Lily and the Tigers in Morgantown
The indie-folk trio plays a live show for U92.
Depending on the night, you might find Lily and the Tigers on a candle-lit front porch swapping songs ’til sunrise, or perhaps churning through a set at some jam-packed outdoor festival, warming up the crowd for artists like Bela Fleck, Shearwater, or O’Death.
This spring Lily and the Tigers released its latest album, The Hand You Deal Yourself, after recording in the woods of Vermont. You can catch the indie-folk trio at West Virginia University's Gluck Theatre on Sunday, April 27, from 3 to 5 p.m. as the band plays for WWVU-FM radio.
On the new album, Lily and the Tigers present a down-home set of songs filled with ramshackle charm and anchored by a stripped-bare aesthetic. The band was born shortly after standup bassist Adam Mincey met Casey Hood amongst the clatter of drunkards, hipsters, and hustlers at some divey pool hall on the outskirts of Atlanta in 2010. Their clandestine friendship quickly bore musical fruit. “Once I heard her sing,” Mincey says, “I knew instantly that I had to be in a band with her.”
Initially a duo, Hood and Mincey released their bedroom-recorded debut, Sojourner, the following year. The album featured a rotating cast of players from other bands in the local scene, weaving improvised, layered arrangements around Mincey’s thumping bass lines and Hood’s soulful, haunting vocals.
In the wake of Sojourner, the band went on a brief hiatus while Hood went on a four-month journey through Asia. She collected the sounds of ancient prayers, chants, and monsoon rituals with her tiny field recorder. “I bought this cheap little Nepali guitar and that’s how I communicated while I was there,” Hood says. “I played this family the first Beatles song they ever heard. … Really, I had to leave home to find home. By the time I got back to the States, I was taking my music much more seriously.”
By the summer of 2013, the band had entered a new phase, paring down to a trio. Hood, Mincey, and Jared Pepper crammed their instruments into Hood’s Toyota Yaris and road-tripped up the East Coast from Georgia to Vermont, where they worked on a new album, recording every day and camping every night. “There was nobody else around,” Hood says. “We’d wake up every morning to the sound of the Mad River, then go into the studio during the day, and afterward there’d still be a couple hours of sunlight to walk to the general store or explore some waterfalls. Being outside inspired us. Playing music around a bonfire is what we love.”
During sessions for The Hand You Deal Yourself, producer/engineer Steve Askew (Seely, Prefuse 73, Minty Fresh Records) gave the band members free reign to experiment. They used this license to loot the basement of his home studio for esoteric sounds. On “Honey,” Pepper provides percussion by repeatedly dropping a length of chain onto a metal filing cabinet and pounding a hearth scraper against the top of the cabinet. The ghostly percussion lends the waltz an intriguingly dark ambience.
The song “Beaumont” is a love letter to Victoria House, an infamous DIY venue for wayward travelers and gypsy rockers. “It’s like your grandparents’ house, where all the artifacts are still there, except the kids have taken over,” Hood says. “To us, that house is the essence of being on tour.”
The record’s final track, “Last Mosquito,” is a transcendent Southern ballad Hood wrote after wrestling with the death of her grandfather. Further cementing the themes of family, friendship, and travel, “All Hearts and Hands” is a sensual, slide-anchored romp that channels the carnal intensity of love, while “Home” is equal parts a melodic thank you to Hood’s sister and a show of deep affection for the close circle of Atlanta musicians who have offered up their talents to Lily and the Tigers in the past, and continue to inspire them.