Over the weekend I had the pleasure of talking to Stuart Robinson of the newly reformed folk/pop band Bombadil. From 2006 until 2009 the band gathered fans one show at a time and started to build a pretty strong following while touring the country. In 2009 they released their most widely received album Tarpits and Canyonlands. It seemed as though the band was ready to move up a little higher in the world as they geared up for their tour to promote their new release, but instead disaster struck. Guitarist, Daniel Michalak lost the ability to play his instrument due to a case of tendonitis. The tour was cancelled and Bombadil was no more.
To the amazement of many, including myself, Bombadil released an album this year called All That the Rain Promises. Bombadil had returned. Michalak gained control of his tendonitis and the ability to play again. Stuart was able to explain the hiatus and the new album to me.
Your first song, “I Will Wait” on All That the Rain Promises is very spiritual and a bold reentry to the music scene. What was the inspiration?
“It was a song that we had built up and had to put on the album. It was very subdued and low on the happiness scale so by putting it first, it left room for the album to build up. We didn’t try to make a bold statement, but it may have made one.”
The album seems to pick up right where the predecessor Tarpits and Canyonlands left off, how did you manage to do that with a three-year hiatus?
“I’m glad you thought it came together well. We didn’t change, we are the same people we were three years ago. A lot of the songs were written back at the same time as Tarpits. It’s not like we started something new, it was just a project that took a long to logistically to complete.
I understand you are all from North Carolina, but didn’t meet there. Explain.
“Actually I’m from Oklahoma and I’m pretty sure James is from Baltimore, Maryland, but we all went to Duke. Junior year Bryan and Daniel took a year abroad to Bolivia. They didn’t take a full course load and had a lot of time to write and record songs. They would meet in the music room of a local elementary school. When they came home they brought me in and we turned to James for a drummer.”
I hear many voices on the records, who does the singing?
“We all sing. Generally, whoever writes the song sings, but every once in a while it changes. We sometimes try different people singing different songs or different parts of songs and whatever we get used to hearing is what we decide to do.”
Who does the writing?
“Daniel and Brian do most of it. On the recent album James wrote a lot of ‘Good Morning Everyone’. I’ve written a couple such as ‘Reasons,’ ‘Many Ways to Die,’ ‘I Will Wait,’ ‘Question,’ and ‘Matthew’.”
Your songs are very poppy, but yet personal. Some seems as though they were written as a journal entry or a letter. How are you able to convey that?
“It’s key to be honest with your lyrics. You can’t over think things, you just write whats on your mind. In Bombadil we aren’t trying to be too clever, we just say what’s on our minds”
What was the official reason for the hiatus?
“Daniel lost the ability to play due to tendonitis. I started taking classes again. We eventually stopped touring due to the stress and frustration that built up in Daniel. During our time off we did nothing as a band. We needed some time to figure things out”
To what do you owe Daniel’s recovery?
“He finally met a physical therapist that taught him how to stretch the nerves. We found a stretch that seemed to finally work. He went to so many therapists for months who didn’t seem to help, but when he met the right one it made all the difference. He just kept getting better and better.”
What does the future hold for Bombadil?
“Actually we are recording today. Bryan came down from D.C. and we are hoping to get the next record out there soon. We also are all planning on working on separate side projects. It would be nice to play some things that you wouldn’t expect out of us. I am also considering cutting a few instrumentals”
What did you do during your off-time?
“I was studying for the MCAT. I took a couple of Computer Science classes at NC State. I worked for IBM for a little while, but then started thinking about Med. School. I started shadowing doctors at hospitals and taking classes. I also spent alot of time volunteering”
What does the upcoming tour schedule look like?
“We’re going to play it by ear. We have a couple of shows line up for 2012. We can’t do too much especially with Bryan going to business school. Our 2012 tour will mostly be a regional East Coast thing. We might do a show or two in Oregon. If we really want to start touring again, we will have to rearrange our songs for a trio.”
Scott Avett covered your song “Marriage.” What did this do for publicity?
“We never thought it would do too much to help us, and it really didn’t. We started hearing about a couple of bands covering the song or seeing people play it on YouTube. We think that most people think they are covering Scott or The Avett Brothers instead of us (laughs). A couple of people found out about us through that video, but it didn’t mark a spike in popularity”