The indie-Americana feast has been held at an increasingly crowded table the past few years. The Lumineers, the divisive Mumford & Sons, Lake Street Dive and others have shared in the bounty, while upstarts have vied for scraps at the proverbial kids table.
You could say that Quiet Life, founded in the whaling town of New London, Conn., is somewhere in the middle. In fact, the group has been invited to the big table to tour with the likes of the aforementioned Lumineers, Dr. Dog and The Head and the Heart, and the band counts members of My Morning Jacket, Shovels & Rope and Dr. Dog among its collaborators.
“It’s cool and it’s weird,” says Quiet Life lead singer Sean Spellman while the band drives its vegetable-oil powered van through Kingston, N.Y. “Each one of those tours was totally different. I think sometimes you think that if you get in front of a large amount of people, that’s all that matters. Even on that Head and the Heart tour, some nights we felt that people were really screaming for us, and other nights people didn’t give a shit.
“For us, it’s all good. We’re getting to play.”
Quiet Life, along with Mike Quinn, will perform at The Bog in Scranton, Pa., on Thursday, Dec. 11. The group has ties to both Philadelphia and Scranton, with Sean and his brother, Quiet Life drummer Ryan Spellman, having grown up in New Jersey. Sean explains that he grew up with former Lewis & Clarke member Dave Ulrich, who “was my introduction to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre scene.” Quiet Life went on to play at Northeastern Pa. rooms like The Bog and the defunct Test Pattern, Café Metropolis and Café Rouge, he says.
As for this week’s Bog show, Sean explains the band had an open day on its tour and simply wanted to stop into Scranton, see friends and play a fun show.
“We’ll be psyched if there’s 30 people at The Bog that want to hang out,” he says.
The band is touring in support of its recently released EP “Housebroken Man” while finalizing plans for its recently completed 2015 full-length. The EP is comprised of material recorded in different places, from a higher-end studio to more DIY environs.
The decision to release the EP was partially inspired by an encounter with My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James. Quiet Life was working on recordings in the band’s adopted hometown of Portland, Ore., when Ryan Spellman tweeted an invite to James, who was recording at another studio in town. He showed up and recorded a version of Townes Van Zandt’s “Waiting Around To Die,” which Quiet Life had been asked to record for a tribute album. After tracking that song, the band decided to release that, and the other material that was bouncing around, as an EP.
The upcoming album, meanwhile, was recorded at Dr. Dog’s Mount Slippery studio in Clifton Heights, Pa., in the Philadelphia suburbs. It was produced by Dr. Dog co-frontman Scott McMicken.
“Scott’s a relative of ours,” Sean shares. “We toured with Dr. Dog before. He’s been a huge inspiration for us, as has been Dr. Dog. Somewhere along the line the idea came up where he said, ‘You should make a record at our studio.’”
Hesitant to speak in detail about the album while the band is still working out release details, he says that the two-week period of sessions during the peak heat of the summer went well, “and we got a lot done.”
Now, about that vegetable oil-powered van we mentioned earlier…
The band began using it about three years ago and it has about 170,000 miles on it. Saying “it gets us where we need to go,” Sean says the two major criteria that led Quiet Life to tour with it were affordability and environmental concerns. “If we get a full tank, we can drive a thousand miles,” he says, adding that the main reason more people aren’t using vegetable oil to fuel their vehicles is they’re not aware of the option.