Anathallo brings something new, fresh to Cleveland

Allan Lamb

Experimental folk music explores life, diversity

Courtesy Anathallo

Credit: Ron Soltys

Anathallo playing with Aloha, Owen, Unwed Sailor and Paper Rivals at the The Grog Shop

Saturday, 7 p.m.

$10 in advance, $12 day of show

When most people think of music and Michigan, many things may come to mind: Motown, Ted Nugent, the MC-5, Insane Clown Posse, Madonna, Eminem or The White Stripes. While these groups fall into their respective categories, Anathallo manages to work its way around the genre labels.

According to its MySpace page, Anathallo’s music is defined as “melodramatic popular song.”

“I run our MySpace and I thought what we used to have (as our genre) was terrible,” trombonist Bret Wallin said. “There was a choose your own category, and I saw that one and got a kick out of it.”

Wallin said that the best way to describe their experimental folk sound is “almost an orchestral overload. If you want to categorize us.”

The band’s sound has been compared to that of Sufjan Stevens, Neutral Milk Hotel, Polyphonic Spree and Animal Collective.

Anathallo also consists of Matthew Joynt (lead vocals, guitar), Seth Walker (bass), Jamie McLeod (flugelhorn), Erica Froman (percussion, autoharp), Daniel J. Bracken (guitar) and Jeremiah Johnson (drums).

Wallin described the band’s humble origins in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

“Mt. Pleasant is located in the middle of the state so it’s probably not the best music scene. No good acts came through town,” he said. “We attached ourselves to Polyvinyl artists such as American Football, Joan of Arc and Owen. We latched onto the stranger music subsets. By the time we started touring, we had our own sound. It just sort of happened.”

“We just let whatever be whatever it is,” he added.

Other artists Wallin cited as influences are the Kinsella Brothers and Aloha, for whom Anathallo is opening for at the Grog Shop this Saturday.

“We’ve admired them and what they do for a long time and to be sharing a stage with them is pretty neat,” he said.

Anthallo’s 2006 debut Floating World is a concept album based on Hanasakajijii, a Japanese folktale. Eight of the album’s 14 tracks have Japanese titles such as “Ame” (Rain), “Yuki! Yuki! Yuki!” (Snow! Snow! Snow!) and “Kasa No Hone” (The Umbrella’s Bones).

“Our singer at the time was taking Japanese courses and he was reading the Hanasakajijii folktale,” Wallin said. “Writing an album with Japanese titles felt natural to us.”

“Our bass player spent most of his time growing up in Tokyo. I think a lot of the themes that showed up on Floating World dealt with personal connections with each other and how two people could say the exact same thing and mean something different,” he said. “We were messing around with the meaning of connection … It humbles you a little bit because things (people from other cultures have) grown up with are so complex.”

This summer, Anathallo plans to release its second album titled Canopy Glow.

“Taking time off from touring we thought it’d be a good idea to make a record that would just be a blast to play live,” Wallins said. “It’s not as dark in many places (as Floating World). It’s a little more playful.”

Contact all editor Allan Lamb at [email protected].