocking back to their hometown.

I’ll leave you with the quote from the band via a recent myspace bulletin that I think sums up a lot.

“Also, we apologize that we haven’t been able to keep up with our myspace messages lately. We don’t have fast internet at the airstream. If you would like to contact us, please go to our regular website (> and click the email link. We can handle emails out in the woods a lot better than slow-pants myspace, for which we have to drive into town and sit at a café.”

Thanks a bunch to Mike, Phil and both bands for their time.

New Bowerbirds Video:

All photos courtesy of Annuals and The Bowerbirds






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