By Ian Hand
"It's quite a mix of tunes," says Ryan Roberts, guitarist for The Absynth Quintet, about the band's fourth studio album, "Telepathy with Glow Bugs." "It's pretty much across the palate from bluegrass to Americana to indie rock."
The soon-to-be released CD features 12 songs that the Humboldt County, Calif., band — Chris "Bird" Jowaisas (mandolin, vocals), Ian Davidson (banjo), John Ludington (bass), Roberts and "Tofu" Mike Schwartz (drums) — has written and developed at live shows over the past two years.
The band formed 10 years ago with a different bass player around the concept of playing bluegrass standards in a minor key to give them a Gypsy jazz style.
"We didn't have much more forethought than that," Roberts says. "That was the musical aesthetic we liked, and we sort of followed that pathway to where we are today, which is pretty far away from that."
Roberts enjoys the fact that the band isn't set in its ways.
"It's wonderful to not know where the band is going and to have it changing constantly," Roberts says. "I think it keeps it revitalizing."
For "Telepathy with Glow Bugs," Jowaisas, Ludington and Roberts were the primary songwriters. However, Roberts describes the band's songwriting as an organic process.
"For the most part, someone comes in with a pretty good idea of what they want, and then it goes through the AQ song mill," Roberts says. "We arrange and orchestrate it in a way that kind of fits the band, and everyone comes up with ideas."
Roberts thinks that, moving forward, Ludington — who joined the band in 2011 — will take on more of a primary songwriting role.
"(He) has several albums under his own name and a catalog of tunes," Roberts says. "I'm not nearly as prolific a song writer as (Ludington and Jowaisas). I write one song to 10 of theirs."
Roberts says that with "Telepathy with Glow Bugs," the band is more comfortable in the studio.
"It's not uncharted territory anymore," Roberts says. "We're able to actually engage in the more creative aspects of it and actually spend the time to do what we want to do with (the album). We're definitely more comfortable in our skin as a band on this album and I think it will translate when you hear it."
While there's no set release date, Roberts says that the album should be available in June.
"It's kind of nice to do it this way," Roberts says. "Our last albums had set release dates with touring supporting it, but this time we're kind of just doing it and following where the album takes us."
The album will be released on the band's own label, Side Note Records.
"It's a fancy way of saying that we don't have a label," Roberts says. "It just seemed like the way to go. We're just eccentric enough that it's hard to market us.
"We don't have the 200-day a year schedule that would allow labels to get behind us."
Roberts says that being independent of a label allows the band to have more control and more knowledge about what it does.
"From booking, to playing, to making an album, there's nothing that we aren't intimately knowledgeable with," Roberts says. "We know what everything takes, and it gives us more respect for the whole craft."