In May 2010, many fans gathered at The Bishop for a bittersweet performance as local band Redbird played their last show together. Original band members Michael Bushman (vocals, guitar), Andy Shaw (bass, vocals), and Alex Kroh (drums, vocals) took the stage for (presumably) the last time together, as Kroh would be moving out of town toward new goals. However, it seems fate has dealt devoted fans a card, as not only will the band be performing a one-off, full band reunion show this week, a new 4-song EP will also be making its debut!Here’s a brief interview with band member Michael Bushman:
1. When did Redbird start playing together and how did the band come about?
Redbird started playing together in June 2008? That summer I had the house mostly to myself and I borrowed my roommate’s 4 track and left it set up in the living room. I just played a lot and eventually a few songs started to come together that didn’t really fit with the other bands I was playing in. I’ve been lucky enough to have a number of friends that studied audio recording and some of them kindly agreed to record these new songs. I asked friends into the studio to help arrange and play. After that happened a handful of times, it started to seem like the songs had some cohesive style and theme and that maybe they had some potential beyond a recording project. I asked some dear friends to try out playing together – Alex Kroh, Andy Shaw, and initially, Alex Loew of Gravitas (R.I.P.) was playing lead guitar too. We eventually decided on a trio arrangement, but things were pretty exciting from the very beginning. We’d get together and have some beers and I’d show them what I’d tried and what I’d been thinking about so far. Then everyone just started to try stuff out, write parts, suggest changes. We took those rough ideas and made actual songs. It turned into a really different thing and we were a band.
2. How do Redbird songs come together, does everyone contribute to the songwriting process?
Everyone contributes to the songwriting process. It’s not always this way, but often, I’ll bring a basic idea or structure to Andy and Alex. We talk about it and write different parts and change things around. Our songs are simple, but as a trio we try to get to a place where all the parts are doing something essential to the song.
3. The band will be releasing a new EP at Tuesday’s reunion show, with Alex out of town, was this something that was created in various locations, or was most of the recording completed before he left?
It wasn’t completed. We recorded a heap of stuff before Alex left, but we just didn’t know that anything would ever happen with it. I guess we all sort of imagined that we’d finish it remotely at some point, but just to have a sort of keepsake. We talked about it more after he left and decided to make a run at it. We did most of the bass and drums at Farm Fresh in Bloomington with Neal Warner and Alex running the sessions. Neal recorded the guitars later, after Alex moved to Connecticut to work at Peter Katis’s Tarquin Studio in Bridgeport. Then Neal and his wife, Kortnee, moved to a cabin in rural Wisconsin. I drove up and we did vocals there. We didn’t intend for it to happen, but you can hear birds all over the vocal takes if you listen closely. Later on, Neal and I went to visit Alex and we did some more recording and processing work at Tarquin with the help of Greg Giorgio. Then, Alex moved to Eugene, Oregon and Dave Vettraino took over mixing the songs here in Bloomington. Dave and I have been working on mixing these four songs and sharing with everyone involved by email with each set of revisions. In total, these four songs have recordings from 6 different locations. It’s been a slow and deliberate process, but we’re figuring out how to make it work. We’re getting better at it and are all pretty excited and invested now.
4. You’ve all played in different bands prior to forming Redbird, how does this band compare with previous projects?
It doesn’t really compare. I think we were all in bands in high school playing different strains of cheesy, underwhelming rock music. In college we all did different things: jam bands, indie rock bands, folk bands. We’re all glad to have found each other.
5. Who are some of your musical influences?
Julie Doiron, Mount Eerie, Damien Jurado, Why?, Built To Spill, David Bazan and Pedro The Lion, Ladyhawk, Smashing Pumpkins. Other real cool stuff.
6. What was your first performance in Bloomington, how did it go?
It went pretty alright. We’d just been playing in a basement up until that show and hadn’t even been using a PA for vocals. It worked out that we were opening for a couple of our favorite bands in Bloomington, The Coke Dares and the late, great Gravitas. Coke Dares are loud and fast, true rock & roll, and Gravitas were bombastic, and our songs are pretty sappy, often slower, and we were just painfully nervous. We couldn’t ask for better first show bill and all things considered, we did okay.
7. We’ve already seen the Redbird ‘farewell’ show, how was the experience of playing that show, and knowing that Alex would be moving away/leaving the band?
Oh, man, it was rough. We thought we were done playing for good. We really didn’t just say it was our last show to get people to come out. We were all buds before bandmates, but this has become something we love so much too. To have Alex leaving and to stop making Redbird songs all at once was a really sad thing for all of us. We hung out all night because Alex was leaving the very next day. Thankfully, we decided to figure out how to work from different places.
8. The band is back with a new release, is this the final recording/event for Redbird or will we be seeing more?
You’ll be seeing more! These four songs are part of a larger body of recordings that we’re still working on. The process is not the quickest or easiest. Alex has been living in Eugene, Oregon and is only in town briefly. He will be moving to Athens, Georgia in about a week or so.
9. How has this band grown and developed over the years? Any changes to your sound, style, or creative process?
We don’t get as drunk as we used to. I feel like I’ve tried to work on my voice a lot. I don’t know, we’re just a lot more comfortable with each other and with the type of music that we’re playing. We’ve not written long distance before because Alex hasn’t been able to have his drums with him since May, but I think he’s going to be able to have a place for them in Athens. After the recordings are finished, the next step is to keep writing.
10. Who are some of your favorite Bloomington Bands?
he Delicious, husband&wife, Good Luck, Racebannon, Alexander the Great, Pessoa, Sticky & the Bees, Horns of Happiness, Push Pull, Early Day Miners.
11. Any plans for new musical projects, in the works?
Andy just had a great first set with his new band, Dan the Abandoned, with Jeff Cierniak and Scott Taft. Cute, sweet, sad little songs.
I’ve been playing solo shows, but recently started trying to get something together – though, we’ve not had a chance work yet. We’ve been mostly out of touch for 2 or 3 years, so we’ve just being sharing music that we’ve found in the interim. I’ll let you know!