The Vermont Cynic

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(Leather)Bound for Glory

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Local indie-folk band The Leatherbound Books played a show March 15 at Higher Ground, their largest venue yet. With new music out and plans to get back in the studio to record, 2015 is shaping up to be a milestone year in the band’s career.

Two nights earlier, the band and I walked into Downtown Threads to do some shopping and talk about their first EP, “Tender My Hopes,” which came out early February.

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Drummer Charlie Smyrks and Vocalist/Guitarist Eric Daniels shop at Downtown Threads. The Leatherbound Books are a Burlington based indie folk group.

 The clerk eyed us as we tried to make small talk clustered around a clothes rack in the center of the thrift store. The shop was empty except for our motley group: guitarist and lead singer Eric Daniels, bassist and singer Jackie Buttolph, fiddler Tuck Hanson, drummer Charlie Smyrk and me.

I watched the band tease each other and try on pairs of ridiculous sunglasses. Hanson pulled a traffic-cone orange shirt from the rack and asked us if we thought he should dye his hair to match. His bandmates were less enthusiastic about the idea than he was.

 I asked them what thrift-store essential best represented the spirit of The Leatherbound Books.

“We’re kind of like a cardigan band,” Buttolph answered. “Frumpy and comfortable.”

 

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Fiddler and vocalist Tuck Hanson looking fly at Downtown Threads. The group’s EP was released to praise from Seven Days, The Burlington Free Press, and the Rutland Herald

Hanson described recording their first EP as a learning experience. They often had to deal with conflicting schedules, the depressing Vermont winter and what Buttolph called “the catch-22 of the Burlington music scene.”

The catch is this: to get gigs, you have to have a product to showcase to venues, but to have the funds to record and produce music, you have to be making money by performing.

Despite this challenge inherent in their line of work, the band has been doing better than ever. Daniels said that he’s excited to see how their sound will change when they get back in the studio.

“This is the stuff we’ll diverge from,” he said of the new EP as we browsed through the store’s collection of denim leotards.

Smyrk summed up the band’s vibe best when he called them “darkly optimistic.” Although this seems contradictory, it’s an apt description of the band’s grim humor that coexists with their relentless, inspiring hopefulness.

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Guitarist Jackie Buttolph eyes a denim leotard with disgust. The band was started by the group of friends in Burlington.

“Tender My Hopes,” a folksy and lyrically complex collection of songs, showcases this contradiction through Daniels’ vocals — reminiscent of the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle’s — and lyrics influenced by the clever wordplay of artists like Andrew Bird.

 “If the fruits that they give you are rotten, make wine,” he sings on the EP.

 “What if they give you rotten lemons?” Hanson asked.

 As she paid for a blue tunic bedazzled with gold jewels and puffy paint, Buttolph was quick to reply.

“Then you throw them out and buy a six pack,” she said.

 

 

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(Leather)Bound for Glory