Edie Brickell & New Bohemians found the name of their fifth studio album, Hunter and the Dog Star (Feb. 19), in an unexpected place: the sprawling night sky. Though she knew Orion’s Belt and Sirius, the furiously burning “Dog Star,” Brickell recently learned of the movement that connects the constellation in a single phrase. She immediately recognized herself, her bandmates, and their musical journey together in the stars.
“Sirius follows Orion, the hunter, through the night sky, and then Sirius is the brightest star just before dawn,” she explains. “That just got me. [This album] is a new day for the band.”
Since their earliest gigs in Dallas in 1985, Brickell and Kenny Withrow (guitar), Brad Houser (bass), Brandon Aly (drums) and John Bush (percussion) have always found their way back to one another, even when their respective pursuits pulled them in different directions. After “What I Am,” the smash single off 1988’s debut album Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, vaulted the band onto the national stage, New Bohemians recorded their sophomore album, 1990’s Ghost of a Dog, before Brickell launched a solo career and started a family. They would continue to sporadically write and record together throughout the ‘90s and 2000s, but it would be another 16 years before they would release 2006’s Stranger Things, and 12 more until 2018’s Rocket, which brought them back to Texas and each other.
Recorded in Austin at Arlyn Studios, Rocket is a joyful reunion that brims with the varied influences each New Bohemian encountered on their own, from Brickell’s folk storytelling to Withrow’s exploratory riffs and Houser, Aly and Bush’s percussion that form a slow-and-steady heartbeat to explosive rhythms throughout. Keyboardist/ background vocalist Matt Hubbard rounded out the band and made it complete, and Brickell considers his addition one that “greatly enhanced” their new direction. New Bohemians were eager to keep writing and indulging these impulses, and so they did: they returned to Arlyn to work with producer Kyle Crusham, who encouraged their experimental urges on Hunter and the Dog Star, which blends anthemic pop-rock (“My Power”), languid lounge (“Miracles”), funk (“Don’t Get In the Bed Dirty”), folk (“Rough Beginnings”) and more while bringing new creative breakthroughs to the table. . The album is also greatly enhanced by the addition of Matt Hubbard’s talent and expression on keys and vocals.
“This is the quickest turnaround we’ve ever done in between records,” says Withrow. “That’s mainly because we were feeling the momentum and wanted to strike while the iron was hot… we have a lot of catch-up work, and we still feel there’s a ton of that to do for all this time apart.”
“Most people like more structure, but our band doesn’t,” says Brickell. “We’re entirely flexible and full of ideas—we might have a country bridge with funk verses, it can go in any direction, there’s a much wider range of expression. I grew up with a little more R&B and country, but they know a lot more about jazz and the Grateful Dead.”
Hunter and the Dog Star is both a new beginning and a homecoming in many ways: it’s a tribute to their three decades and counting of collaboration and camaraderie, and an eclectic blend of the sounds, textures and experiments that shaped each member on their musical journeys along the way.
“Playing with old friends is unique. It’s precious. It’s welcoming to a greater sense of authenticity in spontaneous expression. We can flow together and be ourselves together, having a sense of security about the love that we feel for each other, so that we can get mad, get aggravated, be honest about what we like and what we don’t like, and compromise, [or] not compromise, and know that we’re going to make something that is better than all of the individuals would make outside of the band.” says Brickell
“I feel like I don’t have anything to prove at this point, which is a good feeling — with one exception, which is to show how great this band is. I’ve never known a band who can do what they do.”