Hospitality’s 2008 EP earned plenty of “band to watch” notices for the trio’s knack for sneaky hooks and scene-setting lyrics. But the blog-buzz-band game can be a fickle one, and artists that get attention for a hot mp3 or two face an implicit pressure to get the full-length to market as soon as possible. Which didn’t happen until last week, when Merge released their self-titled debut.
“I felt anxious about it, I wanted to get in to the studio maybe a year after the EP,” says singer and guitarist Amber Papini. She still sounds exasperated while recounting their string of delays: She had a death in her family. Bassist Brian Betancourt had a gig as a touring member of White Rabbits. The studios they contacted were always under construction. “There was a lot of things happening,” she says, understating. “The timing didn’t work until October of 2010.”
But fans of their EP didn’t forget about them. The band sent a copy of their newly completed album to comedy writer and video director Scott Jacobson, who’d shot hilarious clips for Superchunk and The National. “After one listen I was just blown away,” Jacobson says. “As good as the EP was, the LP was so much better and more fully realized.” He helped the group get signed to Merge and ended up making a video for their lead single “Friends of Friends,” which features guest appearances from Arrested Development star Alia Shawkat and Videogum editor Gabe Delahaye (“The Tawny Kitaen of the indie rock set,” says Jacobson). The clip captures the buoyant spirit and the interpersonal relationship focus of the long-awaited album, which benefited from Hospitality’s waiting game.
“There were circumstances that prevented us from getting in to the studio, but that allowed me to write more songs. There’s better songs on the record than there would have been [otherwise],” she says. The wait between recording basic tracks also gave multi-instrumentalist and co-producer Nathan Michel time to add ear-tickling embellishments, from horns blasts to warm jets synths. Still, it was good that they didn’t wait too long. “I probably would have added all sorts of bells and whistles,” Michel explains. “But also in the back of my head I knew we could only afford so much time mixing with him, so I didn’t want to overdo it and bring in 300 tracks worth of stuff. There were a lot of limitations.”
Michel shares his bandmate’s talent for understatement, and for staying cheerful in the face of frustration. “When you first create a song, there is this excitement that you want to share with everyone, immediately,” she says. “I would love to write a song, learn it and then go the studio immediately, I think that would be the most satisfying. But … we’re used to waiting.”
Hospitality’s self-titled debut album is out now via Merge. Listen to the whole album for a limited time through the Merge website.