REDBUD – Long Night EP

Texan indie pop band Redbud began releasing music via Bandcamp during the lockdown of 2020, and it was immediately clear that their sound had something special. Their early digital singles ‘To The Moon’ and ‘Opal’ conveyed elements of retro dream pop and light psych-tinged Americana in a way that felt both familiar and fresh – an oxymoron if ever there were – and vocalist Katie Claghorn’s hazy and ethereal vocal style had an immediate appeal.

Their debut EP – released in February 2023 – encapsulates everything that was great about Redbud’s early singles, but adds so much more to their sound, leaving behind five tracks that straddle light psych, Americana, pop and indie in a way that transcends an obvious genre. Musically, the EP’s highlight, ‘Soul Work’, sort of sounds like a late 70s Fleetwood Mac number put through a light dreampop filter, since its anchored with the kind of rigid bassline beloved by John McVie, and captures a strange and other worldly sound that isn’t far removed from a deep cut from ‘Tusk’. That’s just scratching the surface, of course, and the bulk of the track takes on more of its own identity once Katie arrives with a light and floaty vocal worthy of an old 4AD band, and drummer Sam Graf fleshes out the slow tune with jazzy fills. In addition, Katie’s guitars inform far more of a neo-psych/Americana blend that captures more than a welcome trace of The Delines’ late night moods. It’s rather more about conjuring an atmosphere than leaving behind a memorable song, however. There’s no big chorus hook on which the listener can hang their hat, nor are there any big solos or massive musical bursts; this really is an exercise in taking dream pop somewhere new, and with a very appealing voice meshing against a hazy soundscape that’s very warm, it’s impossible to ignore, no matter how slight the overall sound may seem on first listen.

Equally good but taking a very different approach, ‘Sad On The North Side’ accentuates the twangier aspects of the band’s sound, juxtaposing a 50s guitar tone with a busy 90s drum loop on a tune that sounds ripe for sampling. Taking the busy groove into places where traces of Latin jazz drop through the cracks, but still clinging onto the heart of a very traditional tune, this shows Redbud’s desire not to be pigeonholed. The musical backdrop would work well as an instrumental, especially once kitsch influenced keys add extra texture, and a second layer of busy rhythms suggests a further love of Spanish music. As before, though, Katie’s vocal lifts the piece considerably. Her chosen melodies don’t always fit the tune, yet still work, and that’s testament to this act’s confidence; if you can get your head around it all, it’s a great listen. The same disregard for a traditional approach informs ‘Franny’, where tribal-ish drums underscore busy jazz-tinged guitars, laying the foundations for an unexpected blend of pop, dream pop and retro psych. There’s very much a tight but loose feel running through the groove, and it’s up to Claghorn to tie it all together once more. As expected, her ethereal, dream pop-esque trill works brilliantly, lifting an already busy arrangement in a way that feels natural. It’s like hearing an old Cocteau Twins track remixed by the Blue Note Trip team, and it shouldn’t work…but very much does.

A tune crafted from more traditional indie pop, ‘Kin’ is a pleasingly hazy tune that’s heavy on the reverbed guitar, but never in a way that shows off an obvious influence. There are bits of the Americana sound from The Delines once more, traces of dream pop and a wave of melodic psych. Again, these sit together in natural but unexpected ways, whilst Katie puts in a clean and floaty performance that lends Redbud so much character. It isn’t necessarily the band’s best tune, but like ‘Island’, which develops The Delines’ psychedelic soul influence into something much poppier, showing off the Redbud sound in a very accessible way. So many Redbud songs are about atmospheres, but the way this introduces 50s style twangy guitars over 60s pop rhythms suggest that the band can be more direct when the mood takes them. In addition, it suggests they’re probably able to master any retro style that takes their fancy.

These five songs set Redbud on a retro pop path that’s very cool. The EP format ensures there’s no time for boredom or musical burnout, and the bright production sound really helps the instruments to maintain a separation that brings the material to life. You can pick out several influences from Fleetwood Mac and late period Rilo Kiley, to jazz bands and Americana/pop bands galore, but this band somehow manage to create something very much of their own with the given ingredients. …And that results in a release that deserves to be heard by adventurous indie pop fans everywhere.

February 2023