The Rosebuds, Gentleman Caller, Lynsey Smith
Radio Radio, 1119 Prospect St.
Wednesday, April 30, 8 p.m., $10, 21+
There’s a strange dichotomy in The Rosebuds’ sound.
On the one hand, the Raleigh-based duo renders dark, trenchant scenes of human malaise, often ensconced in Disney-like anthropomorphism. For instance, 2007’s Night of the Furies was inspired by a tropical depression that Rosebuds Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard survived while huddled in their home. The natural disaster brought to mind the Furies, the Roman female goddesses of vengeance.
“Our senses were piqued,” Crisp says. “In that nervousness we started talking and I started telling stories about the Furies, like what if we could have [them] intervene?”
Boom. Out of that frightful night came the entire framework for a twisted tale that would make Nick Cave nod approvingly, scowl intact.
“All of the songs we make come out of our own weird, creative world that we entertain ourselves with,” says Crisp, who plays keyboards and shares vocal duties with guitarist Howard. “I say weird in that it’s different from watching TV, but it’s normal for us.”
And yet that dystopian vista is paired with oddly gamboling, if pastel, music.
“It doesn’t strike us as odd to pair a disturbing story or image [with rhythmic music],” Crisp says. “We write stories, and we want them to mean something, in the sense [that] they should function as a statement. But the song should come first. The music should be able to be itself, and the lyrics should stand on their own.”
What the odd coupling does is bring out a literary crowd that loves to dance. And that can make for more surprising contrasts. The song “Boxcar” from The Rosebuds’ second CD Birds Make Good Neighbors has been known to elicit a strong response. While the buoyant music is popular with children, the lyrics — an adult fantasy about being able to run away and “re-parent” yourself — attract an older fan base.
“It’s weird to play that live because it has a dance beat to it, and I see people screaming the lyrics at me and dancing,” Crisp says. “It’s disturbed me to the point of tears. It seems so desperate and insane and beautiful.”