“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.
While you were busy watching all of Homeland over break, Robert Don ’15 and his St. Louis-based band Since 1902 released a new album, Slightly Elevated. In the days of yore—colloquially known as last semester—Wesleying featured their single, “Our Front Yard,” and now we’re back for seconds. The album marks a shift in the band’s sound and production quality. Some of you may be familiar with the band’s last full-length album, No Excuses Wednesdays (and if you’re not, you can—well, really should—listen and download here). While No Excuses has a more rock-inspired sound and features more of Don’s throaty National-esque vocals, Slightly Elevated is a foray into a poppier sound and highlights the vocals of bandmate Justin Enoch more (have no fear: you can still hear Don playing the guitar, bass, drums, banjo, mandolin, and doing a little singing). The production quality is also much higher than the band’s first releases and demonstrates their growth and finesse.
As the band describes the album on BandCamp,
Commemoratively titled, Slightly Elevated attempts to recreate the essence of Fancy Dress Day. The moment, as fleeting as it may have been, is crystalized forever through these 14 sumptuous tracks.
Remember when homegrown rock star Robert Don ’15 released released an EP that he recorded in the Butts? (I do, because I promptly started putting “In Good Time” on all of the mix CDs I made). Don and his band, Since 1902, a motley collection of St. Louis bad-boy musicians, have done it again.
The band is busily working away on a new album called Slightly Elevated, a follow-up to last year’s No Excuses Wednesdays. In the meanwhile, they’ve realized a tantalizing single, “Our Front Yard.” The soulful and syncopated track has been stuck in my head all day:
So have the stunning visuals from their music video.
Robert Don ’15, the St. Louis-based singer, songwriter, bassist, and multi-instrumentalist who casually performed at LouFest last summer with his excellent “pirate rockabilly” band Since 1902, has embarked on a solo career of sorts from—why not?—his Butts double. His first release is Honestly Honesty, a brief EP that contains two promising tracks Don wrote and began recording on his own during his freshman year. Honestly (honesty), it’s pretty good.
“Silence,” the lengthier of the two, offers three minutes of shuffling, jazzy interplay (not far off from Since 1902’s LP) and about one minute of breezy indie pop, with multitracked vocals that sound a hell of a lot like Menomena’s Danny Seim. “In Good Time” is a louder, carefully layered folk stomp, with striking backing vocals and production by 1902 bandmate Justin Enoch. The song made its live debut at last semester’s Musical Madness, with drumming assistance by Dylan Awalt-Conley ’15.
As Don explains the project:
Robert Don ’15 writes in about an album he recently wrote and recorded with his band, Since 1902, from St. Louis. (Since 1902 is the band name.) (St. Louis is the geographic qualifier.) (It’s also the name of the best song on the album, which is downloadable for free.) (That’s Since 1902 above, performing at LouFest this past August.) (LouFest is an indie music festival in St. Louis, which Since 1902 performed at, with Das Racist among others, after winning a battle of the bands.)
The album’s called No Excuses Wednesdays, and it’s an unquestionably fantastic addition to the Wesleyan music scene, even if only one band member (Don) actually goes to Wesleyan. (The rest are high school friends from St. Louis.) (St. Louis is where this band is from.) “They’ve been described as irish pirate rockabilly, but still don’t know what that means,” says the Bandcamp. So I’ll try to translate: think Radiohead at its jazziest (so… “Knives Out,” cuz singer Robert Don is pulling some serious Yorkeisms at the end of “St. Louis”), or think ’70s fusion updated for the MGMT set, or think of Ishmael, because if Ishmael’s show last week taught us anything, it’s that lengthy, jammy interplay isn’t such a bad thing if you’ve got the chops. And Since 1902 has the chops. The album is professionally recorded, but the instrumental passages (syncopated jazz rhythms [“Lonely Bird”], folk guitar licks [“Caj 22”], and all [more gratuitous parenthetical additions]) are clearly the sound of a band playing together live.
The album costs $5 on Bandcamp, but you can hear the whole thing for free. Click past the jump for more linkage, MP3 embeds, and a very brief interview with Since 1902’s Robert Don ’15.