Fruit Bats are yet another example of a side project eclipsing a musician's once main commitment. The Chicago band was first created to give head Fruit Eric Johnson (no, not the Archers of Loaf guy or the rad guitar rocker) an outlet from his main band, the now defunct and largely forgotten I Rowboat, to indulge his folky side. Fruit Bats make earnest acoustic pop centered on Johnson's clean, clear voice and spare instrumentation.
The early incarnation of Fruit Bats was shelved after a few recordings when I Rowboat was sinking, and Johnson joined cut and paste un-folk band Califone to play guitar and banjo. The Califone people also run Perishable Records, and when they heard some of the old Fruit Bats music, they encouraged Johnson to record an album for the label. This was 2001's Echolocation, essentially a solo effort with help from a smattering of other Chicago musicians. After the release of the album, Gillian Lisee of Orso joined the band as a permanent member, and the band hit the road.
The Bats toured with the likes of Modest Mouse and the Shins as well as embarking on several headlining tours in 2002, and caught the ear of Sub Pop in the process. The band released Mouthfuls on the Seattle label earlier this year. More pop than folk this time, the band benefits from the subtle harmonies Johnson and Lisee create.
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