Buzz: With new EP, The Cinnamon Band All Dressed and ready to go
After growing up playing together in various post-punk and experimental bands throughout Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Washington DC, and Richmond, John Harouff and Neil Campbell reconvened in Harrisonburg after college as The Cinnamon Band hoping to explore the slower, more serious parts of their right lobes. After the two struggled to recreate the sound of a full band, Harouff began to tailor his songwriting specifically to the duo's strengths, relying on the natural chemistry the musicians had created throughout their youth playing together.
"When it boiled down to just two people, we were at first just working on all the songs I had initially written– we were trying to reproduce [the sound] with two people," explains Harouff. "Then I started writing songs specifically for a two-person group and it evolved into the thing it is now."
"In some sense, it's easier for two people– we can make eye contact with each other and lock in," he continues. "But it's also very, very difficult, and we spend a lot of time trying to work out ways to get songs to sound full and tight without a bass player."
The hard work paid off. Quickly garnering praise for their surprisingly full-sounding and infectious live shows, Harouff and Campbell headed to a small studio in Montreal and attempted to translate that sound into a recording with the help of Wolf Parade drummer Arlen Thompson.
"Each [song] represents a different aspect of the band– they have similarities in subject matter and are musically a variation of the same things," he says. "Some are louder than others, but it's basically an introduction to the band, our louder and softer sides."
That means both rollicking rock and subtler, more melodic songs. Tinged with a southern country sensibility and informed by Harouff's maturing interest in singer-songwriters, the songs are all highly autobiographical, according to the guitarist– "pretty much directly melodramatic versions of my own experiences." Campbell supports with drum parts heavy on the kick drum while all the while dueling with Harouff on vocals. You won't miss the bassist.
"It's the most honest combination of things that we've done– for years, we played loud, bombastic experimental music and I liked that," says Harouff. "But I've always loved pretty music, and was never able to make it myself. Suddenly I started combining the two ends of my taste spectrum, which is unusual– but they work together."
Both acknowledge that they may eventually add in other players, but for now Harouff is content to continue to push and prod the two-pronged sound to its peak. If that means more records like All Dressed, it might be a while.
The Cinnamon Band host a release party for All Dressed at midnight on Friday, April 23 at The Southern following Sarah White and the Pearls.