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Look Alive is our 8th album. The bulk of it was recorded in a vintage keyboard museum in Calgary AB, during a January stretch when the temperature reached 30 degrees below zero. We ended up in Canada because our British producer, Leo Abrahams, couldn’t turn around an American work visa fast enough, and we feel lucky to have discovered Studio Bell at the last minute. Despite having access to room after room of well-maintained analog keys, Leo gravitated to a cheap Ensoniq Mirage synth from the 1980’s that made Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation-era sounds from floppy disks. Leo spent countless hours poring over these floppy disks while the band gawked at the mellotrons, harpsichords, and other vintage equipment housed at Studio Bell. It was the beginnings of a stylistic clash that would ultimately play out beautifully. Our band had always gravitated to “warm” sounds. Leo would introduce us to “cold” sounds and the way they challenge us as listeners. He was the perfect complementary piece for Guster.
After working with the late Richard Swift four years ago and discovering a more raw and vintage sound on Evermotion, we fully embraced studio production with Leo this time around. The sheer amount of production on Look Alive grew into its own statement. There is a lot to unpack.
One day in Calgary we arrived at the studio to discover that Leo had put in a few extra hours on our song “Summertime.” He’d built an entire new intro using the Ensoniq Mirage overnight and played it for us. The band reaction wasn’t too kind. Our beautiful song now had a jarring, harsh, disruptive introduction, instead of the soft mellotron flutes we’d known. After some days of light bickering about it, Leo finally shed his proper British diplomatic side and belted out that “the world doesn’t need another fucking Beatles pastiche!” This would eventually become a rallying cry for the album as we strove to make something new and powerful together.
Title track “Look Alive” is an ominous, processed sonic collage with haunting words about waking up and becoming active in the midst of hollow words and fake heroes. “Hard Times,” written in the studio, came out more like the dark pop of Peter Gabriel / Depeche Mode / Tears for Fears than what people might think of Guster. “Overexcited” felt like classic Brit-pop and so Ryan sang it with a British accent over an Ensoniq marimba. Some of Guster’s critics will say “but you can’t do that” — and that’s something we’ve heard our entire career. We don’t subscribe to the same musical ideology they do and never have.
Writing songs for the second straight record with multi-instrumentalist Luke Reynolds (who joined the band in 2010) has been a key to our evolution. Working with artists like Leo Abrahams, John Congleton, and Collin DuPuis proved to be inspiring and adds to a “brain trust” that bolsters the songs. With Look Alive the plan is simple. Grow our musical community. Write better and better songs. Keep our minds open. Never repeat ourselves and create a legacy of music that is undeniable.
– Brian Rosenworcel, drummer of Guster
As the Brontë sister wrote, “The ties that bind us to life are tougher than you imagine.” Shovels & Rope, the musical duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, embody that bond. Married for a decade, their covenant extends to blood and beyond: as parents, bandmates, and creative collaborators who can now add the pursuits of festival curators, film subjects, and children’s book authors to that mighty list. Having released four studio albums and two collaborative projects (Busted Jukebox, Vol. 1 & 2) since 2008, Trent and Hearst have built their reputation on skill, sweat, and, yes, blood. Now, with the tough and elegant new record By Blood, as well as their High Water Festival in their hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, “Shovels & Rope: The Movie”, and the picture book “C’mon Utah!”, Shovels & Rope are primed for their biggest year yet.
Accomplished musicians in their own right prior to dedicating themselves full time to Shovels & Rope in 2011, Trent and Hearst have made a career together by seizing opportunities and never resting on their laurels or being complacent in doing something just because. Carving out a niche in the music world with strong, roots/indie/folk/rock-inspired efforts like 2012’s O’ Be Joyful, 2014’s Swimmin’ Time, and 2016’s inward-looking Little Seeds, as well as their powerful live show, far-reaching tours, and myriad TV and festival appearances, Shovels & Rope have earned the right to follow their own muse. And so, in an effort to satisfy their numerous creative interests and adapt to a changing industry, Trent and Hearst have firmly planted their flag in realms beyond recording and releasing albums.
The third annual High Water Festival curated by the band will be held over a weekend in April and will bring 10,000 fans to a park in North Charleston to witness a lineup of artists comparable to some of the best in the country—including Leon Bridges, The Head & The Heart, Lord Huron, Jenny Lewis, Mitski, and Shovels & Rope themselves. High Water benefits select organizations and water conservation charities in Charleston and aims to avoid the feeling of corporate inundation and discomfort that plagues many big-name music events. Trent and Hearst work with production companies and agencies to book acts, then serve as on-site hosts in addition to performing throughout the weekend.
“Shovels & Rope: The Movie” is a performance film that has been expanded into feature-length with an external narrative weaving through and connecting the live performances. Directed by their frequent visual collaborator, Curtis Millard, the ‘live show’ portion of the filming took place over two nights at The Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina, during the tour for Little Seeds. The rest of the film was shot in various locations in and around the Southeast. The result can be described as a David Lynch meets John Hughes (a fun, silly, and tongue-in-cheek film for fans to enjoy that also represents the band at the peak of their live power.)
The children’s book, “C’mon Utah!”, sets the lyrics from the new song of the same name to illustrations by the artist Julio Cotto. It is an inspirational story, set in the future aftermath of the building and subsequent destruction of the southern border wall. The separated and displaced families are figuring out how to start to put the pieces back together. Communities form to organize and support each other. The parents in these communities tell stories to lift the children spirits and maintain hope through sadness and despair. One such story is about a magic horse named Utah who has the power to help to reunite them with their families on the other side of the devastation. The book is intended as a conversation starter for parents and children to discuss immigration and diversity.
