By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
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In less than four years, the husband-and-wife indie-pop duo in the Rosebuds have repeatedly reinvented themselves. On their 2003 Merge Records debut, The Rosebuds Make Out,guitarist/vocalist Ivan Howard and keyboardist/vocalist Kelly Crisp made a sunny AM-pop splash with sparkling, naive love songs. The group's 2005 follow-up full-length, Birds Make Good Neighbors, tackled personal and political issues with world-weary sadness and regret. Old fans were disappointed as the '60s and '70s pop elements faded, but new fans were won over by the record's melancholy sincerity and soul.
With this year's Night of the Furies, Howard and Crisp once again challenge their fans. While the lyrical trend toward the introspective and painful continues, the music is delightfully unexpected. The pair's beguiling harmonies are still there, but they're accompanied by inventive synth-pop and disco arrangements that recall Ultravox, Rick Astley, early New Order — even I'm Your Man-era Leonard Cohen. Kelly Crisp recently sat down to help us understand how this surprising transformation took place.
Westword: Your records seem to have gotten darker over the years. Is everything okay?
Kelly Crisp: When we wrote the first record, we had no information to go on. It was just a creative burst that came out all at once. We had this childlike feeling of freedom, and we captured a moment in time. But with the second record, we'd been touring, and it was really hard to keep our mouths shut about social problems we were seeing. The lyrical content got darker and deeper because I had more things to say.
And how did you end up making a synth-pop record?
Ivan wrote a lot of Bill Withers-esque bass lines, and the whole feeling we wanted to convey was a Bill Withers/Sade kind of sound — just really sexy. We demo'd it out with keyboard and bass, and then we started playing with this old Casio that has these great beats. We liked it so much that we kind of kept that feel.
How did you two end up together?
One night I was at a rock show with my brother, and he lost his flip-flop in the mosh pit, and Ivan went in and got it for him. He has this amazing Southern accent and this magnetic thing — we just had this connection. I had a guitar in my apartment, and he would hang out, entertain my friends and sort of conduct the whole evening. When we got married, we didn't have any money for a honeymoon, so we just stayed home and got a little bored. One day I was painting, and he came in and said, "We're in a band; we've got a show tonight." He had gotten a call, asking him if he wanted to play at a local club because of a last-minute cancellation, and he lied and said he had a new band. Then we played the show and everybody loved it. Now I wash the dishes and think about music at the same time. It's just become a life choice.