The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 8th

BachmannTurns Down The Volume

After nationwide success fronting Chapel Hill's own raw indie rockers Archers of Loaf, Eric Bachmann has found his new musical calling - the worship of words.

Following the Archers' demise in 1998, UNC alumnus Bachmann began again with a fresh approach, this time as the only regular member of Crooked Fingers. He released his first album under the new moniker in January, and hasn't looked back since.

Critics who praised Crooked Fingers were shocked, along with fans, at the great difference between the Archers and Bachmann's new material. Violins, so prevalent on his new album, would never have existed in an Archers world, and one would be hard-pressed to find an electric guitar of old.

The novelty of loud guitars has worn away, particularly for Bachmann. "It wasn't the songs that got old, it was the loud guitars and drums," Bachmann said. "With the new thing, I wanted to make sure I didn't play the songs the same way every night, make sure the song doesn't get stale."

For this reason, as well as his throaty, barroom delivery and sharply drawn images, Crooked Fingers has drawn more comparisons to Nick Drake and Tom Waits than to the Archers.

"The biggest difference (from the Archers) is the process of it," Bachmann said.

"Before it was like `I got all these cool sounds,' and you crammed it all together and just put it out."

He acknowledges that, most importantly, he has grown as a songwriter, crafting vivid scenes and a focused, distinct folk rock sound.

"With this, it's much more about the words in the song, and that really allows you to reduce your options," Bachmann said. "Because of that, the sound is more cohesive. Everything's based around the words and same mood."

Though he has all but abandoned the methods of Archers of Loaf, Bachmann said he does not regret the experience or its effect on him.

"Everything you learn from one experience you take to the next," he said. "I had no intention of ever trying to play music for a living, so (the Archers) really educated me in that."

The Archers formed in 1990, when Bachmann and Eric Johnson met on a UNC campus bus. They had a national college radio hit with "Web in Front" in 1993, and recorded their breakthrough debut album, Icky Mettle, in the same year. Four albums and five years later, the band amicably called it quits.

"We did a lot of touring and weren't as excited about it as we used to be," Bachmann said. "We decided we'd made a pretty good run of it . We said `Let's stop before we become a parody of ourselves.'"

Crooked Fingers and Bachmann's new batch of more complex songs obviously have not soured on Bachmann - he expects his next album to come out in February or March. "I'm pretty happy with (Crooked Fingers' songs), which is strange because people normally hate what they do - I haven't gotten sick of them yet."

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