There’s something so distinctly Asheville about turning a makeshift space into a recording studio. That DIY approach blends necessity, ingenuity and an off-kilter sense of style. Its end result is not just heard but felt on Give It, the new full-length album from local experimental-rock band Fashion Bath. They’ll launch the LP with a free show at The Mothlight on Monday, Aug. 10.
“The album title to me kind of means ‘give it all you got before you have to get out,'” says Kevin Boggs who, with Max Murray — a high school friend from Morganton — formed Fashion Bath last summer. Due to construction, the band was about to lose its studio space in the Highland Brewing Co. complex, above Maté Factor’s yerba maté processing facility. Murray and Boggs had the space for about six months — tiny rooms used as offices by former occupants Blue Ridge Motion Pictures. Boggs says it felt cramped, Murray says it didn’t bother him, both say the tea imbued the studio with a strange smell.
While the maté factory locale might be unique in record-making, there’s a precedent for using unlikely industrial spaces. For The Black Keys’ third album, Rubber Factory, they rented the second floor of a defunct General Tire plant in Akron, Ohio. Hot, airless and acoustically lacking, it produced a critically acclaimed album — that band’s first to chart on the Billboard 200.
“If anything, having our own spot allowed us to experiment more,” says Murray. “For one song that didn’t make it onto the album, we went outside and hit a bunch of things against the roof. The space allowed us to do things we wouldn’t normally do.”
At 13 tracks, Give It is the band’s longest album to date. It ambles between garagey, guitar-fueled rockers like “Between the Lines” and dreamy, slow-core offerings like “Frendulum.” The former recalls the band’s first EP, Ease People, albeit with more layered complexity; the latter is in line with Sunday Best, Fashion Bath’s last EP, a textured and darkly expressive collection.
The full-length format was actually a mistake. What started as another EP project (part of a loose plan to release a short-form album every few months) took on a life of its own. Though Boggs and Murray had been making music together for years, when they found themselves sharing a house in Asheville, they started writing songs together for the first time. That relationship jelled, the makeshift studio space presented itself, and the two hit their creative stride. “It’s nice to have a bank [of songs] to choose from,” Boggs says. They produced enough material for an additional mini-album, this one of outtakes and “the ones that were too weird to put on [Give It],” Murray says. That release comes in a few weeks.
The creative output shows no signs of slowing. Though Fashion Bath is easing slowly into the idea of touring, Murray and Boggs have added members (Tyler Hernandez on bass and Sean Coughlin on drums) to their live-show lineup. And, post maté processing facility, Fashion Bath moved into a space in a metalworking factory. The industrial setting does dovetail with the band’s building supply warehouse-sourced moniker. “It’s kind of nice to have other things going on around you,” says Boggs. “Some people lock themselves in a basement with headphones and they can crank out a record, but with that you can go a little crazy.”
He continues, “Sometimes it’s nice having someone drop a hammer or a piece of wood on the floor. You get that in the microphone. You snap out of it and realize you’re not isolated in the space.” Many studio technicians argue with that technique. Then again there as many ways to make a record as there are musicians to dream up songs.
WHAT: Fashion Bath album release show with Doc Aquatic and Harrison Ford Mustang
WHERE: The Mothlight, themothlight.com
WHEN: Monday, Aug. 10, 9 p.m. Free