The men of Eolian on their backgrounds and the creation of Egg, their concept album

Categories: Profiles

Matthew Ballantine-Patton
Adam Edwards, Ian O'Dougherty and Sean Merrell are Eolian

In this week's issue, the Rough Mixes entry focusing on Eolian, the progressive-rock project led by Ian O'Dougherty (Uphollow, Ian Cooke, TaunTaun) and featuring occasional Backbeat contributor Sean Merrell (tintin, Ian Cooke, A Shoreline Dream) and Adam Edwards (A Shoreline Dream), barely scratched the surface of our recent conversation with the guys. Click through to read the interview in its entirety.

Westword: How long have you been working at this project, and what musical path did you follow to get here?

Ian O'Dougherty: I've been playing pretty inconsistently as a solo artist for about eight years. A lot of times, it was out of convenience or to fit on the bill better with, like, Richard Buckner or something. With these Eolian songs, I never played a solo show, but as a duo, with just me and Sean [Merrell]. It was cool, because we loved the improv nature of the project and because we could use a loop pedal and come back and keep the album going.

That was really fun, but we just missed the low end with just the loop. Bob Ferbrache, for one, said, "You've got to get a bass player." So we did, and Adam [Edwards] is awesome. He and Sean both used to work at Bart's up in Boulder. They're record-store nerds in the best sense. They know their musical history far better than I. Both play many more instruments than they play in this band.

Sean and Adam knew each other from Bart's, and we'd been talking about different bass players for a while, and when we brought in Adam, there was a noticeable difference after he re-recorded all the parts. They were the parts I had written, but he's so much better at bass than I am, and he really brought something new to it. And we recorded it all at Bob's house.

The album is pretty straightforward. A lot of the stuff we do live is not on the album. That being said, we play live very close to this. I say "improv," but it's more dynamic improv rather than parts. We're not noodling, ever. That was the tricky thing, of course; it was 35 minutes of rehearsed music, so it's tough to remember it all.

Lyrics are difficult, in general, for me to remember. Sean and I have been playing this for two to three years and learned it in parts. We knew it would be one big thing, but we didn't really have the order. We jammed it out and changed the arrangements, speeds and keys -- we changed everything. That helped us to play it as a whole, because we knew it in parts. It was a matter of writing the segues.

"Parable" used to have completely different lyrics with a completely different melody, but I changed it to fit the concept more. A lot of the lyrics in the first song, almost all of them, reappear later in the album. Those that Chris Fogal and Julie Davis sing, they sing later. It glues it all together, sort of.

There's at least another album's worth of material that are all bird songs that we had that didn't really fit this. Honestly, we planned to put this record out as a two-piece; it's the simpler arrangements. The other songs I had required three instruments. For a while I wanted to do the Geddy, Lee Moog Taurus thing, and I just couldn't do it. So the remainder of the songs are more band-oriented songs. So this, although it doesn't sound like it, is the more stripped-down version.

You've recorded with a number of engineers over the years. What brings you back to recording with Bob Ferbrache?

IO: Bob is a generous and caring and loving guy with a phenomenal base of knowledge on a lot of things. Music, specifically, but he's a really knowledgeable guy, and he's fun to be around. He has an amazing background of recording techniques and production ideas. He also has a phenomenal collection of microphones and guitars, and I used one of them for the polishing touches.

I wanted his opinion, and I wanted the stress of someone else listening to me sing, because if I record myself, I'll take as long as I feel I need to. I like the stress of him telling me that it's not any good. And he'll tell you. He's one of the few people that has the balls to be honest. I love that. I think that the world needs a lot more of that.

What's the story behind the band's name?

IO: It means "transmitted by the wind." So seeds, smell or birds, I suppose, technically. The noun is those things you see in Nevada -- the windmills. For our purposes, it was musical, but also seeds, birds and flight and anything transported by the wind. I thought it was a fitting name, but it wasn't until way late into the game that I came up with that.

You wouldn't consider this a continuation of Uphollow, would you? Or is it kind of a continuation?

IO: It is totally different in that it's a different band. But musically, there are some similarities. But it's not meant to be a continuation. In Uphollow, there were two or three concept albums, and it's similar that way, too.

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