Blanche is making the most of what many bands would consider to be down time.
The Detroit avant-country quintet has finished its sophomore album, “Little Amber Bottles,” which won’t come out until spring. But instead of waiting until then, the group has released an EP, “What This Town Needs,” to fill the gap and sate a fan demand that’s only grown since the March 2004 release of its lauded debut album, “If We Can’t Trust the Doctors ...”
“I think EPs can be kind of fun,” says frontman Dan John Miller, who co-founded Blanche in 1999 after tenures in the bands Goober & the Peas and 2-Star Tabernacle. “You can put little things on there that probably wouldn’t turn up on a regular album.
“It’s probably more for fans than anyone else, but it’s been a couple years since we had an album come out, and we were just looking for something to get the name back out there and let people know we were still around before the (new album) comes out.”
“What This Town Needs” certainly has treats for any Blanche follower. There are new songs (the title track and “Scar Beneath the Skin”), plus a demo of “Never Again,” a laid-back cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Child of the Moon,” a 2004 version of “Someday” live in the Netherlands and a video for “So Long Cruel World,” shot at a 2003 New Year’s Eve show in Chicago.
“It’s a lot of cool little stuff,” Miller notes, “and it’s nice to get this stuff out now instead of waiting years for a B-side kind of thing.”
The radically reworked “Child of the Moon” is perhaps the EP’s most eyebrow raising track, and Miller says he’s “interested to see how people react to it.”
“I love that song,” he explains, “and even though it’s a driving rock ’n’ roll song when the Stones do it, I always thought there was some kind of real sad feeling to it. So we slowed it down to a nice country waltz, and it felt really nice.
“We play it on tour once in a while, and people do seem to like it.”
“What This Town Needs,” meanwhile, gives fans a taste of the next Blanche album. Miller and former Peas mate Tom Hendrickson Jr. wrote the song years ago, although Miller notes that “we never fully developed it.” It’s perhaps the most straightforward tracks Blanche has yet done, and its lyrics — “What this town needs is a little bit of dignity” — speaks to the current circumstances of Blanche’s own town.
“We feel that way about Detroit,” says Miller, who lives in Oak Park with his wife, Blanche bassist Tracee. “We feel that if people keep believing in things it will fi nally turn around. There’s a type of faith you have to have in things and be persistent about it. You just gotta press on.”
Blanche recorded most of the forthcoming “Little Amber Bottles” album, with some additional work at pedal steel player Dave Feeny’s Tempermill studio in Ferndale — though banjo player “Little” Jack Lawrence’s schedule with the Raconteurs complicated things a bit.
“I think the songwriting’s better, the performances are a little bit better,” Miller notes. “I don’t think we’ll ever be in jeopardy of being too slick or too polished or anything like that, but everyone kind of knows how it fits together better than we did before.”
And while he and his Blanchemates are anxious for people to hear material from “Little Amber Bottles,” Miller doesn’t expect the band to be playing the new songs at its upcoming shows.
“Especially because of the Internet now, we don’t like to play that many new songs live,” he explains. “People record every show and post them on the Internet, so there’s no freshness or surprise for the album. We don’t want people to be too familiar with the (songs) before the album comes out, so you’ll just have to wait, I guess.”
Blanche celebrates the release of the EP "What This Town Needs" on Thursday (November 30th) at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Dan Rothbart opens the show. Doors open at 8 p.m. Admission is $10. Call (248) 544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.
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