Howard Releases New EP EXTENDED PLAY
Howard has today returned with the gorgeous Extended Play EP, the highly anticipated follow up to 2018 album Together Alone.
Extended Play shows a creative progression with Howard (the moniker of project mastermind Howard Feibusch), stepping away from the gently psychedelic chamber-pop of his debut Religion and moving towards more classic-sounding songwriting and a newly linear embrace of melodic and musical structures.
The new stylistic direction showcased on Extended Play was partially informed by Feibusch's work composing music for TV shows over the last two and a half years - a creative endeavor that's included work contributed to documentaries on David Cassidy and John F. Kennedy Jr. for A&E's biography series. "I've been thinking differently about instrumentation and been forced to break out of my box," Feibusch states about how working in a slightly different musical medium has expanded his own artistic approach - and, in a way, forced him to think smaller. "It informed the music I've written, because composing for TV needs to be so lush that I craved a more core aesthetic in my own music. For these songs, I tried to be more specific with my sound palette."
Co-produced by band member Alex Chakour, who's also spent time between these releases performing with Brittany Howard and the Dap-Kings, this 5 track EP was written and recorded over the last few years: "I had these grooves and production ideas, but it took me a while to flesh these out into whole songs," Feibusch explains regarding the creative process behind them. The sparkling piano-driven pop of "Modern Love" takes cues from the Beatles' White Album-era songwriting approach as well as production hints from more modern psychedelia, like Spiritualize's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. "I put a painstaking amount of time and energy into finding the right arrangement," Feibusch recalls while discussing the song's creative gestation and influences.
Inspired by the cinematic expansiveness of Air, "Saturn Return" plays on the horoscopical concept referenced in the song's title, expanded to fit the existential crises faced by the creative mind. "It's a do-or-die moment for a lot of people," Feibusch explains. "Being a musician and having done it for ten years at this point, it's a weird age to say to yourself, 'Should I still be doing this?' I was influenced by those themes and felt like I made it more universal - talking about people whose lives are on the payroll, stuck as cogs in a machine." This is actually an old song. I wrote it 9 years ago and it was always dear to my heart but I was never happy with any recordings of it. It took me a long time to realize that I needed to strip it down and give it space to breathe.
"Old Mountain Boy" toys with the dilemma Feibusch faced as a young artist as almost a prelude to "Saturn Return." "Thematically, it's about the struggle I had at an age when I decided to drop out of medical school and pursue a career in music. I wrote the song out in nature on top of a mountain and while looking out I felt paralyzed by my fear of this decision. The noise in my head was constantly running and inhibiting my ability to move forward with my life." Feibusch notes "Old Mountain Boy" was a written prayer in hopes that he wasn't making the wrong decision.
The last two records on the Extended Play, "Save What's Lost" and "Waiting in the Garden" are both metaphorical breakup songs that Feibusch had with old paradigms. "They're about what I thought being a musician was and would give me. I started to shed a lot of my expectations and preconceived notions of success and internally tried to create music more from a place of love and joy rather than hoping for that lightning bolt of success I hoped it would bring me."
"The band as a whole is maturing and finding its groove," he continues while discussing the future direction that the EP represents as a whole. "We've always searched in a way that I'm proud of. There's always been musical exploration, even as we've sometimes come back to the same sounds." And this latest release from Howard is ample proof that the journey has just begun.
February 19 - New York, NY @ The Sultan Room
(EP Release Show with Sonya Kitchell and Arc Iris)