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The Whistle and the Bells + The Rocketboys and The Foghorns

Sunday, Aug 06, 2017 8:00 PM PDT (7:00 PM Doors)
Tractor, Seattle, WA
21 years and over

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“I wanted to make a record that sounded like some great cosmic dinner party,” explains Bryan Simpson (aka The Whistles & the Bells) of his sophomore LP fittingly dubbed Modern Plagues. “Not a gross, homogenized one where people bludgeon their intellect with one-sided conversation but more of a ‘if you could invite four people from history over for dinner who would it be?’ kind of shindig. Where some strange collection of human heavyweights sit around discussing the odd pilgrimage that is life. I wanted to sonically interpret what a cosmic intersection of such varied DNA might sound like. Except fast forward the evening past the pretense and the niceties of the appetizer course and push record as the party polishes off the last drop of an encore bottle of wine.”

"I wanted to make an immediate record, one that people would get from the first listen," asserts the Nashville-based Fort Worth native. "I was dead set on not making some kind of ‘ninja’ record, where the enjoyable bloodletting doesn't begin until the fourth listen when it sneaks up out of nowhere and cuts your throat. I wanted to make something more forthright, more honest. I've made records that are slower to blossom, and some of my favorite records are like that. But I wanted this one to jump out and make its point. I want listeners to be able to imagine and feel the spirit of a night where the air is thick with cigar smoke and opinions, brazen jokes and deep truths. With the whimsical, the mundane, and the transcendent all sharing the same bed of nails.”

Simpson's route to Modern Plagues has been an unconventional one. Prior to launching The Whistles & the Bells, he had already won substantial success as a bluegrass mandolinist, serving a seven-year, three-album stint with the acclaimed progressive-bluegrass quartet Cadillac Sky. That group was broad-minded enough to collaborate with both bluegrass icon Ricky Skaggs and the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, which eventually led to an in-demand spot on Mumford and Sons’ 2010 North American Tour. Meanwhile, Simpson also carved out a lucrative sideline as a mainstream songwriter, composing hit tunes for many of today's chart-toppers.

The Whistles & The Bells' debut effort won an impressive amount of attention for an indie release, leading to Simpson's current deal with New West Records, which gave the first album a national release and set the stage for Modern Plagues.

“My cosmic dinner party might have ultimately turned out a little more like a muggy Saturday night in Coney Island with Soren Kierkegaard and Malcolm Muggeridge eating hot dogs and nervously climbing in for a second ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl only to exit 40 minutes later the best kind of woozy.” Simpson divulges while reflecting upon the finished work. “But this record is where I openly embrace the weirdness of my existence. Eleven songs, till death do us part.”

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