Some bands just make music. But others like joyful tribe Bird Names are also expert makers of spiritual experiences, delicious snacks (see photo, right), and organic aroma-therapeutic soap. "It's good soap. Only $5. People have come to our shows just to buy the soap," says pitchman and guitarist David Lineal. "The band's OK, but the soap's amazing."
Now based out of Athens, Georgia, after almost six years in Chicago, Bird Names' musician-slash-soap-maker membership has recently seen a drastic drawdown from six to four to only two. And tonight, Roofless Records brings Lineal and guitarist-drummer-singer Phelan Lavelle to Sweat Records for the launch of the band's first tour as a twosome.
Until this particular trek, the band had never seen our subtropical swamps. "Florida is the last frontier for Bird Names. We've played in Guelph, Canada, but never Miami," the guitar guy admits. "We are going to gorge ourselves on the native culture. We are only bringing white shorts and flower print shirts."
"And our songs are good for the wandering type. We're amped to meet the Florida make of this person. You know, the googly-eyed type," he jokes.
What does Bird Names sound like? On appropriately weird recordings like 2006's Wooden Lake Sexual Diner, 2007's Open Relationship, and the recent Sings the Browns, the duo casts aside any soapy concerns with cleanliness, instead digging up dusty, ragged vibes that veer from deeply distorted campfire sing-alongs to wide-eyed (and slightly evil) kids' songs to funky junk rave-ups.
Live, though, this band is a different beast. "You know, some get a live thing going, and they go to a studio to document it and that's the record," explains Lineal. "Bird Names' approach has pretty much always been to make the album first, and then document that live."
But the translation from studio to stage is never really note for note. "We have to go for accuracy over precision," he says. "I mean, you can go for precision, too. Play along to pre-recorded tracks, and then it sounds like the record with a huge arrangement and all that. But that's not our scene. And especially as a two-piece, it is challenging to perform these songs with massive recorded arrangements, with all these interfingering melodies. So presenting the songs 'accurately' means reaching deep down inside and manifesting the spirit of them, the attitude, the soul."
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For this tour, Bird Names is attempting to spiritually document its newest album, Metabolism: A Salute to the Energy of the Sun. And just for comparison's sake, you can buy a copy (Lineal: "It is a CD-R with individually handpainted covers, each one a reflection on the energy of the sun") at the Sweat show and then listen later and scrutinize the accuracy of the pair's live interpretation. Just note that Metabolism almost destroyed Bird Names' collective mind.
"We about went crazy making it," Lineal says. "We spent five months recording and mixing it. And I would spend like five hours trying to perform a part perfectly -- technically and emotionally, with life but also without terrible mistakes -- and would find myself zooming away, totally free in my mind."
Luckily, he and his partner survived intact. And now Bird Names is here to drag you into its psychological wormhole. So close your eyes, soap up, and follow the call.
Roofless Records presents Bird Names, Self & Other, and Dracula. Tuesday, October 5. Sweat Records, 5505 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 9 p.m. and admission costs $5. rooflessrex.com.