By Noah Hubbell
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For more than fifteen years, Ian O'Dougherty was in Uphollow. Early on, Uphollow was something of a melodic punk-rock band, but by the late '90s, it had evolved into an act that included a lot more nuance and conscious craft in its songwriting. Around the turn of last decade, Ian Cooke joined in on cello, and Uphollow transformed into an artistically ambitious pop band. When Cooke moved on to a noteworthy solo career, O'Dougherty joined him as a side player but continued to write music on his own.
One of his projects, Eolian, reflected O'Dougherty's love of art rock — specifically, the musicianship and richness of imagination found in most of that music. Recruiting his old friend Sean Merrell (an occasional Backbeat contributor and member of tintin, A Shoreline Dream and the Ian Cooke Band) to be the drummer, O'Dougherty started to flesh out ideas for a concept album whose themes of death, rebirth and renewal emerged as the music was being written. In the later stages, the duo brought in Merrell's A Shoreline Dream bandmate, Adam Edwards, to add a much-needed low end. (The resulting album, Egg, can be heard in its entirety at eolian.bandcamp.com.) We recently spoke with O'Dougherty and Merrell about the new album and recording with Bob Ferbrache.
Westword: The new Eolian record is a concept album. How did it come to be one continuous piece of music?
Sean Merrell: The continuous piece of music came out of necessity; we desired to craft a live show that was powerful and assertive. As we learned the songs while preparing for our first shows, we sought to eliminate pauses between songs in an effort to not only be more efficient, but to overwhelm the audience; we wanted to get to the end of the last song and have people think, "What just happened?" We wanted active listening and thought to be a requirement, so we sought a way to foster that.
It really felt like we were assembling a puzzle, and my parts — most of which did not exist in the original versions of the song — were crafted to blur the divisions between the puzzle pieces. Ian continued to erase other divisions with additional dynamics and guitar parts, and we eventually came to a point where those original songs became one large song which was indivisible.
You've recorded with a number of engineers over the years. What brought you back to recording with Bob Ferbrache?
Ian O'Dougherty: Bob is a generous and caring and loving guy with a phenomenal base of knowledge on a lot of things. Music, specifically, but he's a really knowledgeable guy, and he's fun to be around. I wanted his opinion, and I wanted the stress of someone else listening to me sing, because if I record myself, I'll take as long as I feel I need to. I like the stress of him telling me that it's not any good. And he'll tell you. He's one of the few people that has the balls to be honest. I love that. I think that the world needs a lot more of that.