By: Hunter Funk
One of the best constants of Austin’s musical community is that the ever-shifting permutations of bands taking breaks always results in new (often just as good) side projects. This time around, it’s guitarist Will Maxwell – billed here as “Billy Bivalve” – and drummer Paul “Pearl” Pinon, most recently of local-lovelies- on-hiatus Dreamboat, teaming up with bassist Sean Taggersell and sliding into a different lane with their new group, the Oysters. (He’s got his own mollusk-pun stage name, but you can probably guess what it is.) This month has already seen the release of several singles leading up to their debut EP, III, of which new track “Separate Place” is the third and final.
This one’s a plaintive slow-burner anchored by Maxwell’s subdued strums, bobbing lazily in the confluence of Wilco’s alt-country and the low- key indie rock of Nap Eyes or Silver Jews. His ragged vocals lend a palpable mournful tinge to confessional lyrics of regret and depression, artfully cracking for a fleeting moment in the second verse as he sings, “It’s been no fun drinking without you / And my dreams don’t make sense.” While his bandmates hold down the groove, Maxwell allows himself a brief, unflashy solo before cutting fully loose during the bridge. “If I ever get better,” he hollers over the swell of the band, “I’ll tell you all about how I’ve been dreaming of a wife, two dogs, and a kid / And my expectations, all they do / Is make me sick” – the last bit delivered in practically a hysterical shriek.
I’m reminded how easy it may well be to write a song about mental wellness (or lack thereof), yet it takes a special talent to make a casual listener understand and feel those most nauseating moments when turmoil swirls around you like a shaken snow globe, no matter how you yearn for things to settle to normalcy. By stripping away all the bells and whistles for a direct and honest approach, the Oysters go beyond merely singing of this separation to evoke it emotionally, transporting you to a lonely seat at an otherwise-deserted bar, still staring out the exit as the music fades. III is out in full now for your listening pleasure. In addition, you can catch the band live this Friday Aug. 25 at Hole In The Wall alongside the Reputations, SMiiLE and Glass Grapes.
Album Artwork By Cara Taggersell