On Echo Nebraska's debut EP, Send The Ships, the Vancouver-based band creates a rustic acoustic sound that might've been birthed had REM and Father John Misty spent a night together in a forest. Ranging from the gentle new country of “Nice Philosophy” to the riffier rock of “Out of Time” and lilting harmony-heavy first single, “Hey Allison,” the record is cohesive while still being diverse.
Singer/songwriter Devan Christodoulou says he usually doesn't know what his lyrics are about until after they're written, the songs on Send The Ships carry strong, powerful messages.
“'Hey, Allison' is about somebody who struggles with mental illness and the hope in overcoming it through the purity of love,” he explains. 'Pilgrim' is from the perspective of a father who is trying to set his son or daughter on the right path and 'Nice Philosophy' is about artistic integrity, a musician's decision to change their writing style to 'make it.'”
Echo Nebraska hasn't done that. The band grew out of an organic, creative setting that turned into something a lot bigger than they had intended. Devan and bassist Gunn Park were recording an album under the name Amber Hills with producer Colin Stewart (Dan Mangan/The New Pornographers), when they met audio engineer, Andy Schichter.
“The drummer had a hard rock style so I found myself writing songs that fit his intensity,” says Devan. “However, I was writing other songs outside the band that were closer to my roots. My father played guitar and sang and as a child, I was always surrounded by the music of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Fleetwood Mac. When I met Andy, I showed him some of those songs.”
Andy invited Devan over to his home studio to record demos. They ended up with 15 songs over the course of a year. Hearing something special in what they had cut, they went into Blue Light Studio with Gunn, to self-produce Send The Ships. Devan & Andy split the guitar duties. Andy also provided keys, mandolin, and engineered the recordings. “We wanted to try something that was more acoustic-based,” he says. “Get some pedal steel, banjo, and mandolin to fill out the odd song.”
“I like songs with very natural sounding instruments,” says Andy. “I'm very drawn to that Laurel Canyon sound of the late 60s, early 70s, and so was Devan.”
With the recruitment of keyboardist Karen Hefford, Violinist Kathy Kwon, and drummer Mike Lauder, the band is now looking forward to seeing how the songs evolve on the road.
“When we went into the studio, we had all the guitar parts and harmony ideas set in stone. We had demos that we were pleased with, so it was just a matter of re-recording them in a proper studio setting,” says Andy. “It doesn't have to stay that way. We can reimagine these songs on stage.”