“He has the voice on an angel” is more likely a compliment that a grandmother pays to the favorite of their familial brood than one a punk music magazine uses to describe an emerging artist on the cutting edge of the post-punk and synth pop genres in 2020. But here we are – some clichés offer the most appropriate touchstone.
Gathering Swans, the follow up to Choir Boy’s lauded Passive With Desire, sees release on May 8 via Dais Records, and is the result of years of writing and road testing.
“[Gathering Swans] is a mix of older and newer material,” says Choir Boy vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Adam Klopp. “Maybe half and half. We wrote the album in-between our 2018 and 2019 tours. Some songs like ‘Complainer’ were heavily ‘road-tested,’ so to speak, so they don’t feel quite as new.”
“A lot of the song ideas have been floating around for a while, but we have been on the road so much the last few years that it has taken a lot of time to flesh them out,” adds bassist Chaz Costello.
Gathering Swans is emotionally powerful, the kind of album that takes command of heart strings and sweeps the listener headfirst into heart swelling pop nostalgia. Klopp’s transcendent vocal performance, which is for all intents and purposes a pristine, almost operatic tenor, offers a depth of emotion not often heard in modern music. In fact, the love, loss, conflict, and regret in his lyricism often lands like biblical illusions, no doubt as a result of his experiences growing up in the Mormon religion, a practice he distanced himself from some years ago.
“I think Adam is very good at finding and dialing in the right sounds to get a mood across,” Costello shares. “There are little pieces here and there that maybe you wouldn’t notice right away that soon became my favorite parts of the song.”
“If you play the record backwards you can hear us list our favorite Beatles songs,” Klopp humorously muses.
Although Choir Boy’s sound carries a dense, melancholy tenderness that will appeal to fans of Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel, it isn’t without several clever degrees of levity when the opportunity presents itself. In particular, “Toxic Eye” offers the listener a simple solution if one’s perspective causes negativity and paranoia to become pervasive: pluck your eye out. This same levity has carried over to the band’s countless hours in the van traversing the country.
“Being in a hot van eight hours a day for a month will ruin you unless you embrace your wild side,” Klopp says. “We say nonsense words, rotten words, rotten jokes, nonsense jokes, and occasionally good jokes. One of our reoccurring rotten jokes, which I think is now retired, was called ‘Yo-Yo Mama.’ It’s formatted like a classic ‘Yo Mama’ joke, but instead of making fun of your friend’s mama, you’re making fun of Yo-Yo Ma’s mama.”
“It may be cliché to say, or a little too ‘high school yearbook,’ but for me [the best part of touring] was all the friendships we made,” Costello reflects. “We really had a chance to tour and play with some amazing people. Europe was a personal highlight for me. It had always been a goal of mine to be able to tour Europe and I never thought it would actually come to fruition.”
Live performances and a return-to-normal seems almost impossible during the current global pandemic, which is something the band has spent significant time meditating on of late.
“It crossed my mind that it may have been beneficial to postpone the release, but I don’t know that it was really an option,” Klopp confesses. “Record stores and venues are closed and some people are speculating that tours won’t resume until a year from now. [However] it feels rewarding to be able to release this record after touring so hard and working so hard to make it.”
In the meantime, members of the band are using some of their recent at-home time to maximum advantage.
“I’ve been trying to stay busy, but I don’t know that my productivity has increased,” Klopp explains. “I’ve been gradually chipping away at some video projects, trying to learn some animation techniques, making some papier-mâché creatures. We’ve all been recording various music projects as well.”
“I have actually been very busy working on music for my other projects, writing, reading,” Costello reflects. “I’ve also been lucky that I have still been able to go into work too.”
Gathering Swans is out now, pick up a copy here