new record, La Bete, was co-produced by David Barbe, formerly
of Bob Mould's band, Sugar, and recorded at his Chase Park Transduction
studios in Athens, a facility co-operated by Andy Lemaster of Now
It's Overhead. Pretty good pedigree. After talking to Cripple Lilies
frontman Chad Bishop, I discovered he was once fired by Dave Dondero
-- an artist that records on Conor Oberst's Team Love label.
mandolin with Dave for about five minutes until he kicked me out
of his band," Bishop said. "Actually, I'm not even sure
he made the decision to kick me out, but I really wanted to go on
tour with him. Instead, he took the rest of my old band, Flatbroke
Folk, and renamed them Dave Dondero and the Entire State of Florida."
around Pensacola -- where The Cripple Lilies hail -- for about five
years. With that in mind, you'd think the beach town, located an
hour southeast of Mobile, Alabama, on the gulf side of Florida,
might be some sort of indie music hotbed. Nope. "Most of the
bands in our scene are hardcore, punk, metal and hippie jam bands,"
Bishop said. "We don't fit into it."
years ago with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Lopiccolo, Cripple Lilies
plays gorgeous, easy-going, multi-instrumental indie folk reminiscent
of Kings of Convenience, Cat Stevens or, yes, recent (i.e., alt-country-flavored)
Bright Eyes, complete with layered harmonies, smart lyrics and lush
arrangements. They effortlessly create carefree melodies that go
from my ears directly to my right foot, which bounces up and down
involuntarily to their beat. The instruments are plain ol' piano,
flute, bass and drums, maybe a few guitars.
They spent a
couple years playing up and down the gulf coast at places like The
Green Turtle and The Hammerhead, lounges inhabited by hard-drinking
locals who came to Florida to escape everyday life. "They would
wind up following us back to wherever we crashed that night, passing
out on the couch," Bishop said "It was like being in a
That was followed
by a Midwest tour opening for Tom Feldmann & the Get-Rites,
"an old-timey blues stomp band," Bishop said. "They
play at all the Folk Alliance places, so people always headed for
the door when we start playing." Yikes.
Bishop and Lopiccolo
wound up recording at Chase Park after hearing recommendations from
fellow Pensacola bands This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb and The Deadly Fists
of Kung Fu, both of whom had recorded there. Dave Barbe's co-production
style consisted mostly of giving fatherly advice. "He's a little
league baseball coach part-time," Bishop said. "He took
that route encouraging us. He knew when to push and when to back
off. He was a great influence."
and the band tried to create a warm, late-'60s early-'70s analog
folk sound. They wound up with a recording that has unusual depth
and an organic quality that feels like they're playing across from
you in your living room.
Minneapolis label Magnolia Recording Company (owned by Tom Feldmann),
La Bete has received almost no critical notice. In fact,
Google "Cripple Lilies" and you'll find little more than
their website, their myspace and a press release. Like every other
band that's done it on their own, Cripple Lilies are struggling
to get attention, but Bishop doesn't sound too concerned about it.
are hot and cold over us, there's no in between," he said.
"It's hard to generate interest with industry people, hard
to get them on board with where we're going. We're not doing a lot
of screaming; we're not running with a lot of trends."
they're motivated by the DIY way of life. "We watched all the
work that Dave Dondero did," Bishop said. "He spent quite
a few years struggling before he hooked up with people who understood
what he was doing. We're making art we believe in. Maybe it isn't
commercially viable music, but we like it. Hopefully it'll last
beyond our little career."
Published in The Omaha Reader May 24, 2007.
Copyright © 2007 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
would wind up following us back to wherever we crashed that
night, passing out on the couch. It was like being in a Steinbeck