Falling Off the Sky is the first new dB's album in a quarter century. It’s also the first in three decades to feature the band’s original lineup of singer/songwriter/guitarists Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, bassist Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby — the same lineup that recorded the beloved early-’80s classics Stands for deciBels and Repercussion.
Street date is set for June 12 on Bar/None Records.
The foursome’s vintage releases are now widely revered as alt-pop landmarks. Falling Off the Sky embodies the same combination of infectious melodic craft, playful sonic experimentalism and barbed lyrical insight that originally established the dB’s as key progenitors of the ’80s Southern indie-rock explosion, while incorporating the wealth of musical and personal experience that the four bandmates have accumulated individually in the years since.
“In some ways, this feels like the record that we could have made between our first and second albums,” Stamey says of Falling Off the Sky. “There are, however, fewer angry songs. And more songs about transformation. It’s also the first dB’s album to be recorded primarily in North Carolina, which is something that we’re very proud of.”
The new album — produced by the band, with additional production by longtime cohorts Mitch Easter and Scott Litt — finds the seminal quartet reenergized and inspired, delivering a dozen new original songs that rank with the group’s finest and most influential music.
“Our main concern was just to make a really great dB’s record, one that would stand up beside our best work,” Holsapple asserts. “ Obviously the songs had to be good and had to fit together, and it had to sound interesting in a way that would bear repeated listening. But mainly, it was important to us that we make a record that sounds like us.”
The resurgent quartet’s renewed sense of purpose is apparent from the first note of the hard-crunching opener “That Time Is Gone,” and drives such indelible new tunes as the liltingly romantic “Before We Were Born,” the bluntly catchy “World to Cry,” the jangly, bittersweet “Send Me Something Real” and the insistently tuneful “Write Back.” Written and sung by drummer Rigby, “Write Back” is the first of his compositions to appear on a dB’s album.
In addition to showcasing the band’s formidable songwriting skills, Falling Off the Sky finds the dB’s resuming the potent collective rapport that they began honing during their years growing up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
As Stamey notes, “Most bands share early memories of vans breaking down. The dB’s share early memories of learning to drive, learning to do trig and learning to play hooky. We grew up drinking the same water and breathing the same tobacco-laden air.”
“We all speak the same language,” agrees Holsapple. “We grew up together and learned to play music together, and that shared background is always there. When the four of us got together and played together again for the first time in over 20 years, that chemistry was there waiting for us.”
“We looked at it as our recording club,” Stamey says of Falling Off the Sky’s leisurely birth cycle, during which the band cut two dozen new songs. “The focus was always on creativity and doing what we liked, rather than trying to get it out at a particular time. We’d get together and book a few days of studio time, run through the songs a few times, and then roll tape and record several songs each day. Recording Will’s song ‘Write Back,” with its asymmetrical phrases and Jackson Pollock organ solo, was a turning point. After that, the recording process opened up, and we became more fearless about the kinds of noises that fit in with these songs.”
In addition to some distinctive guitar work from lifelong pal and former Let’s Active leader Mitch Easter (who previously played with Holsapple and Stamey in the teen outfit Rittenhouse Square, and with Stamey and Rigby in Sneakers) Falling Off the Sky includes contributions from an assortment of young players and singers from the current North Carolina alt-rock community, as well as string, brass and woodwind players from local orchestras.
“We’ve all been through so much over the years,” Holsapple notes, “and our lives outside of the band are quite different from the way they were back then. But the way that we play together, and the way we relate to each other musically, is still the same. Not having to deal with the trappings of fame and success has kept us honest. Maybe we’ll never end up being household initials, but we’ve also never made a bad record. Our reputation is unsullied, and you can’t buy that.”