For most rising bands, the matter of continuing success is primarily a question of “Will people keep listening and coming to shows?” For Bombadil’s Daniel Michalak it was a concern of “Will I ever be able to play again?”
The band nearly faded out after its 2011 album, All That the Rain Promises, due to a strange and debilitating nerve condition suffered by Daniel (bass, piano, harmonica) that affected the use of his hands. Thankfully, his health has improved and the Durham, North Carolina-based band returned to the road this year after a three-year hiatus and is preparing to release a new album: Metrics Of Affection, out July 23.
One of the most eclectic bands you’ll find, it’s tough to describe Bombadil to the uninitiated. Drummer/producer James Phillips says “it seems like we get a lot of comparisons to 60s British pop rock,” such as The Kinks and The Beatles. The New York Times recently recommended Bombadil to Peter, Paul & Mary fans. The song Escalators, from the new album, features a “a staccato sing/talk performance full of tongue-twisting internal rhymes that land somewhere between Grandmaster Flash and Fred Astaire,” according to the band. Some songs are playful, others are chilling, and all are inventive.
If that sounds contradictory, it makes sense when you listen to the hip-hop verses, banjo and other eclectic ingredients of Metrics. “I’d say we have a folk-influenced pop sound,” James simplifies. “I’d say this record is more of an exploration of our interest in pop sensibilities, and also, probably a majority of the songs have more of a personal focus than our songs in the past.”
Bombadil does not discriminate when it comes to influences, some of which are surprising for an indie band. “If you’re not listening to what Taylor Swift is doing, you really should. It’s very complicated. There’s never a repeating part in her songs. There are 10 hooks in songs now instead of just a chorus,” James says. “It’s like ADD or something; I don’t know, but it’s fascinating.”
There are not a lot of overt roots references on the album — Boring Country Song being an exception – but James says the band is grateful to call North Carolina home, noting the state’s rich music heritage and the success of others there, such as Ben Folds and the Avett Brothers. “It’s a great place to play music,” he says. “People make it from here, and it’s easier to get started. We love the South.”
Bombadil’s upcoming performances include shows at the Clementine Café in Harrisburg, Virginia (July 18); The Camel in Richmond (July 26); the Lincoln Theater in Raleigh (July 27); and more shows in Georgia and the Carolinas through August.