In December 2014, The Resonant Rogues raised $8,595 from 174 fans on Kickstarter. With that, the band released its eclectic debut full-length album, Here & Gone Again.
Crowdfunding “made it possible, period,” says accordionist, banjoist and vocalist Sparrow Pants. She plays alongside her fiancé and co-writer Keith Smith (guitar, vocals), Craig Sandberg (upright bass, vocals), Drayton Aldridge (fiddle, vocals) and the lineup’s most recent addition, Mattick Frick (drums). “We are full-time professional musicians with a fairly young band, and even though we make a living doing what we do, we don’t have the startup capital that it takes for a big project like recording at a nice studio.”
Nearly two years later, the artists are hoping for a repeat — with an increased goal of $10,000. That will enable them to return to the “incomparable” Echo Mountain Recording Studio and make Hands in the Dirt, again with engineers Josh Blake and Julian Dreyer. Guest players, including pianist Chuck Lichtenberger (formerly of stephaniesid) and saxophonist Ben Colvin, will also contribute on several songs. The current crowdfunding campaign for the project culminates on Friday, Nov. 18, when the band performs at The Mothlight.
The follow-up work maintains a “pretty classic Rogues sound,” Pants says. “But, as a songwriter, I definitely am very influenced by what I listen to, and I like to write songs that feel classic in various styles. So, in this album there’s a doo-wop song … an old-timey-feeling song, a country songwriter song and an instrumental Balkan song.”
For the past several years, Pants says she and her bandmates have been working to refine their proficiency within those constituent styles so that each song “feels true to its influences.” They also hope the recordings will take on their live feel, just “extra dialed in.”
Between the forthcoming album and its predecessor, The Resonant Rogues spent significant time on the road — not only touring domestically, but also exploring and performing in foreign lands.
“Traveling through Europe really gave me a new inspiration for activism — just seeing how so many folks over there care deeply about so many issues and really put a lot of thought and effort into supporting activist causes,” Pants says.
The refugee crisis, for instance, inspired a tune called “Can’t Come In.” A friend of the band, who is a Syrian refugee, has written a verse for it in Arabic. He’ll record his part remotely.
One of Smith’s tracks, titled “Foggy Day,” is based on a community in New Orleans — a second home, where the group got its start — that has been dealing with sexual assault. “So we’ve been talking a lot about consent at our shows,” Pants says. “We made a little trifold zine for it, explaining what consent is and how to use it.”
Despite playing more than 300 shows since the release of Here & Gone Again, the musicians enjoyed more downtime than usual in Asheville this year. That allowed Pants, who lived on a minifarm before the band started, to maintain a garden for the first time in four years — a pursuit she calls a “radical act of reconnection” to a basic process of life amid an increasingly disconnected society. The song she’d sing to herself while planting and tilling became the title track of the forthcoming album.
But it’s back to hustling as The Resonant Rogues prepare for their Kickstarter countdown concert at The Mothlight — the last full-band show they’ll play locally until the album release next spring. Attendees can contribute to the campaign on-site, claiming perks like first access to the new recordings, a house concert or private music lessons with Pants or Smith. Regardless, everyone will hear an early live version of Hands in the Dirt in its entirety.
WHO: The Resonant Rogues with Vaden Landers and Ellis Dyson and the Shambles
WHERE: The Mothlight, 701 Haywood Road, themothlight.com
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 18, at 9:30 p.m. $10