There is a delicate balance between solid rock and roll and pop music, and to find a comfortable halfway point, without sacrificing quality for accessibility, is a music industry feat. Dup Crosson, aka Saint Solitude, has done just that, carving his niche with well-crafted, high quality indie-pop songs while still preserving his rock ideals.
A talented multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Crosson writes and performs songs with varied layers looped live, deftly switching between keys and guitar. He uses his guitar as a percussive instrument at times, and then utilizes an electronic bow (e-bow) to make droning, harmonizing string sounds with a bit of reverb. The use of keys in Crosson's songs is sometimes an addition of depth; other times it's primary melody for the song.
At a recent Rocket Club performance, Crosson shared the show with three other dynamically different bands: Darien (a 15-year old singer-song-writer virtuoso), BaManBia (playing their last show as Asheville's only Afro-Asian influenced group), and Lewis (a stellar rock band that did a spectacular cover of Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye"). The crowd was very receptive to the varied spectrum of musical styles — fans of one band rocked out to the groups.
This show marked Crosson's first live performance with a full band, before going on tour for three months solo, and he split his set between solo and accompanied material. The set opener, "Soft Contact," a slight step away from his usual shoegazey style, represented more of a upbeat-rock '60s sound. The next song, "And After," (ordinarily low-fi) had a fuller, more explosive feel with the addition of Donnie Pratt on bass and Ian Cunningham on drums.
During the solo portion of the show, Darien contributed backing vocals for the extremely catchy "Let's Try It" (which she also sings on the version for Crosson's forthcoming record, Journal of Retreat). With its catchy sing-along chorus, "So if you think we'll get away with it / all we've got to do is pray for it," it's hard to get it out of your head.
A highlight of the set was "So Much for the Secret," with its droning e-bowed guitar, break-beat percussion line created by key and guitar loops, and haunting low-toned guitar over everything. A increasingly energetic and streamlined finish represents Crosson's ability to manufacture mature pop songs right at the edge of milking their catchiness, while retaining maturity in his lyrics: "The right pocket to discover and recover islands from the blue / in a cottage in the country, you learn something from your solitude / but I hate it when I need it, so I keep a secret / and I could never claim pure providence, this confidence."
Saint Solitude's recently completed record, Retreat, was crafted almost exclusively by Crosson this past January through April (with some production assistance from Andrew Schatzberg of Landslide Studios and a few musical guests). Journal is an accurate representation of Saint Solitude live: Quality, intimacy and well-arranged hooks abound. Saint Solitude will be on a solo tour across the U.S. until early October, after which a return to Asheville and an official record release by Alive and Well Records is in the works.
For more information, visit www.saintsolitude.com.
[Lydia See is a freelance music writer and photographer. Contact her through http://lydiasee.wordpress.com.]