This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Brankin ’12, whose band, Fair Herald, sometimes plays here at Knox.
The band formed when Brankin and his friends were still in high school, jamming and playing covers of popular music, until several years ago when Brankin said he and his band first began to seriously consider creating their own sound. The first result was their debut album, 2008’s “Familiar Streets,” and more recently the EP “Medicine Bow,” recorded in August of 2009, both of which evoke their alt-country inspirations like Wilco, the Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo.
The difference between the two recordings, Brankin said, has to do with how each came to be. “Familiar Streets” has what he called a sleepier sound, the product of each member recording their respective parts in the studio and the resulting mix of the tracks. “Medicine Bow,” on the other hand, was recorded in what he describes as “a gutted-out warehouse with recording equipment.’’
The band played as a cohesive unit like they had at concerts all that summer, he said, and the result was a much more energetic musical work. Brankin was right about the band’s latest work; listening to the four-song collection, the brimming energy is evident.
“Burnout” booms with belting vocals layered atop a surprisingly light keyboard arrangement and bare-bones rock guitars, for example, and “Criminal Eye” thrums with a low intensity that continually builds until the song’s abrupt ending. Even the low-key “Leaving Chicago” possesses a steely edge that only desperation and melancholy can impart. The EP, for those interested, can be found streaming from the group’s Facebook and MySpace pages.
The band originally hails from Chicago, where they have had extensive experience playing shows, even playing with the Days, which features fellow Knox senior Evan Holmes, though Brankin said the two did not realize the connection at the time.
Finding time for the band has been tough, he said, since the members attend three different colleges. Time has been found, though, since Fair Herald first came to Knox last year when the played a show on the south lawn of Old Main. According to Brankin, the school was and continues to be supportive of the Knox music scene; the ease he and his band experienced in organizing their show has encouraged them to do so again — Fair Herald will again be gracing our campus this May as part of a two-day music event. In addition to playing at Knox, the group undertook a tour of the Midwest this past summer, playing in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and even Tennessee.
“When we’re together, it’s great,” Brankin said. “We can really focus on the music, but as far as the future goes, we have to take it one step at a time. We’re going to keep doing this as long as we can, until something forces us to stop. Until then, it’s all about perseverance.”
Given the positive experiences his group has had on campus, Brankin has expressed some lament that other bands do not perform more often. There are the occasional big events that feature local groups. Some Knox bands, notably Spondaic Buttons and affiliated acts, have been active in recent memory, but much in the Knox music scene is quiet.
Brankin, offering his advice to those groups that do not necessarily perform much,said, “Come out of the woodwork! It’s up to the musicians to take the initiative.”
The challenge, then, is on the table: we want to hear you, Knox College. Won’t you take the stage?