Here's the humble beginnings. Six years ago, when Department Of Eagles were calling themselves Whitey On The Moon U.K., one wouldn't have guessed that they were likely to evolve into any sort of Big Indie Darling Thing.
When the songwriting duo of Daniel Rossen and Fred Nicolaus first started collaborating, they were a couple of NYU dormmates -- bored college kids farting around with a sampler, making silly beat compositions with fragments of Gil Scott-Heron, bits of classical Indian music, and snippets from old Steve Martin comedy records. By the time they got around to recording a debut LP in 2003, they'd grown more serious about songwriting and musicianship and aimed to make a proper pop album. The result was a wonderful and brilliantly eclectic collection of songs that were likely to provoke dancing, laughter, or -- in a few cases -- that were just flat-out beautiful. By the time the album became something of a creeping indie-world fave (thanks to its belated U.K. reissue), Rossen had drifted off to find greater success as a member of the band Panda Bear; for a time leaving the status of DOE in suspended animation.
Late this past year, the band released its sophomore album In Ear Park. Lush and langourous from start to finish, In Ear Park is the sound of a bunch of guys hunkering down in a cozy winter cabin for a long duration, loaded up with a piano, a few guitars, a banjo and a harmonium and a cache of percussive things; setting about the task, while the snowdrifts pile up over the windows and the borealis ripples overhead, of envisioning how the pop-music universe might've shaped up if Paul McCartney (with a little assistance from Van Dyke Parks) would've had all four sides of the "White Album" to himself. Or, as a number of blogworld music scribes have pointed out, it sounds a lot like Panda Bear. And while those hoping for some of the stylistic hodge-podgery (and humor) of the debut LP stood to be disappointed by the new material, that didn't prevent the album from landing on many critics' Best Of 2008 lists.
And recordings, naturally, only present a part of the story; at best documenting a phase or a process of evolution at a certain point in time. As Department of Eagles take their act on the road, it marks not only a working reunion between Rossen and Nicolaus, but the first time the duo's had the resources to go on an extensive tour of the U.S. They'll be playing in Chicago for the first time, headlining at Schubas on Thursday evening's installment of Tomorrow Never Knows 2009 (about which, lookee here). On the bill in supporting mode are Disappears, Allá, The Poison Arrows, and DJs Mister Joshua, SR-71, and Onefistyone. Show starts at 9 PM and is 18+. Individual tickets for Thursday's show had sold out by press time, but apparently the 5-day pass will get you in.
: Department of Eagles - "Romo-Goth" (2003)