“Who is Robert Don ’15?” would be a question asked by somebody who hasn’t been at Wesleyan for more than a minute. Depending on which show you’ve showed up to, he’s either the frontman of solo project vehicle Robert’s Don or the St. Louis-based Since 1902. If you’re confused about the difference between Robert Don singular and Robert’s Don possessive, you’re not alone— even Don acknowledges it’s “an awful band name, trust me, we know.”
But ignore all of that. Don’s latest EP, Liriope, is the reason why you shouldn’t throw up your hands in exasperation. In fact, the four songs and ~20 minutes of music here are the perfect beginning to summer, reminding you that, even after school ends, you will never escape the Wesleyan music scene. Half-recorded in Don’s now-famous room in the Butts, and half-recorded at his home in St. Louis (with production by Since 1902’s Justin Enoch), Liriope expands on some of the excellent anti-folk he experimented with on his debut Honestly Honesty and adds a little blues-rock into the mix.
“The General” runs on a laid back riff, with Don singing in his gravely baritone: “Like a general, sending off his troops to never return / That’s what I am, a creature of guilt.” Following the verse, Don plays off that guitar riff, and hits sweet harmonics before devolving into a very Fleet Foxes-like exposition. The tune is the most straightforward on the EP – dare I say radio ready? – because once it’s over, Liriope devolves into something else entirely with “Backwater Yeast Infection 2” (Do we know where the first backwater yeast infection was? No we do not. It’s an unresolved mystery).
“BYI2” begins as a jumble of guitars, although an enjoyable one at that, before melting into an Animal Collective-esque gloop— although you can always hear the melody through the mess. It’s a multi-part song, and by the end its violin plucks and bell rings sound like a zen resolution. Things pick up again for “Crooked Bow / Ocean Floor,” which benefits immensely from the gorgeous violin of Siri Carr ’15 and some well-placed drums coordinating with a very rhythmic guitar.
Closing out Liriope is the 8-minute-long “Appalachia Mountain Love Song,” which sounds just as gorgeous as it’s titled. Acoustic guitars and a lot of harmonics make this one of the sweeter songs I’ve heard this side of Mel Hsu and Jess Best— and you can be sure that’s one of the best compliments this writer has ever given out. And the parallel to Fleet Foxes continues here as well, as “Appalachia” spreads out, fully realized as maybe even more than a single song. Talk about music to relax in the sun to.
Liriope, if you’re curious like me but too lazy to look it up, is “a genus of low, grass-like, flowering plants from East Asia,” more commonly known in the US as “monkey grass” or “spider grass.” I hope that didn’t ruin the mystique for you. UPDATE: Liriope, in Greek mythology, was a nymph, lover of the river-god Cephissus and mother to Narcissus.
If this music (or the music of any of Don’s other projects) pulls your heartstrings, and you happen to live around Missouri, Don might be coming your way. Feel free to blame him for continuing to confuse his two bands, but you should be happy to just get Robert Don in any form you can:
This semester, I’ve gotten to play with two great musicians in Robert’s Don (an awful band name, trust me, we know) — Dylan Awalt-Conley ’15 on drums and Matan Koplin-Green ’15 on bass/vocals. We’ve had an awesome semester together — played a bunch of very fun shows. Possibly (but don’t hold me to it) we may be able to get a tour together at the end of this summer in the Northeast, potentially as Since 1902 with some members from St. Louis.
Liriope is available to download for whatever price you wish to pay on Bandcamp, along with Honestly Honesty and the entire discography of Since 1902. If there ever was a time to go full-on obsessive into the world of Robert Don, this is it.