"I think it's really funny how the context of our band name has changed over the past two years," says Shane Conerty. "It went from Now You See Them, now you don't — a temporary thing — to Now You See Them everywhere you go."
The band has just finished a set at the Mountain Sports Festival, their second Asheville gig in three days, and his observation rings especially true at this moment. What started as busking for cash in Hawaii and drunken bar gigs in Australia – the now-you-don't era – has turned into a full-time gig, and if you haven't seen them yet, you haven't been going to shows in Asheville. Now You See Them is everywhere.
But after two years of charming crowds of loyal fans and becoming a staple of the local scene, Now You See Them has finally finished a proper recording, and you no longer have to see them to hear what it's all about.
Things Change In a Day is essentially a cleaned up studio version of their endlessly entertaining live show, and it perfectly captures the charisma, energy and quirky charm that is the essence of the band. There are no unfamiliar instruments, no gratuitous studio wizardry and no attempts to make the songs anything other than the simple, heartfelt anthems they have always been. It's classic Now You See Them from start to finish, a refreshingly straightforward showcase of the cheerful harmonies, punchy acoustic strings, and uplifting lyrics that fans have come to know and love.
"It's the three of us playing music with enthusiasm," says drummer Jason Mencer. "That's what is on our EP, because that's what we wanted, and that's where we came from. We didn't want to jump right into a 10-piece band. We're a three-piece busking band."
For now, anyway. With their EP freshly pressed and still days away from official release, the band – one of the hardest working and most ambitious in town – is already looking ahead. This summer, they'll be heading back into the studio to begin work on the next evolution of Now You See Them. And it's going to be big.
"I think that we're going to try to get every Asheville musician who we love in on our CD," says Mencer. "Any musician who we've run into who we love, we'll toss them on the album. Because there is so much you can do with a chorus of people."
"We dream of that," adds singer/guitarist Dulci Ellenberger. "We want huge arrangements. As many instruments, and as full and as big as we can get it."
That vision is more than just a dream. They've already begun incorporating bass and electric guitar into their live show, and members of the band have become regular fixtures onstage with other local acts. Surprisingly, Conerty says that after five years of playing together all over the world, it was recording the EP that cemented their musical chemistry and allowed them to begin realizing their vision of an expansive lineup.
"It's taken a while," Conerty reflects, "but we've come into a very comfortable place with each other. We can have anybody come play with us now because we're more comfortable with ourselves and the music. Now we can keep expanding.
"We played at the Emerald Lounge recently," he continues, "and on our last song we had a drum kit and a trombone and a violin and a keyboard, and that's how I envision the songs to be, this speakeasy, jazzy, drunken thing. And it sounded like that, which just gets me excited for a recording where we have the capability to do that, and make these songs bigger than we've ever imagined them to be. And with all our friends, not studio musicians. People who we know and love, who have helped us out and we've helped them out. It will be a family-type record with a lot of love in it. And I think that's the general idea that we want to have come across in the songs."
But don't expect things to change in a day. The band is still adamant about moving at a comfortable pace.
"We've never wanted to skip steps," Conerty says. "There have been things that we thought we were ready for, but in retrospect we really weren't. It's all happening on a gradual slope, which we're really happy with."
That being said, it's been a big year for Now You Seem Them, and they're showing no signs of slowing down.
"It's so amazing," Mencer points out, "because in our last Xpress interview, in the last line we were saying that the two things we needed were a van and a professionally produced CD. And within a month of that, my parents wrecked their van and said we could have what was left of it, and [producer] Eric Wilson approached us and said, 'I'd love to record you guys, and it won't cost you anything up front.'
"Now we want a tour bus and Bonnaroo," he adds with a laugh. "Is everybody OK with a tour bus and Bonnaroo?"
[Dane Smith can be reached at email@example.com.]
who: Now You See Them, with Holy Ghost Tent Revival and the Armadillos
what: CD release for Things Change in a Day
where: The Grey Eagle (Saturday, June 12. 9 p.m. $6/$8. thegreyeagle.com)