Fashion Bath plays an album release show at Fleetwood’s

TIME BANDITS: Nearly four years after the release of their debut LP, the Asheville indie rockers of Fashion Bath are back with a new full-length record, 'Domestic Bliss.' The five-piece band plays an album release show July 20 at Fleetwood's. Photo by Rebecca Abide

In the description of Fashion Bath’s Facebook event for its Saturday, July 20, album release show at Fleetwood’s for Domestic Bliss, the Asheville band invites fans of quality indie rock to “come celebrate us spending way too much time on something.” The group’s second LP marks its first new music since the 2017 EP Smooches, and despite the 10-track collection’s representation of what can happen when proper time and effort are put into a record, it arrives with a generous dose of self-aware humor regarding its delay.

“We have been talking about finishing this record for years,” says Kevin Boggs (lead guitar/backing vocals). “We’re making fun of ourselves for being too precious with it. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll album, not the ‘Mona Lisa.’”

The molasses-fast approach hasn’t always been the case for the band. After forming Fashion Bath in 2014, Boggs and lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Max Murray became accustomed to working quickly with plentiful results. Within six months, they completed a pair of five-song EPs (Ease People and Sunday Best) and a full-length album (Give It). From there, they took what Boggs calls a “no rush” mentality that allowed the duo to work on a song, then take a break and return with fresh ears and new ideas. In turn, they further cultivated a 10-year friendship and working relationship that’s built on trusting each other’s judgment, challenging one another in an environment of openness — and, most importantly to them, having fun making and playing music.

“Max has an amazing ability to approach a song or demo he has never heard before, and, by the end of the day, make it into something great,” Boggs says. “His vocal layering and sense of melody is what makes our songs come to life and, for me, it’s the best part of the recording process. I sit back, drink a beer and watch it become something better.”

Murray’s take on his and Boggs’ songwriting process helps round out the picture. “The typical process is that I show up at Kevin’s house 30 minutes later than I told him I would be there, and he has a fantastic idea waiting, and we just work on it all day until we hate it. Then we come back in a week and shape it into something, or spin our wheels and throw it out,” he says. “There were a couple of songs on the album that came about from us switching that process up, and I think they benefited from the change.”

Murray singles out “Heavy Hands,” which he calls “an ancient demo” that he doesn’t remember recording but was found while browsing through old ideas. After the unearthing, he and Boggs emailed each other vocal ideas over the course of an evening, and the song soon took form. As for “Holographic Charizard,” it came about because he and Boggs each showed up to a session with the notion to write a song about, in Murray’s words, “a weirdly specific childhood treasure” — in this case, a valuable Pokémon card. (“We probably spend too much time together,” he says.)

Domestic Bliss was tracked and mixed in Boggs’ studio, which took various forms from 2016 through early 2019. It started in a warehouse spot off Patton Avenue that formerly housed the Thrashville skate space, moved to a cabin in Fairview and then to what Murray calls “a premium location next to Asheville staple BedTyme Stories, with a badass hairdressing roommate named Kathy.” The album was finished at Boggs’ new Arden home in what Murray refers to as “a much roomier basement.” He adds that anecdotes from the recording process are fairly tame, noting that he and Boggs wrote roughly “half the lyrics while playing catch in his front yard,” though at one point he managed to survive an accident largely unscathed.

“A makeshift vocal booth created from office dividers and guitar cases collapsed on Max while tracking vocals,” Boggs says. “No doctor visit was required, and the microphone still works.”

A total of 25 songs from those sessions got whittled down to 15 — five of which formed Smooches, leaving the rest for the terrifically cohesive Domestic Bliss. Rounded out by Matt Clark (rhythm guitar/backing vocals), Tyler Hernandez (bass) and Zack Hayes (drums), Boggs and Murray feel that Fashion Bath has become tighter over the course of the album’s creation and less reliant on volume to create a musical impact. They believe that the ensemble’s increased awareness of arrangements translates to a more successful and less sloppy stage show, but at the root of this artistic growth and the group’s resilience is something far simpler.

“It may not sound entirely logical, but this band means too much to us to make it our lives,” Boggs says. “We treat this band like being on an intramural or rec-league team. We’re not professionals, we definitely aren’t making any money — we do it because we enjoy it.  If other people end up liking it too, then we consider it a bonus.”

WHO: Fashion Bath with Armadilla and Racket Man
WHERE: Fleetwood’s, 496 Haywood Road, fleetwoodschapel.com
WHEN: Saturday, July 20, 9 p.m. $7

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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