Bombadil making return voyage to Williamsport
Much like their namesake, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Tom Bombadil, the members of North Carolina folk band Bombadil continue to bounce back from challenges and embrace new adventures. Bombadil is a group of singers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists who will perform at 8 p.m. Nov. 2 at Bullfrog Brewery, 231 W. Fourth St.
The group is comprised of Stuart Robinson (piano), Daniel Michalak (guitar) and James Phillips (drums), as well as Bryan Rahija (guitar), who records but does not tour with the band.
The band has overcome multiple obstacles – including Michalak’s inability to play guitar due to severe tendinitis and a band breakup in 2009 – only to reunite and create 2011’s “All That The Rain Promises,” the band’s first self-recorded album. Now touring to promote their latest album, “The Metrics of Affection,” Bombadil’s members have become wiser with experience but continue to maintain a positive outlook – an attitude which is reflected in the album’s wide range of song topics and moods.
“We’ve started working on our next record, but we haven’t had a lot off time off the road to focus on it,” said Phillips, the band’s drummer, in a phone interview with the Sun-Gazette. Bombadil has made the most of its fall tour, making sure to check out the best landmarks at every stop.
“[During] this tour we went to the Jelly Belly jelly bean factory,” Phillips said. “We were in Wisconsin for four days … It was the perfect time of year before it got cold. We saw the state capitol and ate cheese curd every day.”
Bombadil’s members also made a point to visit the 40-foot inflatable duck on display in Pittsburgh.
The band’s tour features songs from its latest album, which gave the four musicians a chance to show off their different skills and try some new things. While each member of the band has a main role, all four members consider themselves multi-instrumentalists.
Phillips said of the new album, “It was the first time we used drum machines, it was the first time we used a synethesizer, the first time Daniel rapped on a record.” In addition, Rahija recorded a cello part for the first time and Robinson tried his hand at recording pitched wine glasses.
The album also gave Phillips the opportunity to use his mixing skills, which makes home recording a very different experience from studio recording.
“It’s very different for me because I do the recording,” he said. While before he would record the drums for each song and then “hang around the studio” for the rest of the day,” he said, “now I’m pressing buttons and turning knobs the whole time.”
The album also makes use of a variety of musical and lyrical styles, ranging from the bouncy “Angeline” and whimsical “When We Are Both Cats” to the musically austere and self-referencing “Boring Country Song,” and the sincere, probing piano ballad “What Does It Mean.”
With each member of the quartet lending vocals to various songs, the album is able to expertly handle multiple styles – each member of Bombadil seems to work well with a different genre, but the songs still make a cohesive unit when put together.
The continued variety also applies to Bombadil’s schedule. The band was able to perform with a number of other groups this fall, including Dr. Dog and David Wax Museum. “We’re on tour for most of October and November and will be for a few days in December,” Phillips said. “We have a collaborative show that we’re working on this winter with … Torry Bend,” an assistant professor at Duke University who works in set design and puppetry and whose work includes stop motion shorts. Phillips said the collaboration, planned for late January, is “a show that will tell a story using our songs.”
In addition to his work with Bombadil, Phillips has a solo project under the moniker Sumner James.
“I am planning on doing another solo record. I’ve started slowly working on that,” he said, adding that there are “no other solo plans from Bombadil (members) at the moment.”
The Nov. 2 show will be a return to the Bullfrog Brewery for a band that has performed there three times, including February’s Mardi Gras celebration this year. The tour will then take the band to New Hope.
While Bombadil’s past problems may have fans nervous about the future (“We plan to keep going, keep being here, until we are not,” the band website’s “About” section states vaguely), the band also welcomes fans and music lovers to join in the fun when the opportunity arises: “We are trying to create memories for ourselves and others,” the site says.
For more information or to join the band’s mailing list, visit the band’s website, bombadil.squarespace.com, or find them on Facebook.