For its new album, Rosu Lup went wider and deeper, sonically and lyrically: more instruments, more layers and stronger emotions thanks to some real-life tragedies.
“With this record, we incorporated a lot more orchestration and arrangements, where I think in the past our stuff had been mostly organic instrumentation,” Rosu Lup’s Jonathan Stewart says of “The Ranger,” released in November. Recording in Los Angeles with producer James McAlister, who has collaborated with indie heavyweights like The National and Sufjan Stevens, afforded the duo an opportunity to add his drums, keyboard and synthesizer work.
“The Ranger” follows 2016’s “Is Anything Real” for the Philadelphia duo of Stewart and Josh Marsh. Stewart says he played bass on some keyboards on the recording, while Marsh handled lead vocals and some keyboards on the band’s second LP, mixed by The Shins’ Yuuki Matthews and released on Majestic Creature Records.
Marsh and Stewart didn’t have to look far for inspiration for the nine tracks on “The Ranger”: after they made “Is Anything Real,” Marsh’s father died after a battle with ALS and Stewart’s uncle was killed by a drunk driver. “So we were dealing with a lot of tragic loss of close loved ones,” says Stewart. “So this record was a lot about that sense of home where we identified and where you find home, where you find comfort. That was just our headspace and what we were working through in writing.”
“We wanted to be true to ourselves, not just put a record out there because it was marketable or listener-friendly,” he continues. “We just wanted to really do something that felt honest and sincere sonically and lyrically.”
Rosu Lup will return to Wilkes-Barre on Saturday for a show at Karl Hall, where the group performed at Highway 81 Revisited’s seventh anniversary show in 2018. This time the live version of the band will be a six-piece, reflecting the expanded sound on “The Ranger”: two guitars, keyboards, drums, bass, interchangeable trombone and sax players “and a lot of vocals.”
“We’re really fortunate. I think we’re really grateful for the musicians we’re playing with,” Stewart says. “Being able to take the recordings and play the live versions that I think closely and properly represent the songs well is happening, and that feels good.”
The band played a hometown show at Philly’s World Cafe Live on Wednesday, and last night it performed at Rockwood Music Hall in New York.
“We in the past did a lot more touring. Through the recording process, that sort of slowed down,” he says. “I think we play a lot of markets and sometimes you’re just trying to build little hubs, and thankfully national press and radio and social media has helped. Doing that sort of legwork over the years led us to feel like we can go out in some different markets that we’ve frequented and we can play shows and people besides friends will show up, which is good. It’s what most bands do to grow their audience.”
Stewart adds Rosu Lup is happy to play smaller clubs as it looks to expand into larger rooms and hopefully land some opening slots for bigger artists and festival bookings.
Stewart and Marsh have been working together since 2013, and there have been some key milestones so far.
“Going out on a few dates with The Districts on tour and learning how the tour is important,” Stewart says when asked to share some of the key points in Rosu Lup’s growth. “We kind of had that ‘aha’ moment on the road with those guys because those guys are such road warriors, they tour all the time, so getting an opportunity to play support for them really sort of helped us get a better sense of it. And working with people like Lou Rogai in the past from Lewis & Clarke and James McAlister helped us broaden our scope or how to write music and incorporate more into the songs.”
Photo by Ashley Gellman