Trent and Hearst have learned to juggle their busy schedules by relying on each other as well as their team, and by seizing every chance for efficiency. They realized one such opportunity by building a modest studio at home, which is where they began to record By Blood in May of 2018. The new space in their back yard provides a sanctuary where their gear can remain at the ready, a luxury conducive to their creative process—especially when sharing a home with kids.
By Blood’s ten songs are vignettes that focus on vulnerable, human characters laid bare, while the textures are gritty, sweeping, and profound. These are tales of inherently good yet incomplete people whose faults are on the table in plain sight, a trait that endears the subjects to the listener and that the songwriters recognize in themselves.
The first single “The Wire” is about accepting your own faults and learning to say you’re sorry. Its stylishly minimal verses and wall of sound chorus recall some raw, girl-group era drama as well as timeless rock and roll. As the gorgeous, dark lullaby of the title track brings the album to its end, the beautiful, cinematic journey of By Blood has left its mark.
And so, bound by blood, by sweat, and by love—of creativity, craft, and family—Shovels & Rope are coming out swinging. From the bind in their band name itself to the shared life they have built from scratch, it’s clear that Trent and Hearst are in constant pursuit of their best selves—together.
The Rounder Records debut from Amythyst Kiah, Wary + Strange marks the glorious collision of two vastly different worlds: the iconoclastic alt-rock that first sparked her musical passion, and the roots/old-time-music scene where she’s found breakout success in recent years, including recognition from Rolling Stone as “one of Americana’s great up-and-coming secrets.” Along with tapping into the vibrant musicality she honed in part through her studies in East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time, Country Music program, the Chattanooga-bred singer/songwriter expands on the uncompromising artistry she’s displayed as a member of Our Native Daughters—an all-women-of-color supergroup whose Kiah-penned standout “Black Myself” earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best American Roots Song and won Song of the Year at the Folk Alliance International Awards.
Produced by Tony Berg (Phoebe Bridgers, Amos Lee, Andrew Bird) and made with esteemed musicians like Blake Mills, Wary + Strange arrives as a deeply immersive body of work, endlessly redefining the limits of roots music in its inventive rhythms and textures. With an unforgettable voice that’s both unfettered and exquisitely controlled, Kiah gracefully interlaces political commentary and personal revelation, ultimately offering a raw yet nuanced examination of grief, alienation, and the hard-won triumph of total self-acceptance.
If Darlingside’s first album, Birds Say (2015), focused on the past through nostalgia, and their second, Extralife (2018), contemplated uncertain futures, Fish Pond Fish stands firmly in the present, looking at what’s here, now. Dave Senft (bass), Don Mitchell (guitar, banjo), Auyon Mukharji (violin, mandolin), and Harris Paseltiner (cello, guitar) have created a natural history in song—taking us into gardens, almond groves, orchard rows, down to the ocean floor and under stars.
The band has long been praised for their harmonies and intelligent songwriting, described by NPR as “exquisitely-arranged, literary-minded, baroque folk-pop,” and their dynamic presence (crowded tightly together onstage) have made them a live-performance favorite. But this album showcases their broader storytelling abilities: nature is a looking glass, the songs suggest, with tracks like Ocean Bed, Green + Evergreen, Mountain + Sea, and Crystal Caving making metaphors of their titles. An experience of nature is an experience of self; an experience of self is one of natural change cut and complemented by stasis.
The band started studio recording Fish Pond Fish in late 2019, when they moved into Tarquin Studios—the residential studio of Grammy Award-winning producer Peter Katis (Interpol, The National). Living and working together brought them to their very early years under one roof in Hadley, Massachusetts, which had seeded the origins of their intimate collaboration. At Katis’s suggestion, many components of the initial demos were preserved as layers in the produced tracks to retain the spirit of the initial recordings, resulting in a collection of songs that is simultaneously the most bedroom-tracked and production-heavy full-length album that the band has yet released.
Maine based singer/songwriter Pete Kilpatrick grew up with a deep and resounding love of melody. With no formal training in music, Pete picked up the acoustic guitar at the age of 16 and began teaching himself how to play, crafting his own songs all while falling deeply in love with the process.
After finishing school, Pete began to direct his energy on becoming a full-time musician. He wrote and recorded his first album, Half Way Home, back in 2003. Between networking and a consistent performance schedule around the country he began to develop a loyal following that would continue to grow over the years.
Pete has released nine studio albums both solo and with the Pete Kilpatrick Band. He and the band have performed over 1300 shows alongside artists like Dave Matthews Band, Ray Lamontagne, Guster, Barenaked Ladies, Jason Mraz and many others. The lineup features Pete Morse on electric guitar, Tyler Stanley on keys, Colin Winsor on bass guitar and Chris Sweet on Drums.
Pete’s songs have been featured on over 15 network television shows, including The Office, Parks and Recreation, New Girl, Community, and American Housewife.
During the global shutdown in March of 2020 Pete began performing a weekly livestream concert which resulted in over 100 virtual shows and the release of two new albums, “Songs From The Green Room” (2020) and “Back Roads” (2021). He is currently writing new music for what will evolve into his tenth studio record.