News breaks today of a new album from Eric D. Johnson’s Fruit Bats. The Pet Parade, an album that emerges in troubled times, living within what Johnson refers to as the beauty and absurdity of existence, is due for release by Merge Records on 5th March.
Ahead of the album’s release, comes ‘Holy Rose’ a song that introduces itself as a ballad but soon blossoms with fuzzed-out guitars and organ.
Johnson on this new song:
“Holy Rose” is possibly the most “direct” song on The Pet Parade. I wrote this about the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County and was finishing it up right when fire season was raging in California. My wife grew up in Sonoma County and just had to sit there and watch her childhood burn down. This is a love song to the native West Coasters.”
While many of the songs on The Pet Parade were actually written before the pandemic, it’s impossible to disassociate the record from the times. As an example, producer Josh Kaufman (The Hold Steady, Bob Weir, The National, and Bonny Light Horseman, in which he plays with Johnson and Anaïs Mitchell) was brought in for his deep emotional touch and band-leading abilities. However, Johnson, Kaufman, and the other musicians on The Pet Parade—drummers Joe Russo and Matt Barrick (The Walkmen, Fleet Foxes, Muzz), singer-songwriter Johanna Samuels, pianist Thomas Bartlett (Nico Muhly, Sufjan Stevens), and fiddler Jim Becker (Califone, Iron & Wine)—were forced to self-record their parts in bedrooms and home studios across America.
At times upbeat and reassuring and at times quietly contemplative, The Pet Parade marks a milestone for Johnson, who celebrates 20 years of Fruit Bats in 2021. In some ways still a cult band, in other ways a time-tested act, Fruit Bats has consistently earned enough small victories to carve out a career in a notoriously fickle scene.
And Johnson himself—who has played in The Shins, composed film scores, gone solo and returned back to the moniker that started it all, and recently earned two Grammy nominations with Bonny Light Horseman—doesn’t take this long route of life’s pet parade for granted. “I’m still really excited to make records,” he says. “Lucky and happy and maybe happier that things went slower for me. I’m savouring it a lot more.”