Two Asheville groups — one well-established, the other seemingly but not actually new — are releasing new albums this month. Both have chosen to go the digital-only route, with no immediate plans for physical versions. Fwuit released its self-titled debut EP on Oct. 10, and The Moon and You returned with Asteroids on Oct. 20.
Dulci Ellenberger and her musical associates have been something of a moving target lately. For several years, the Asheville-based singer/songwriter/guitarist was a key member of Holy Ghost Tent Revival, the seven-person, ragtime-jazz-turned-rock band. That same lineup (which included bassist Kevin Williams and drummer Ross Montsinger) also booked shows under the name Big Sound Harbor, playing a set built around Ellenberger’s original songs.
But in 2019, Holy Ghost Tent Revival shifted musical gears, adopted a more soul-focused sound and changed its name to Moves. And now — just over a year later — what Ellenberger describes as the “core” of the band is rebranding again, this time calling itself Fwuit.
If that all seems a bit confusing, Ellenberger insists that the motivation behind it all is straightforward. “This trio — Kevin, Ross and myself — just kept playing a bunch of shows that were [only] suitable for a trio,” she says. “And the three of us were able to dedicate full time to touring.”
Of course, thanks to the pandemic, there’s no touring going on at present. But Fwuit has put together a self-titled, digital-only EP of its original music. With a streamlined sound that builds on what Moves did last year on its soul- and R&B-influenced self-titled album, Fwuit delivers sophisticated soul pop.
“Sparkling Water” has a sleek, urbane vibe, with Ellenberger’s sterling, assured lead vocal ably supported by subtle instrumental backing. Featuring lead vocals from Williams, “Chrome Canyon” splits the difference between singer-songwriter and country soul styles. The radio-ready “Only Got One” is reminiscent of Lake Street Dive, for whom HGTR opened at Pisgah Brewing Co. in 2016. And all the music on Fwuit’s eight-song release is paired with a positivist lyrical perspective.
“Our guiding inspiration is to create content that we find meaningful,” Ellenberger says. “Hopefully it’s a reflection of what’s happening in the world around us and helps people feel more connected and able to process how they’re feeling about it.”
Though the EP conveys a serious, thoughtful ambiance, a lighthearted attitude is at the center of the trio’s approach. Fwuit got its start as the musical component of LaZoom’s “Band and Beer” bus tour of Asheville. “We like to call ourselves ‘Fwuit of LaZoom,’” Ellenberger says with a laugh. “What we found in that environment was a fun balance of improvisation between the host of the tour and the band.”
The group continues to tinker with the details: When it began, the ensemble had an exclamation point at the end of its name. And while the EP is digital-only, videos for all the songs are in the works, a physical release of Fwuit remains a possibility, and the trio plans to launch a Patreon crowdsourcing page in the near future.
Though the compact Fwuit lineup is poised to return to active live-concert duty as soon as it’s practical to do so, the group formerly known as Moves still exists as well. “We will always have the bigger band for bigger events,” Ellenberger says. “We like the idea of being able to expand and contract.” fwuit.com
The Moon and You began work on its newest album almost exactly four years ago. And initially, that work proceeded quickly. “We got the rhythm tracking done in two days,” says cellist/vocalist Melissa Hyman. “The day before and the days after the 2016 [presidential] election,” adds Ryan Furstenberg, guitarist/vocalist and Melissa’s husband.
But then a succession of other activities took precedence, and progress on the album stopped. The Moon and You had a busy schedule of live dates locally, regionally, around the nation and overseas. So even though drums, bass and rhythm guitar parts were complete, the album remained unfinished. “And it just remained in that state for a while,” Hyman says. “It was definitely a combination of our travel schedule and trying to [find] the funds to have more sessions.”
But it’s not as if The Moon and You weren’t recording. The duo released the full-length Endless Maria (“recorded in 10 consecutive days,” Hyman says) in 2017. And then — with a collection of musical pals — they recorded and released 2019’s Big Mystery, an album of children’s lullabies credited to The Moon and You and Friends. So the uncompleted Asteroids project was again set aside. “We got a commission to do Big Mystery right in the middle of the process,” Furstenberg says. “It’s been so long,” Hyman adds with a laugh, “that, honestly, I’m struggling to remember what some of the holdups were.”
“Asteroids was still hanging out there, unfinished,” Furstenberg says. “But we always planned on [finishing and] releasing it,” adds Hyman, completing her husband’s sentence. Eventually they did finish, and the resulting work wound up being a concept album.
“Melissa loves to have a concept,” Furstenberg says, teasing his wife. So Asteroids is a song cycle, with the pieces linked together through audio snippets of friends and fellow musicians who came into their orbit. “We recorded people in Belgium, a friend from France, a friend from Savannah,” Furstenberg says. “People we met on the road.”
Stylewise, Asteroids could serve as a sampler of the many musical moods of The Moon and You. The title track’s outro sounds like a Pet Sounds outtake; “County Lines” has the feel of classic-era AM country radio; and “Rat King” sounds like prewar hot jazz — though Hyman says the variety isn’t exactly intentional. “We tend to write in a fairly eclectic way,” she says. “We create the instrumentation and arrangement of each track to serve the song. And that’s more important to us than making an album that sounds similar from track to track.”
Yet Asteroids hangs together as a whole. That’s in keeping with the idea of connectedness, a theme that runs through all of the songs. And — intentionally or not — that motif makes the long-delayed appearance of the album now, during a pandemic, especially timely. “Releasing it is a way to connect with people in a way that’s been lacking,” Furstenberg says. “It does have a quality of being almost like a photo album,” Hyman adds. “Friends that we met. And adventures that we recall fondly … that I wish we could be doing right now.” themoonandyou.com