The guys in The Fertile Crescent don't know they're kind of geniuses. Or maybe they're in disguise as four shy 20-year-olds who mumble a little and say "like" too much. It's almost a shame to let them in on the secret that the music they're making is more innovative and well-constructed than a lot of what's put out by bands who've been on the scene for years and years. Sure hope they won't let it go to their heads.
The project has evolved naturally. A few years back, they were just kids in high school trying to learn to play instruments. Guitarist Maxwell Richardson says he and bassist Taylor Blueher had just started playing together, and singer Bryce Hample wanted in. "Bryce was like, 'Well, what do I play?' and we're like, 'you play keyboards,'” says Richardson. No one wanted to sing at first. "Not that we needed somebody to sing, but I felt like I wanted to," Hample says. And sing he does—in a sweet falsetto that floats to the surface of ever-changing, intricate rhythms, revealing Hample's knack for developing a hooky line through repetition.
Three of the members play synthesizers in addition to guitar, bass and drums. Often, they'll have all three synths going at the same time. At a recent show, a Papa John's employee wandered over to Winnings Coffee, drawn in by The Fertile Crescent's fresh, definition-busting sound. "He's like, 'Fool, I always listen to cyber-industrial. You guys are like cyber-industrial, but you're like rock/
If anything, The Fertile Crescent is trying to stay away from the word "indie."
"Except for maybe we are indie, because we did this all ourselves," says Hample, gesturing to the CD these guys recorded in "The Dungeon" (their basement) and printed on home computers. Black and white copies of pen drawings make up the disc jacket. A clear DVD case bought at an office supply store in bulk holds the whole thing together.
And if there can be a criticism of The Fertile Crescent, it would be that the mixing on the disc is a little off, making the songs sound too busy and more clumpy than they really are. But it's still fun to follow these guys through their jarring transitions, something they've gravitated toward only this last year or so. Before that, "It would mostly be one riff, and it would just go on for hours," Richardson says.
"When we realized the possibility was there to compose music, it really opened up a lot of doors for us, because we could write songs," Hample says. That try-anything aesthetic comes across beautifully on the disc. You can't fault these guys for their newness. That's what's making it work.