Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
When people like Katie Vogel Ian McLellan Davis, Gabriel Gall, Matt Rosenthal, Ian Chang of the New York band Relatives meet one another, it must be some sort of freaky occurrence. It might not happen right at first, for how could they ever know, but when the time is right and they're in favorable environs for some sing-a-longs, the jaws must have all dropped and their eyes bulged out of their skulls when they heard what their voices could do with one another. It must have even bordered on an erotic sensation. Who knows what goes through minds when they find others who click so well. It must be different with voices though. It must be twice as special. It must be like the sounds harps make when fingers do those runs up and down their strings, as if Wayne and Garth were trying to conjure up a dream sequence involving Madonna, a bed and a bowl of grapes. It must be illuminating and shocking and about as surreal as it gets. There is a chance that someone might drool a little bit, as if some savory smell had just wafted into the room. This had to have happened with these kids. It must have hit like a ton of bricks and they might have just lost their minds for a second for the things that they do with these voices, in their songs, is slippery and adventurous. It's nimble and haughty and it gives you the feeling that these are the kinds of calisthenics that those with interesting and compatible sounds do for fun, not for exercise. It's the great stuff and it's what feels good.
There are loads of memories tracking around these songs, giving off the sense that we're roaming around in the in-between, somewhere between the living and the gone. It doesn't have to mean dead, just gone. Some of the people spoken of here might be dead and others might only seem that way. No matter what their states, they are the chalky outlines of the presences that they used to be and yet Relatives make them sound as if they're as here as they ever were. It sounds as if they're directly speaking to them still, continuing to give them advice, continuing to wonder about them. They sing on "Meats For The Belly," "Should the body lose the soul/Should the mind wander from the good Lord's grace/Lo the devil will take hold/And destroy all that we love so keep him at bay." It's a spiritual line that comes out of the pure breeze, put it still feels scratched and clawed some, as if it took a lot of work to get free of the brambles. It's a line that speaks to these thoughts of separation and of meeting again someday when the light meets the sky just right or when the big hand meets the little hand on the appropriate day somewhere out there in time. There's a fantastic loneliness creeping throughout these songs, reminding us that we're always this close to being in that same places. They sing of the words of old loves and they behave as nourishment might. They are sad and they are worth the pain. They fill some space, even as that person is looking upon the house up on the hill and is stuck there, "counting the rocks in the yard." One gets a sense that there are worse things.