Spirits Having Fun - Auto-Portrait [Cassette]
Chicago-via-NYC outfit Spirits Having Fun make the kind of music that is perhaps never encountered the same twice. So, in announcing their debut album Auto-Portrait, out in June via Ramp Local, they are sharing but an iteration of themselves, one that is to be manipulated and reinvented again and again upon future performances of its nine songs. Coming from such eclectic backgrounds as jazz and composition, ska and punk, folk and synthpop, the members of Spirits Having Fun (Katie McShane, Jesse Heasly, Andrew Clinkman, and Phil Sudderberg) are at home with improvisation, but only/especially because of their affinity for each other, musically. “Collaborative magic,” they call it.
That Auto-Portrait was recorded in ONE DAY (with Dave Vettraino) is nothing short of absolutely stunning, as its many intricate song structures flow into and out of one another so seamlessly, one would think this has been years in the making. One or two takes on each song. That’s it. Crazily, the band has only been playing together since December of 2016, and, on top of that, half of them live in Chicago while the other reside in New York. They get together when they’re able. It’s simply a matter of playing music with people you trust, who understand you and whom you understand. The result is a genre-bending blend of scattered yet undeniably infectious melodies coasting along ever-adaptable rhythmic patterns. Dissonant and chaotic at times, completely and lovingly alluring at others…Auto-Portrait is a record with which you can wrestle, or you can hug. Or do both. The song compositions are so intricate that, more often than not, by their end, they can resemble almost nothing of their beginnings.
The point is, you are constantly engaging with it, and that is the way music ought to be. Whether amid the unbridled sonic disarray of “Waiting At The Airport,” or the calming outset of closer “Plastic Party Perfect,” or incensed quirks of the Title opener, there is an allure to it all that keeps the listener active, as though the attention paid to everything happening in these songs, acts as the fifth band member. Ears as an instrument. Katie McShane’s vocals serve as a grounding force through the constant transformations within each song, crooning with a pop sensibility that is at once a conversation and a lullaby. And perhaps the greatest part of Spirits Having Fun is all the room left for future alterations and improvisations. New life will be breathed into the songs of Auto-Portrait with every live performance, of which there will be plenty in the coming year. The album, again, is but one iteration of the band. To hear any of it played live, will be to hear it anew. And yet, the same could be said for the album itself—new things to be picked up with every new listen, the antithesis of stale.
All songs by Spirits Having Fun
Spirits Having Fun is Andrew Clinkman, Jesse Heasly, Katie McShane & Phil Sudderberg
Recorded and mixed by Dave Vettraino
Katie's vocals recorded by Dylan McKinstry
Mastered by Alex Inglizian
Photo by Julia Dratel
Lettering and layout by Derek Weber