Posted November 7, 2013 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment
 
 

New Music: You Are Plural



by Issac Scott

Though Olympia pop-rockers You Are Plural have established themselves on the West Coast over the past several years, their new album Rabbit Rabbit is a first in many ways. It’s their first full-length album after two shorter EP’s, both released in 2011. For the first time on this album, drummer Chad Austinsen joins the founding duo of cellist Jen Grady and keyboardist Ephriam Nagler. It is also their first release on vinyl.

Rabbit Rabbit sounds more fully realized than what they’ve released before – their style is more refined.

While they describe their music as pop-rock, their choice of instruments, sophisticated rhythms and existential lyrical themes suggest something more unique and exciting. Not many bands center on cello and Wurlitzer keyboard, and the technical abilities they display are remarkable.

“Maybe we sound more methodical than we actually are,” Grady says. “Normally when we write, we think in terms of ‘this feels great,’ and ‘this feels not so great.’ I’d say we’re mostly a feelings-based band.”

Like many in the Olympia music scene, the band challenges expectations and embraces unconventional techniques.

youareplural_albumcover_web

“We like not being a guitar-focused band,” Nagler says. “It is confusing for some sound engineers… they don’t really know what we’re supposed to sound like.”

“It’s a challenge for traveling though,” Grady adds, “because they are both delicate instruments.”

The tracks on this latest release range from inviting pop-rock gems like the opening track “The Best is Yet to Come” to more classical-sounding pieces such as “We Are Cold Inside.”

Throughout, the lyrics are seductively simple while avoiding superficiality. “The Best is Yet to Come,” explores an existential dilemma between waiting and action. On the verse, Nagler and Grady soothingly croon “If I wait for the best then I wait/In the wings, for a chance to escape/I escape to a place where I know/ I can wait. Can I wait anymore?”

Their recording process also reflected the local DIY spirit.

“We rented the Quaker Meeting House out by Priest Point, and set up there and played everything live together,” Grady explains. “We tracked the drums, and were going to track the Wurlitzer too, but the electricity out there had a large buzz. We did the Wurlitzer and cello at various houses around Olympia. One time we were house sitting and we set up and did vocals there in the living room.”

Both of the two founders’ careers have meandered through an unusual diversity of roles. Before moving back to her hometown of Olympia, Grady spent years touring North America and Europe as a vocalist and cellist in a variety of Bay Area projects. Similarly, Nagler toured with several bands as a musician and sound engineer. The two came together while touring with Oakland singer-songwriter Emily Jane White, and struck up a musical relationship that continued when they got home.

“I fell in love with the way Ephriam played piano – super intense, and fast,” Grady explains. “So on one of our last shows in Europe we realized we wanted to start a band. When we returned to San Francisco, I got asked to play at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for an event. So I asked Ephriam if he would like to accompany me. We had three days to create an hour’s worth of music. We holed ourselves up in this really shitty practice space in San Francisco. It was metal bands on all sides, and then it was us in this tiny room trying to write an hour’s worth of music. It was really fun. I’ve played with a lot of people and it’s really hard to get that comfortable that quickly.”

In 2010, the duo moved up to Olympia, Grady’s hometown, where they released two EP’s with their label SideWithUs Records.

Grady and Nagler continue to collaborate with other musical projects around Olympia. Recently, Grady’s cello and voice has been featured on records by Generifus, Steven Steinbrink, and LAKE.

Moving forward, Grady says the band is “antsy to be writing new songs.”

“The winter’s coming up,” says Nagler. “It’s like as soon as it get shitty outside it feels good to stay home and flush out songs.”

They also are looking to incorporate more multi-disciplinary art forms into their performance, particularly for their Olympia shows.

“When we play in Olympia we are trying to make it a more special kind of event,” says Grady. “There’s this guy, Eric, at Olyphant who does handmade 16mm film loops, so he’s going to do some projections. We’re trying to do more collaborations. In Olympia there’s so many amazing musicians, artists, dancers, aerialists, etc, so the possibilities are endless.”

Listen to the whole album through Bandcamp.