Bombadil, a North Carolina pop and folk rock band, will play Barley's Tap Room and Pizzeria tonight at 10 p.m. as part of a weekend of regional touring.
Stuart Robinson and Daniel Michalak met in college where they began working on music together in 2002. After meeting Bryan Rahija, who left the band in 2011, the trio began working on the songs that would eventually be the substance of Bombadil. In 2007, they brought in James Phillips and began Bombadil.
While many bands have one member to play the drums, one to sing and so on, Bombadil has all its members play all its instruments. While Phillips focuses on the drums, they "all switch around" with everyone taking their turn, even on vocals.
With their decision to change instruments constantly comes a variety of sounds that Phillips describes as a "buffet of pop music." However, as each of them are in interested in different genres, they never decided what kind of music they wanted to play. Instead, Phillips sees their creation of music as a "really natural process." Mixing folk and rock along with their brand of pop and whatever other genre fuels their fancy, Phillips is not completely sure what to call it.
"Should we give it a really fancy name or should we give it a really simple name? My simple answer is that we play music," Phillips said. "My complicated answer is that we play multi-instrumental pop from the American South with a gothic heart and a candy-covered coating."
Discovering Bombadil though the internet in 2009, what Eric McAnly, junior in chemistry, likes most about their music is "the happiness I feel while listening." Even when he listens to their sadder, more melancholy songs, he sees a reflection of the piano sounds of Elton John and Billy Joel in their sound that draws him in.
"If I'm honest, a strong tug for their music is the essence of heartbreak in their lyrics," McAnly said. "'Love is a ruthless stare,' 'a voice I once knew,' 'I was the fool for starting every single sentence in my head with we.'
"They have a way of churning up the emotions of love lost with the simplest of lyrics."
Each of them writes songs typically independent of each other. While they do collaborate on songs, the past year has seen them on the road which Phillips feels "isn't the most creative of places." Despite not typically writing together though, all three of them tend to write around similar topics.
"I think the majority of the songs are about each of our experiences in life," Phillips said. "And probably toward the sad and the incomprehensible because songs are a good way to help you sort out your feelings on a sad or hard to understand subject."
McAnly's favorite song by Bombadil is "One Two Three" which reminds him of summer and the outdoors.
"What's more simple than counting to three?" McAnly said. "'One Two Three' became the song that reminded me of a time of a young, simple love: lawn chairs, a yard, an Indiana summer heat and the periodic mist of her lawn sprinkler. That's my memory. The song too takes place outside. A boy attempting to win her love as a flower, a bird or just apparently gazing into clouds or passersby, and I can only imagine them in lawn chairs."
Currently, Bombadil is working on their fifth record which will be their third "homemade" one. As the band records and produces their own music with Phillips' equipment, they have the ability to record anywhere based off whatever they feel is best for their music.
"This current record we've been working on, we've been spending time at Daniel's parents' lake house on Lake Gaston which is on the border of North Carolina and Virginia," Phillips said. "The last one we made was in a barn, so I guess it really wasn't homemade; it was barn-made. Just, we do it all ourselves."
Their stop at Barley's tonight is a part of their approach to touring where they travel regionally three weekends out of the month. They typically play three to five shows in a weekend; however, they do go on larger tours every few months with April and May seeing them traveling to the West Coast.
"We got to keep that up to pay the bills and meet the people and say hello," Phillips said.
Phillips said Bombadil has played in Knoxville "a whole bunch of times." The last time was November 2013 on WDVX's "Tennessee Shines" radio show.
"It's been awhile," Phillips said, "and we have some dear friends there, so it's always great having to get to go."