In a pre-COVID-19 world, Asheville-based indie/soul rockers Random Animals were all set to headline The Mothlight on Wednesday, April 8, with an opening spot from fellow local eclectic soul stars, King Garbage.
While the state-mandated closure of music venues has indefinitely delayed that performance, the impetus for the gathering — celebrating the release of the band’s sharp debut LP, The Climb — will hold steady with the record becoming available as planned.
The eight-song collection of original work is the product of nearly four years of collaborations among the tightknit quintet, most of whose members play in other bands in town (including The Get Right Band, Supatight and the Diamond River Band) and work day jobs. Due to these numerous responsibilities, Random Animals was treated more as a side project for several years, but as the musicians continued to add original material and play shows, they all became more invested.
“Our motivations as a band have evolved quite a bit since we started playing,” says guitarist Mikey Domanico. “Initially, the motivation was to get two 90-minute sets worth of material together so that we could start gigging. In the formation of the group, we spent rehearsals learning a lot of covers and figuring out creative ways to stretch original tunes. I’d say now it’s more about being intentional with songwriting and more focused on creating content that we’re proud of.”
For The Climb, Domanico says he or Geoff Happel (guitar/vocals) would bring songs with lyrics — some of which they co-wrote — to the rest of the Random Animals. From there, “everyone in the band helped get songs to the finish line,” with Tyler Mack (bass/vocals) writing the bulk of the vocal harmony parts and JC Mears (drums) contributing a substantial number of structural and rhythmic ideas. Meanwhile, keyboardist Matt Powers, who Domanico feels has “the best ear in the group,” served as the band’s editor, “helping clean up ideas and making sure things weren’t clashing.”
The process took over a year, during which Random Animals improved their live dynamic, learning how to, as Domanico puts it, “play off of each other, make room for each other and write together.” Over that stretch, they also landed the after-party set following The Dungeon Family (Big Boi, Cee-Lo Green and friends) at Salvage Station in April 2019, a show that Domanico identifies as the band’s second-biggest accomplishment. In the top spot, however, is completing The Climb, which he notes couldn’t have been done without recording engineer/mixer/co-producer Ted Marks.
“He’s been a friend of ours for a while, and we knew he did great work,” Domanico says. “He was able to work with our budget [and] was incredibly patient and positive throughout the whole process.”
With no live shows for the time being, Random Animals is shifting its focus to content creation, including additional new music. Videos for “Pull Apart” and “Light of the Moon” are currently available via the band’s social media pages and will soon be joined by a third video from The Climb. The ensemble’s goal is to establish an online presence, without which Domanico believes “you really can’t be a successful band” in the modern market.
“This was kind of a plan for us prior to COVID-19,” he says. “But now it’s looking more and more like it’s our only option for several months.”
The Climb is available via Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud and other popular streaming services