Fruit Bats & Vetiver
In Real Life: Live At Spacebomb Studios, 180G Indie Exclusive Straw Colored Vinyl LP
Vetiver and Fruit Bats are both bands based around the talents of gifted songwriters, and after crossing paths on their respective journeys, Vetiver's Andy Cabic and Fruit Bats' Eric D. Johnson became fast friends and collaborators.
Over the years, they've played in each other's bands, scored films together and even embarked on tours where the bandleaders left their bands behind and instead performed stripped-down acoustic sets, trading songs back and forth and backing each other up.
In Real Life (Live at Spacebomb Studios) is an approximation of those intimate gigs, recorded while the duo were on tour at a studio space in Richmond, Virginia. The EP-length release offers six songs with simple arrangements, highlighting the bare bones of Cabic's and Johnson's skills, as well as the complimentary gelling that happens when they play together.
Fruit Bats began as a recording project for Johnson's prolific writing and morphed through various lineups as the years went on, with Johnson's weathered voice and weary-hearted songs always at the center. His songs here lack nothing when broken down to just two acoustic guitars and spare vocals. "When U Love Somebody" is transformed from the anthemic indie stomp of its reading on Fruit Bats' 2003 album Mouthfuls into a folksy love letter, Cabic's harmonies replacing the playful jaunt of the original version with something more mournful. A later tune, "Humbug Mountain Song," is all the more mysterious and foreboding when its huge beat and booming instrumentation is taken away, reducing the song to a shadowy Appalachian-styled dirge.
The Vetiver songs benefit from this minimal reading as well. When the window dressing of bells, drums, and intricate production are removed, versions of "Rolling Sea" and "Maureen" sound more present and direct. More than anything, In Real Life illustrates the friendship and musical chemistry that Cabic and Johnson share. Vetiver covered Bobby Charles' daydreamy "I Must Be in a Good Place Now" on their 2008 collection of influential tunes, Thing of the Past, but Johnson's careful harmonies and supportive high-strung guitar here add a softness to the song that makes the live version even warmer and more enjoyable.
While brief, In Real Life is refreshing in its clarity and endearingly documents two close friends joyfully joining together in song. -AllMusic (Fred Thomas)