It's rare for a band to tour for 245 days in the span of a year. It's even less common for said band to a) hail from Hailey, Idaho (population 7,844) and b) decide to relocate to a small, shared cabin in the Pioneer Mountain Range for those 120 days per year that they are home. Fortunately for us, Idaho three-piece Finn Riggins embraces and exemplifies the glory inherent in approaching one's creative life from an anomalous perspective.
Judging from their experimental songwriting alone ("Drawing inspiration and influence from several musical realms-- a bit of prog here, some indie rock there, an occasional steel drum thrown in for good measure, Finn Riggins' sound is slippery to say the least."—Oregon Public Broadcasting), it's apparent that the band follows its own very liberal musical rulebook.
In concert with that, Vs. Wilderness, the trio's fourth record and third for Tender Loving Empire, is a compositionally complex, dirty, extra-hooky gem of an album. Its undeniably bright pop sensibility is filtered through off-kilter time signatures and surprising chord progressions that delight and amuse—Finn Riggins will get to the payoff, but they take the road less traveled to get there, no pun intended. The band, comprised of University of Idaho music department grads Cameron Bouiss (drums, steel drum, drum pad, washboard, vocals, misc.), Lisa Simpson (guitars, keys, drums, vocals, misc.) and Eric Gilbert (keys, synths, organ, accordion, sampler, guitar, vocals, misc.), have emerged from the most intense year of their career to date with their most dynamic, satisfying work yet.
This time around, like traditional touring entertainers of the '40s and '50s, Finn Riggins wrote new material geared towards their live shows while on the road, fleshed melodies out in front of crowds, road-tested songs and tweaked the details back at the studio. The album was recorded, engineered and co-produced in May of 2009 by the band at AudioLab studio, an arm of Garden City, Idaho's Visual Arts Collective (or VAC, a non-profit gallery, venue, theatre and creative space with which Finn Riggins is heavily involved) during one of their rare stints at home. True to form, the album was brought to fruition in this independently run, community-minded environment with the help of co-producer and Tender Loving Empire founder Jared Mees (who, by the way, has also toured on his own albums alongside the band.)
Examining their incessant touring schedule--peppered with dates in both legendary clubs and high school auditoriums--and assessing their decision and exceptional ability to not only live in peace with each other in a van and a cabin but to grow as a creative unit, it becomes apparent that Finn Riggins' uniqueness is based in something much deeper than any affected "weirdness" or contrived "story". They book their own tours (a constant job), watch their crowds grow with each repeat visit, and make their own merch by hand.
Finn Riggins is more than just a group that is unusually dedicated to taking matters into their own hands, however. They are a brilliant, inspired band that has crafted a joyful, innovative album informed by a blindingly diverse set of isolated stimuli. Finn Riggins is aware of the macro scene, sure, but their insistence on crafting a micro-reality away from the implied pressures and easy-to-adopt approaches rampant in less intimate environments profoundly affects their creative methodology for the better. Just listen. You'll see.
Finn Riggins will, of course, be touring in support of Vs. Wilderness throughout 2009.
For review materials, photos, additional info or an interview with the band, contact Joan Hiller Depper at Riot Act Media (joan [at] riotactmedia.com).
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