Last month Eastern Phoebes played their first show in Rhode Island since its principal creative force and keyboard player Ry Smith, along with vocalist Meg Bayley, relocated to Newport from Long Island in September. It was a small, intimate show at Providence’s Machines With Magnets that found itself jolted to life by the band’s loud blasts of sonic Technicolor.
In terms of sound, Eastern Phoebes sits somewhere on the map between bright, ‘60s-inspired pop and DIY, lofi wackiness. Ry throws himself at his keys with reckless abandon while Meg belts and bounces around the stage. That’s a level of fun that can only be infectious and kind of inspiring.
That show could very well have been the last time the band performs as its four-member whole in a while, and therein lies the challenge facing Eastern Phoebes as it moves forward. Half of the band, guitar player Rick Kattermann and drummer Gary Norton, still live on Long Island.
“When we left them we didn’t see it as a band break up,” Smith says, “But I’m not going to ask them to drive up every time we book something.” What that means for Ry and Meg is a lot of experimentation and noodling with how the band will continue to function as a semi-permanent duo.
Their most recent EP, Sprouts, clocks in at five songs and was their only release of 2013. After several years of producing no fewer than two releases a year, including a couple of full length albums, Ry sees that as running on empty.
“My thing is I like to crank music out as much as possible,” says Ry, “But the last six or eight months on Long Island, I just felt like I had nothing left in me. I feel like being in a new place with new surroundings and experiences will push out new material.”
What they wanted was more of a community of interested and encouraging artists, which is exactly what they found when they got to Rhode Island. “Here it’s actually about the music, which I’m fascinated by,” he explains. I want it to be about the music and not the coolness of it.”
So far this self-prescribed remedy for writer’s block seems to be doing the trick, as Ry has already worked out half of a new album due out from Boston-based label February Records later in the year. “We want it to be a very Rhode Island record,” he says.
“He loves nature and terrain, so wherever we are, he finds inspiration from it,” says Meg. “So it will be a lot about the land and the history here.”
Time will tell whether or not the new record sounds like coffee milk, but in the meantime they’ve got eight EPs and albums to get acquainted with. Dig deep, listen long and get to know your new musical neighbors.