Refuge In Exile
Please stream the full album here:
First single “Alarm Pheromones” available here (please feel free to share and post):
1. Blurred Outer Edges
2. Alarm Pheromones*
4. This Old Line*
5. The One Way Mirror
6. Outside In
7. Western Medicine
9. TS Eliot*
* – Key tracks
All tracks FCC clean
“Avant-garde pop for everybody, filled with romantically gloomy soul voyages” is the best way to shorthand the windswept ache of Brandon Krebs’ widescreen rock. “Making records for me is a therapeutic process almost,” Seattle songwriter/musician/producer Brandon Krebs explains. “It’s my favorite thing in the world.”
Krebs has decided to go with creating under his own name for new album Refuge In Exile, due out in mid-March. A deliberate change up from the heavy guitar-rock of his last release Tethered to A Piece of Falling Sky (recorded under previous moniker Stranded Sullivan), Refuge In Exile’s instantly breathtaking sweep and rhythmically undulating hooks challenge its title’s reveal of how it was made intimately and mindfully in an uncertain two-year period of the artist’s life.
The nine-song full-length will be released both digitally and on vinyl. Krebs says it comes from an urgently transitional period in which he did a lot of soul-searching and self-reflecting. “I have moved every December for four years and it has definitely shaped this record.” There are themes varying from the struggle of such change, being thrust into awkward situations; feeling self-imprisonment and then having to move on; grappling with technology the way we all are these days. “I guess I would say Refuge in Exile is about the struggle to be myself and live the life I want to live instead of one you’re taught to want and pursue and its inherent struggles and loses and or compromises.”
Tethered to A Piece of Falling Sky had been recorded at Avast. “I prepared for the record for six months after quitting job, then I recorded the basic tracks in eight days and then spent a year shaping the record and overdubbing and doing vocal tracks on my own,” he says. “This time i did less tracking on my own but still took two years to get it done.” Krebs didn’t want to make the same record as before — staying away from guitar altogether, focusing on playing the Rhodes and many other keys.
“With Refuge, I didn’t have any money really and started out just doing basic piano tracks with my engineer at my place then would work on the songs for a few months, then return to Earwig Studio and a drummer to overdub and then go back to my place and write and work and then repeat,” Krebs says.
Though recorded on a budget, Refuge majestically opens the sound-scape up to many layers of texture, with unusual arrangements and fascinatingly diverse melodies in its chamber-rock elegance. “I spent a lot of nights staying up and playing with sounds, adding different ideas, trying out a lot of different sounds I hadn’t experimented with before. I also made a big effort to give this one more dynamics and diversity, play with space a bit more and make it less dense.”
Krebs has been in various groups and projects since he moved to Seattle in 2002, lucking out with some great collaborators. His collectives would play out at various clubs around town like the Sunset, the Tractor, High Dive, or the old Comet, and then would retire. “I’ve been amassing lots of songs over the years, some of which ended up on both Tethered and Refuge. Since Tethered marked the first concrete finished result that was generated by predominantly me, I put a lot of effort into playing around town and I met some different people out there who have participated on Refuge.”
Sometimes seeking the assistance of collaborator Aaron Wilson, Krebs used three different drummers this time around, including himself. “I also brought in Jim Acquavella (Dust Moth) and Joe Patterson who was a friend of my engineer’s. My engineer Don Farwell also played drums on a few tracks. Also, I’ve always loved female vocals a la Leonard Cohen, so I’ve brought on Brenda Xu, who I met at a Columbia City Theater open mic, as well as Kira Shea, Krista Mercier, and Nikki Schultz from the Minneapolis bands Chastity Brown, The Discord Syndicate and Pisces Mother, and sings on epic closer and single “TS Eliot.” He also had help from friends Ian Williams who plays trumpet on all the songs, and Katie Mosehauer of the Thoughts on violin.
Though it’s a grand expression of high-quality musicianship coming out of the Northwest rock underground, Krebs isn’t quite sure how it will fit in. He wonders how it will be heard by the outside world, something he worked at for long and hard, sounding so different from most other bands. “But I think it has a place here and in the world in general.”