It was a dark and stormy night, and the Rosebuds, hunkered down in their Raleigh, N.C., home, were telling stories to keep the wailing winds at bay. The tropical storm was Ernesto, and the stories eventually evolved into the band's third full-length, Night of the Furies (Merge).
"We were just entertaining ourselves, telling ourselves stories," explained Kelly Crisp, who forms the core creative force of the Rosebuds, along with Ivan Howard. The stories they told themselves were mostly about the Furies, the three Roman goddesses in charge of justice (known as the Erinyes in Greek mythology), and Night of the Furies, set to pulsing and spectral synthesizer beats, shows the Rosebuds in top form.
"I've always been fascinated by the idea of the Furies," said Crisp. "It came to symbolize your own conscience that you can't escape."
Night of the Furies explores that desire for self-retribution; on "My Punishment for Fighting," Howard sings, "I could never be all you need me to / My punishment is living without you."
The Furies become a much more interior voice on the record, something embedded deep within the conscience of the characters on the album. "We cannot be safe anymore from ourselves," sings Howard on "Silence by the Lakeside," and on "I Better Run," Crisp sings of dealing with dark familial secrets. But eventually, there is a way out: On "Get Up, Get Out," Howard sings, "Their iron gates will rust / and out of this darkness we'll run."
"Even if you don't get in trouble for something, you still have to reckon with it in your own mind," said Crisp. "I just felt like we get so frustrated sometimes, feeling like there are so many crimes against nature, or humanity and the world around us, that are perpetrated by people who just get away with it, with no repercussions whatsoever; so it became a really romantic idea that the Furies could come down to Earth and just start slaughtering people. ... I see them as beautiful but horrible, sexy but deadly, kind of like a vampire in your mind."
Night of the Furies, like records by New Order and the Cure, plays with that same tension on a musical level: The songs are sexy and beautiful, but also dark and haunting. Basslines creep and echo underneath sparkling piano and strings playing awed chords. Night of the Furies sounds very different from previous Rosebuds records; this time, their simple and solid melodies and pop structures are enhanced and brightened by lush instrumentations. "Silja Line: On Settling for a Normal Life," for example, begins much like songs on The Rosebuds Make Out (2003) or Birds Make Good Neighbors (2005), but when the strings come in, and a plethora of voices converges on the chorus, the song takes on a depth that previous Rosebuds records haven't explored as thoroughly. Night of the Furies proves that the Rosebuds are the kind of band that can try on new styles without losing their own individual identity. It's another sort of freedom of conscience.
"It was just making us happy to play that kind of music at the time, so we did it," explained Crisp about the more New Wave sound of Night of the Furies. "We followed that route, and that's how we ended up with that kind of sound. We have a lot of kinds of music that we like, and I definitely see those kinds of ancestral roots in this record, and I see other kinds of music that we like in other albums, but I definitely would draw that connection, because we do love those kinds of bands, and we did, always.
"I was kind of a weird kid in Fayetteville, in North Carolina--both of us grew up in North Carolina--and we couldn't have been further away from that kind of (New Wave) action going on in that kind of music at the time; but even still, that just kind of trickled into what we were. It became the soundtrack to whatever was going on at the time, which I can guarantee was 100 percent different from the setting in which the music was played. We still live in North Carolina; we couldn't be further away from Manchester, but we do like that kind of music. And we just listen to what we listen to and entertain ourselves with what kind of music we want to hear."
Perhaps what is most impressive about Night of the Furies is the attention to detail; Crisp and Howard wanted to hear a certain sound, and so they produced and recorded it themselves so that it would come out just they way they wanted. The flourishes are flawless, the effects crisp and clean. The songs have just enough polish to sound good and just enough grit to sound real.
"The medium is part of the process," said Crisp. "In order to execute the songs completely the way you envision it, it would have to have a certain production quality to it. It's all part of it. I mean, we wanted to make a kick-ass record, and I think we did. I feel like we did. The production quality, the artwork, the songs, the lyrics, the melodies, the instrumentation and everything is all part of--and the live show, too--it's all part of one project."
Night of the Furies is quite the project--guilty consciences are relieved, wrongdoers punished, all to the hypnotic swirl of dance rhythms and melodies. And the Rosebuds can rest easy, knowing that their creative project can keep the Furies--and the storms--on their side.