With poppy folk-rock melodies similar to those of Ben Bridwell (of Band Of Horses) and a thunderous howl akin to fellow Louisville-native Jim James (of My Morning Jacket), Bendigo Fletcher frontman Ryan Anderson takes a wide-eyed, awe-inspiring approach to performance.
Joined by Andrew Shupert (lead guitar), Evan Wagner (keys, guitar, auxiliary percussion), Conner Powell (bass) and Chris Weis (drums), earlier this year, the group crafted a wonderfully bizarre collection of songs for their Elektra Records debut Fits Of Laughter, released in August.
Sitting at the confluence of country, folk, pop and rock, the album features what is easily Anderson’s most personal and introspective songwriting to date.
Songs like the synth-infused ‘Birding’ (about waking up with a strand of your partner’s hair caught in your mouth) and the psych-folk crossover ‘Astro Pup’ (about coping and lifting himself up following a break-up) lift the curtain and expose a side of Anderson not heard on the band’s previous three EPs.
The somber ballads are balanced out, however, by Anderson’s whimsical, upbeat charm on cuts like ‘Sugar In The Creek’, in which he contemplates moving off-the-grid, and ‘Evergreen’, a raging rock anthem and longtime fan-favorite that the band finally got around to recording.
Between his day job as a landscaper and preparations for his fast approaching wedding, Anderson recently caught up with Holler to discuss finding his voice, the personal journeys within Fits Of Laughter, how nature inspires him and more.
How does your landscaping job and just being outside in general influence your songwriting and music?
There are times during my breaks and other brief moments throughout the day when I’ll get to be reflective, like when I’m listening to the birds chirping in the morning. I’m up at 6:15 a.m. every day, so getting to see the sunrise as I’m driving into work is something that regularly impacts me and my mental state in a positive way.
I enjoy the job’s repetitive tasks as well, because it occasionally allows me the time to zone out and think, or not think. When I involve myself in things physically that aren’t music is often when song ideas will come into my head.
I’ve found a lot of peace outdoors. It’s a stark contrast from working in a cramped and chaotic grocery store.
Is your song ‘Retail Lord’ inspired by your time working at said grocery store?
I used to work at Whole Foods Market. I was there for almost four years until I quit a couple months ago. I had to get out of there. I vividly remember working in the produce department and thinking about where this song was going to go. I already had the melody and bones of it in my head, but was just exploring some words to interchange.
The genesis of ‘Retail Lord’ actually came from a dream. Dream songs are usually few and far between for me - I can only think of two or three previously that I’ve been able to wake up and retain before they’re off into oblivion. I was dreaming about working in a department store and having a head-on view of myself sword-fighting with Zac Little, the lead singer for rock band Saintseneca. Their song ‘Happy Alone’ was playing on the store’s intercom in my dream.
At the time I was really riding the wave of that song, and the band’s entire catalogue really, through my life. You can notice similarities in the chord progressions between the two songs. They were and still are one of my favorite bands.
‘Retail Lord’ also contains a line that includes the album’s name, Fits Of Laughter. What made you want to include that phrase as the album title?
I was scanning back through phrases and lyrics and ‘fits of laughter’ was an all-encompassing mood that felt like a good fit. I liken it to John Prine’s song ‘Illegal Smile,’ which a lot of people mistake to be a marijuana anthem.
Apparently when asked about it, he said he wrote it because he felt like wherever he went he was in on some inside joke. This allowed him to be out in public with his own thoughts in a way that really amused him and made him the John Prine that everybody knew and loved.
‘Fits of laughter’ to me represents the importance of finding laughter in the strange, unique and unexpected moments that come your way, through the roller coaster that is life.
Speaking of twists and turns, I really enjoy the different vocal styles and techniques you incorporate into your shows. It stands out on songs like ‘Evergreen’, where you open with a soft serenade before ripping into screeching rock’n’roll in the second verse. Have you always been such a lively vocalist or is it something you’ve slowly developed over time?
It’s been a journey to find my own voice. As a singer you have an idea of what you want to sound like, but you also have the experience of singing on stage and really feeling out and navigating what feels honest as a vocalist.
Those two paradigms are always in push and pull because I don’t ever want to conform to a single singing style. I find it exciting to bounce around and really test the waters with vocal performances to see what feels honest.
You’re currently getting ready for your upcoming wedding. What kind of impact has your fiancé Annie had on you musically and spiritually?
She’s my favorite singer. With me making music all the time, the environment at our house is very fluid. The door for making music is always open with the two of us. We’re constantly singing together and influencing what the other listens to. We ebb and flow. Sometimes we’re better about sharing music than others, but overall it’s a big part of our relationship.
We actually put out a Christmas EP together last year under the name Dern. It’s on BandCamp. I’m gonna try to remix it for Spotify this year. We love singing so much that we often just communicate in song. A normal diction just doesn’t feel right.
Bendigo Fletcher’s Elektra Records debut, Fits Of Laughter, is out now. This week, the band are the cover star of Holler's weekly New Country Artists playlist. Listen below: