Breaking up is hard to do – especially when you’re a couple playing in a band. Just ask The Rosebuds’ Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard.
Leading up to the making of their fifth album Loud Planes Fly Low, the North Carolina-based couple, who’ve made intoxicating albums of gorgeous indie-pop over the last decade, decided to get a divorce. But they never thought about breaking up the band. Instead, they channeled the demise of their relationship for their record, a wistful blend of strummy acoustic ballads and bright, guitar-powered rockers. SPIN has an exclusive stream of the full album ahead of its June 7 release date on Merge.
“We’re not a couple now so I think there’s no reason to hide that information,” Crisp tells SPIN. “We have to just be honest about it because this record is so clearly personal.”
Despite the dark subject matter of Rosebuds’ latest album – a striking contrast to their sunny 2003 debut The Rosebuds Make Out – Crisp says chronicling her split was a cathartic experience. “I have to say this is just the most honest record we’ve ever made,” she says. “The experience of being that honest is like hitting the reset button – you cannot believe how good that feels.”
In addition to a stream of the full album, which includes highlights like the shimmering, string-soaked “Limitless Arms” and the mournful ballad “Without a Focus,” SPIN caught up with Crisp to talk about the experience of working with her ex-husband, why they never thought to call it quits, and what’s in store for their upcoming tour with Bon Iver.
LISTEN: The Rosebuds, Loud Planes Fly Low
Is it frustrating to know people will interpret your lyrics as being all about your relationship with Ivan?
I was terrified about saying anything personal about our relationship because I felt like that was really just about us. I didn’t want anybody to hear it. But once we started working on these songs, I didn’t care anymore. We’ve had personal lyrics in songs on pervious albums, but they’re always heavily veiled in metaphor. This record was very much like, “Let’s talk about what happened at breakfast.”
Did you ever discuss ending the band along with your marriage?
We never thought of ending the band, which I think probably surprises people. The conventional thought is that you should end the band now because you’ve broken up as a couple, but that is so beyond my ability to comprehend. We’ve worked on this band for so long that it’s become a third person between us. It’d be like asking a couple if they didn’t want their kids anymore cause they’re breaking up.
Is it fair to say that given your crumbling marriage the record was less fun to make?
No, because this record was more real to make and the experience of making it was so much more developed. We normally record in secret and don’t do too much time in the studio. This time, we went in the studio, and that was fun and cool. However personal and difficult the songs seem – and they were difficult to make emotionally – once we made them, we felt amazing.
Were any songs particularly difficult to crack?
“Without a Focus” and “Cover Ears.” Ivan and I sat together in a room putting these songs together and that was hard.
Is there any track that’s a particular favorite?
“Story” is probably my favorite. There’s so much tension in the drums – I love it. It also happens to be the first song we started working on.
North Carolina has such a strong indie rock tradition with its music scene in Chapel Hill and iconic labels like Merge. How important is that local music scene to you?
We have the best musical situation – really, a community – that you could ever want. Ivan and I came here because we wanted to get signed to Merge and we knew that if we moved from our little town near the coast to Raleigh we could be closer to the label. Justin Vernon’s band came here. They became Megafaun. He became Bon Iver. We were developing the Rosebuds. The Bowerbirds formed around then, too. We all witnessed each other being born. It was amazing.
You guys will be opening for Bon Iver on their upcoming tour, which includes some of the biggest venues you’ve ever played. Do you have stage fright?
We’re gonna try to do the best we can on those big stages. I actually love playing in front of a lot of people and I’ve never played for 6,000 people. It’s gonna be a new experience for us.