Photo | Right Angle PR
Nashville-based indie rock outfit Airpark returns to Mobile for the first time since winning the Lagniappe New Music Showcase at SouthSounds in April.
Band: Babe Club, Airpark
Date: Thursday, Oct. 11, 8 p.m.
Venue: Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St.,
Tickets: $12 at the door
The SouthSounds Music Festival has been one of the Azalea City’s premiere events for live, up-and-coming music, with each installment welcoming Southeastern acts to venues across downtown Mobile. Last year SouthSounds introduced Mobile to the enigmatic rock of Nashville’s Airpark. After a stellar local debut, Airpark is returning to Callaghan’s with its unique indie sound.
Brothers Ben Ford and Michael Ford Jr. serve as the foundation for the band and Michael said they were overwhelmed by the warm welcome they received in April. Notably, Airpark won Lagniappe’s New Southern Music Showcase.
While he describes winning the showcase as both surreal and validating, Michael and Ben were extremely impressed by Mobile’s hospitality. Connections established through their SouthSounds set was the most rewarding aspect of the weekend for them.
“I feel like people discovered us at SouthSounds in a lot of ways,” Michael said. “I feel like a lot of them hadn’t heard the tunes before. I think it speaks to how cool the city is when there’s people that can appreciate songs and art that maybe they aren’t familiar with. It’s a rarity to find people who will engage with a song they may not be familiar with.”
Airpark’s crowd at SouthSounds experienced an expansive form of indie pop/indie rock that defies cookie-cutter styles that have flourished in recent years. While many indie pop bands emulate sounds from the synth-laden ‘80s new wave movement, Airpark’s songs tend to be complex, earnest arrangements that set new standards in the genre.
Much of their music is layered with wistful vocals floating through infectious indie rock riffs and grooves. Airpark has also created a niche in the indie world with its instrumental tracks, taking on the air of complex, orchestral rock anthems.
As a part of their shared “artistic makeup,” Michael said he and his brother’s shared musical desire is to ensure Airpark maintains a matchless sound.
“The idea behind the band was how do we do something that feels like us but also feels unique,” Michael explained. “It’s like threading a needle. From release to release, we’re trying to evolve as artists, and we rediscover that with each release. It’s a great challenge. It’s exciting. A lot of thought goes into not sounding like other people or consciously ripping [off] a sound or aesthetic. I just can’t get into that. It doesn’t seem like the best use of creative energy.”
Much of Airpark’s creative energy comes through the bond between the brothers. Siblings sharing a music project are stereotypically viewed as a volatile mix. In fact, Michael described their combined musical endeavors as “wonderful.” He also jokes that the two “fought like dogs” when they were children, but theorizes they’d already drained their aggressions toward each other before they began performing together in their preteen years.
Since then, the two have established what Michael likens to a “gut feeling.” When songwriting, he says if one of them is feeling a certain way about the direction of a track, the other often feels the same. Overall, the music is built on mutual artistic honesty.
“I think the best part about being in a band with my brother is that we can be very direct with one another,” Michael said. “There’s no passive-aggressive tension that builds up. That can destroy any kind of a relationship but especially bands. There’s a directness and an honesty between us, and I think that’s a real strength.”
The bond is sure to shine on the band’s upcoming EP “Songs of Airpark,” scheduled for release early next year. Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore of the band Tennis were in the studio throughout recording, which took just over a week. By opening for Tennis on the road, Airpark befriended Riley and Moore and remained in contact. Eventually they sent Riley and Moore an Airpark demo and asked if they’d be interested in producing an EP for them, and the pair gladly accepted. Afterward, Airpark traveled to Denver to lay down tracks for the release.
Ford says Riley and Moore’s insight into both songwriting and production made them a valuable resource.
“We tracked five songs with them over eight days,” Michael said. “It was fantastic to work with them. It’s amazing to work with an artist/producer. They know what both sides of the recording situation is like. They were just really encouraging and sweet people.”
“Yours Till I Die” is the EP’s first single. With its mix of seductive instrumentation and heartfelt vocal delivery, this track takes on the same gorgeous, bittersweet vibe that has gathered dedicated cult followings for such bands as Spoon and Wilco.
Airpark will release its next single, “Devotion,” in the near future. Michael says this anthem dedicated to lust will be “harmony heavy and very groovy,” and have another distinctive aspect.
“It has a Western tinge to it, which is something that we’ve done before, but there’s something about going out to different parts of the country and having it bring something out in you,” Michael said. “It feels like the most Western thing that I’ve ever done, but it’s not too Western. It doesn’t feel like a gimmick.”
Michael says Airpark’s performance at Callaghan’s will be an “energetic, fun live show.” He added the band prefers to make its sets a dynamic, emotional rollercoaster. Those who unfortunately must miss their show shouldn’t worry, because Airpark isn’t through with Mobile just yet. Airpark still has studio time with Rick Hirsch at Studio H2O, won as a part of their showcase prize package. Michael said they plan to redeem the prize as soon as they get a break from the road.
“We still are figuring out our scheduling,” said Michael. “Since [SouthSounds], we’ve basically been touring like crazy, but we definitely want to make that happen. I would love to see that studio and have a chance to work with him.”